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Race Results Weekly: Rupp Hopes Wanamaker Mile Gets Him Faster
By David Monti
(c) 2008 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (28-Jan) -- When he steps on the track Friday night for the Wanamaker Mile at the 101st Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden, Galen Rupp will be looking well past the finish line, all the way to Eugene, Ore.  It will be there in six months time that the 21 year-old NCAA 10,000m record holder will be trying to make his first Olympic team, and he wants to be ready if his 10,000m qualifying race comes down to a kick.

"Obviously, the 10-K is my best event and that's what I'll be running this summer and at the Trials," Rupp said at today's New York Track Writers' luncheon as he sat next to his coach, Alberto Salazar.  "The goal this winter is to drop down in distance."

Rupp, who is on a leave of absence from the University of Oregon, has yet to break four minutes for the mile.  He has terrific endurance, evidenced by his 27:33.48 10,000m personal best.  But improving his raw speed, Salazar said, will give him another tool to win longer races, even if it means losing in the short term.

"I'm going to take my licks," said Rupp boyishly.

At last Saturday's Reebok Boston Indoor Games, Rupp also ran the mile and finished sixth in 4:02.02, his best-ever time indoors (he's run 4:01.8 outdoors).  He was disappointed, however, hoping to run faster.

"I was a little pissed off that the time wasn't faster," he said of the Boston race where he got boxed in a few times.  "It was definitely a learning experience."

Friday's race won't be any easier.  Rupp will be up against double world champion and five-time Wanamaker Mile champion Bernard Lagat, 2005 world 5000m bronze medalist Craig Mottram (who won the 3000m in Boston last Saturday), and 2006 Commonwealth Games 1500m gold medalist Nick Willis.  But Rupp is excited, not intimidated.

"The goal is to get in there and stick my nose in it," he said.  When asked if he had good closing speed he smiled and offered, "Maybe not quite as fast as Lagat."

Rupp finished 11th at last summer's IAAF World Championships last summer in Osaka in the 10,000m, a meet which gave him his first taste of a major track championship and an inkling of what the Olympic Games might be like.  "It's a pretty big deal," he said of the world championships.  "It was pretty unbelievable just seeing the guys who are the best in the world."

It's the prospect of competing at that level again which spurred Rupp to take a break from school to focus on training.  He has temporarily relocated to Portland where he can be close to Salazar, who acted as his coach even when he was training at the University of Oregon under head coach Vin Lananna.  Salazar and Lananna are close, speaking nearly every day, and they worked to coordinate Rupp's workouts with the rest of the Oregon team's.  Last November, Oregon won the NCAA Cross Country Championships and Rupp finished second to Liberty's Josh McDougal in a long sprint finish.

"Obviously, it's a unique situation," said Rupp of his arrangement with Salazar and Lananna.  "All my workouts come from Alberto.  Alberto tries to work in things with the team."

Salazar, who convinced Rupp to quit soccer in high school and focus on running, is bringing his athlete along slowly, making sure he can enjoy a long career at a high level.  He pointed to some of his own overzealous training which may have shortened his own career.  "I won't run him more than 100 miles a week outside," said Salazar who recalls thinking to himself, 'don't screw this up,' when he started coaching Rupp.

Rupp's participation in soccer helped him develop superior coordination, Salazar said, which partly explains Rupp's superior running form.  Salazar remembers being in Utah for altitude training with Rupp, and they came along a pick-up game of soccer.  He and Rupp both looked at the ball.

"I bet him he couldn't juggle it 15 times," Salazar recalled.  "He juggled it 150 times."

Rupp has one more race for the indoor season: a two mile in Birmingham on Feb. 16.  After that, he'll focus on preparing for the Olympic Trials in Eugene which open on June 27.  Rupp's 10,000m race is on July 4.

"I'm anticipating it will be one of the hardest 10-K's I've ever run," he said.


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