US Men 5,000m Top 10 Rankings - 2009

US Men 5k, 2009: 2 men under 13:00, more than one new American junior record and a WC medal.

By LetsRun.com
December, 2009

LetsRun.com's year-end rankings evaluate the best United States runners in every event from 800m to marathon - easily the most interesting summary you will find anywhere in the media.

The US men had a stellar year at 5k in 2009. Bernard Lagat got the silver medal at Worlds, Dathan Ritzenhein did the unthinkable with his stunning 12:56 American record run, and 3 Americans made the final at Worlds. Not to mention Jerry's Boy's going 1-2-3 at the US champs with 19 year old Evan Jager making the Worlds team.

The rankings are below. You can discuss them in our 2009 Official LRC 5k thread here.

LRC #1 Bernard Lagat • Nike • 13:03.06 (Reebok, NYC) • World Silver Medalist

Great finish to the 2009 World Championships 5,000m.

Bernard Lagat's stretch duel with Kenenisa Bekele in the Berlin World Championships 5,000m final was epic (you can watch it in the video to the right).

Lagat was doubling back from earning 1,500m silver. Bekele was doubling back from a hard-fought 10,000m gold.

Lagat was hoping to retain his 2007 World Championships title at 5,000m. Bekele, exhausted after Eritrean Zersenay Tadesse pushed him to the brink in the 10,000m final a few days before, admitted through the press that he was only running the 5,000m to satisfy Ethiopian fans who wanted the double gold.

It all added up to a thrilling finish as Lagat pulled up to and ahead of Bekele with 90m to go and two of the great track championship runners of our era ran abreast down the final 100m, keeping us in suspense. Bekele won and became the glorious double champion yet again.

Here's our stat of the year for "Kip" Lagat: The guy is a winner! Lagat, in 16 races on the track from 1,500m to 5,000m in 2009, finished no lower than second in any race (excluding championship prelims). He ran 13:03 in defeat early in the season in New York City.

LRC #2 Dathan Ritzenhein • Nike • 12:56.27 American Record

We sat in shock on August 28th as we watched Dathan Ritzenhein go from last to third in Zürich to smash the legendary American 5,000m record of Bob Kennedy by running 12:56.27. It was a masterful race. Many people liked our piece that we wrote right after Ritz's run, so we'll just link to it: LetsRun.com Writes: Wow. Dathan Ritzenhein 12:56.27.

The race speaks for itself. It's probably the most shocking and inspiring thing to happen in 2009 in the American track and field scene. His PR before 2009 (and before joining forces with Salazar) was 13:16.

We are sure some are going to argue with us and say that Tegenkamp over Ritz deserves the #2 ranking because he was the US champ, he was a World Championships finalist, he also broke 13:00 and he ran six 5ks to Ritz's two. All we can say is, "No way."

Ritz's run in Zürich was so stunning and inspiring that he deserves the #2 ranking, end of story. Ritz made a late charge on the seemingly unbeatable Kenenisa Bekele and got the American record in the process. Only Lagat's 5k medal could keep Ritz out of the top spot.

Transcript: Ritz Interview After The Race

LRC #3 Matt Tegenkamp • Nike • 12:58.56 • 8th, World Championships Final • US Road 5k Champ

Lagat wins Osaka 2007 and Tegenkamp misses medal by 0.01 seconds.

Tegenkamp ran six 5,000m races in 2009 on the track. His slowest effort was a 13:22 season opener and his final effort yielded a 12:58.56 in Brussels. In the middle, he won the US 5,000m Championships and finished 8th at Worlds. After track was over, he returned to the states and took the US 5km Championship in Providence, RI in 13:57.

Talk about a great season.

Tegenkamp however simply can't be ranked ahead of Lagat for the obvious reasons and is behind Ritz because Ritz's run was so stunning and Ritz finally took down Bob Kennedy's American record. Teg had been flirting with the 13:00 barrier but Ritz's historical run paved the way.  As we enter 2010, Ritz is the American record holder not Tegenkamp.

One imperfect way we do the ranking is, "Whose season would you rather have? Ritz or Tegenkamp?" The answer isn't too difficult for us. People will be talking about Ritz's 12:56 run for quite a while.

Tegenkamp is very dangerous in championship races. Remember, he came 0.01 seconds away from a WC medal in 2007.

