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Abdirahman, Kastor Win 10,000m Titles at 2007 USATF Champs
By David Monti
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

INDIANAPOLIS (21-Jun) -- There were two familiar faces in the winner's circle tonight as the first finals were contested at the AT&T USA Outdoor Championships at the Michael A. Carroll Stadium at Indiana University-Purdue University here.  Abdi Abdirahman of Tucson, Ariz., and Deena Kastor of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., won their third and sixth U.S. 10,000m titles, respectively, in dramatically different fashion.

For Abdirahman, 30, who won the same title in 2001 and 2005, he had the challenge of maintaining control of a stacked field of contenders, including defending champion Jorge Torres, two-time champion Alan Culpepper, national half-marathon record holder Ryan Hall, U.S. 10,000m list leader Galen Rupp, and 2005 U.S. 12-K cross country champion Dathan Ritzenhein.

The 5000m split of 14:14.60 was ample evidence that the race would not be won from a hard pace, but rather by the stongest closer.  Abdirahman, Ritzenhein, Hall, Rupp, Torres and Josh McDougal had wiggled away from the rest of the field, but Abdirahman and Ritzenhein decided it was time to thin the pack. Working together, they surprisingly dropped Hall --running his first race after his 2:08:24 marathon debut at London last April-- Torres and McDougal.

"I didn't feel comfortable out there," said Hall who faded to finish seventh in 28:51.77.  "This is my first time back since London and it was tough."

Before 7000m (19:49.9), McDougal dropped out and Ritzenhein was on the front with Abdirahman, while Rupp was having difficulty staying close.  The two Nike athletes were clearly working together, a spontaneous collaboration.

"We didn't plan a thing," said Abdirahman after the race.

Abdirahman and Ritzenhein appeared to have successfully dropped Rupp by the 8-K mark (22:38.1), and the University of Oregon star looked to be sagging.

"The heat started to catch up with men, honestly," said Rupp who ran a U.S. collegiate record of 27:33.48 earlier this year.  "I just tried to tell myself to hang in there."

The battle was down to "Abdi" and "Ritz" for the title... or was it?  Just before the 9-K mark, Abdirahman looked at Ritzenhein and could see his rival was struggling.  His head tilting back, Ritzenhein began to slow markedly.  Abdirahman went through the 9000m mark alone (25:27.2), then powered to the finish line with a 65.6 second closing lap to stop the clock at 28:13.51.

"I'm not ready to hand over yet," said Abdirahman putting his younger challengers on notice.

Meanwhile Rupp, urged on by the shouts from his training advisor Alberto Salazar, was coming back to life, and was catching the fading Ritzenhein.  With about 250 meters to go, he moved into second place, punching his ticket for the IAAF World Championships in Osaka with his 28:23.31 finish time.  Ritzenhein, who recorded a very slow final lap of 77.4 seconds, was able to just hang on for third in 28:31.88, as a fast-closing Alan Culpepper tried to chase him down in the finish straight.

"I still get scared," said Rupp who was nervous before the race.  "You can't take anything for granted.  I looked at this as another chance to work on finishing."

Ritzenhein had to be helped off of the track by medical volunteers, beaten down by the warm and humid conditions, and did not speak to the press immediately.  His coach, Brad Hudson, later said he was overcome by the heat, but that the medical team had checked him out, and he was fine.

Although he finished fourth, Alan Culpepper may very well be headed to Osaka.  Abdirahman told the media that he had not made up his mind yet about whether he should stay home and train for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon in November in New York City, or compete in the IAAF World Championships.

"I don't know yet," Abdirahman told reporters.  "I'm going to talk to my coach."


KASTOR AGAINST THE CLOCK

For Kastor, her only rival was the clock.  By 2000m she was already alone, and her mission was a simple one: break 32:00.00 and achieve at least the IAAF World Championships "B" standard which would assure her a place on the U.S. team (this year's rules allow nations to take two "A" qualifers and one "B" qualifier).  With Kara Goucher and Katie McGregor the only athletes in the field who had achieved the "A" standard of 31:40.00, getting under 32:00 was good enough for Kastor.

She was on pace through 5000m in 15:56.44, but the humid conditions --completely different than her training base in Mammoth Lakes which is notoriously dry-- made it tough for her to hold her speed through the second half.

"C'mon, Deena!" shouted her coach Terrence Mahon during the final laps.  "You gotta kick.  Let's go!"

Kastor had enough left to finish in 31:57.00, locking up her spot on the U.S. team for Osaka.

"I was running for the win out there, but I had my eye on the clock," said the 34 year-old Kastor, an Olympic bronze medalist.  "The conditions were tough," she added.

Kara Goucher ran a strong final kilometer, breaking away from the chase pack and making her first world championships team on the track with a 32:33.80 second place finish.  Elated, she hugged her husband Adam and sobbed briefly before speaking with the press.

"I've been sick on and off since Cross Country," she said referring to the U.S. Cross Country Championships last February.  "I knew I was fit.  I knew it was the sickness which was in my way."

Katie McGregor, who finished fourth last year, won a spirited battle with former Stanford star Alicia Craig to take third position and her second world championships team, 32:44.69 to Craig's 32:50.63.


FAVORITES ADVANCE IN QUALIFYING

There were few surprises in today's qualifying rounds.  In the women's 800m, Hazel Clark, Nikeya Green, Alice Schmidt, Alysia Johnson and Nicole Teter all advanced, while Nick Symmonds, Khadevis Robinson, and Jonathan Johnson also moved to the next round on the men's side at the same distance.

NCAA women's steeplechase champion Anna Willard won the second heat of her event here, and made it look easy.

"It was good," said Willard of her heat.  "I'm just hoping to go out strong.  I like to not have a right plan going int the finals. I feel like in the steeple you can't rule anybody out."

In the women's 1500m prelim, the big casualty was the University of North Carolina's Brie Felnagle, the recently crowned NCAA champion at the distance.  She finished ninth in the second heat, and did not advance.  Treniere Clement, Shayne Culpepper and Sara Hall all advanced from that heat.  In the first heat, Erin Donahue won with a powerful last 200m over Tiffany McWilliams, 4:09.81 to 4:09.93.  Amy Mortimer was third, also advancing.


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