When the sprinting got started in the 2009 Berlin 5,000m final, Tegenkamp was the only white guy near the lead heading into the final 200m. He couldn't get the next gear going and settled for a competitive 8th.

LRC #4 Galen Rupp • Oregon • 13:18.12i, AR • Double NCAA 5,000m Champion • American Indoor 5,000m Record

Rupp was the NCAA Champion indoors and outdoors at 5,000m. Outdoors, he ran the 5,000m final the night after a grueling 10,000m against Shawn Forrest and Sam Chelanga, who made it as hard as possible for Rupp to win. He had to run 28:21, closing in 3:01 for his final 1,200m to win on June 11. On June 12, Rupp upped the ante and closed in about a 4:00 mile to win the 5,000m final again with tough foreign competition from 28:00 man David McNeill.

Additionally, many may have forgotten, but Rupp ran 13:18.12 indoors to set a new American record when he finished second to Bekana Daba at Tyson in Arkansas in February. Hard to believe he ran 27:36 in August and won 5 NCAA championship races and 1 US 10,000m in between. The guy was highly fit from February to August.

Is there any doubt Rupp is going to challenge the 13:00 mark in the coming years?

The call between Rupp and Solinsky for the #4 spot was a very difficult one for us to make. After all, Solinsky also ran 13:18 and was a World Championships finalist. Rupp's American indoor record and two NCAA titles give him the slight nod.
More Rupp
NCAA Indoors: *Rupp, Rupp, Rupp  *NCAA 3k: NCAA Ranks Surrender To Rupp

NCAA Outdoors: Rupp Caps Perfect Season With 5k Win

LRC #5 Chris Solinsky • Nike • 13:18 At Mt. SAC • 12th, World Championships

Chris Solinsky put on his compression socks and ran 13:18 at Mt. SAC before cranking a 13:20 at USAs to get 2nd to Matt Tegenkamp. He made the final at the World Championships with another 13:20 run before finishing 12th in 13:25 in the final. Solinsky's career best is 13:12. He didn't hit that time in 2009, but did run close to it in several championship race settings, which is tough to do.

LRC #6 Evan Jager • Nike • 13:22 • 3rd, USA Championships

20-year-old Evan Jager ran his personal best at the USA Championships before failing to make the World Championships 5,000m final. Jager also ran well at 1,500 and 3,000m in Europe in 2009.

His current coach Jerry Schumacher has said that Jager is the most talented runner he has ever coached. The former head at Wisconsin when the Badgers had some amazing talent, Schumacher has seen some talent. It looks like Jager has the talent and the right environment to do some special things considering he was still a teenager at the start of 2009.

LRC #7 Bolota Asmerom • Nike • 13:24.00 • 4th, USA 5,000m Championships • 2nd, USA 5k Road Champs

In 2009, Asmerom had his best 5,000m race at the USA Championships. He finished fourth and were it not for a great run by Evan Jager would have represented the US in Berlin. On the road, Asmerom took 2nd at the CVS Downtown 5k in Providence at the US Championships.

LRC #8 German Fernandez  • Oklahoma State University • 13:25.46 • American Junior Record • 5th, USA Championships

Fernandez earns a spot on the list thanks to running 13:25.46 and coming in fifth at the USA Championships. He knocked four seconds off of Stanford freshman Chris Derrick's American Junior Record set at Payton Jordan in Palo Alto.

LRC #9 Anthony Famiglietti • Saucony • 13:17.98 • 8th, USA 5,000m Champs • 3rd, USA 5k Road Champs

In what became his theme of 2009, "Fam" threw caution to the wind and led the US Championships to a quick opening pace before he faded to 8th. Earlier in the season, he took second at Mt. SAC, running 13:17 just ahead of Chris Solinsky. Fam took 3rd in Providence at the US road 5k Championships.

LRC #10 Jonathon Riley • Saucony • 13:21.65 • 6th, USA 5,000m Champs

Riley snuck into the top 10 because he was 6th at USAs and then ran 13:21 in Europe, but it was hard not to reward the one-time American Junior record holder in Derrick who had different goals for the season than Riley.

Honorable Mention

Chris Derrick
 • Stanford • 13:29 • American Junior Record (Since Eclipsed) • NCAA #3 As True Frosh

Initially, we had him ranked #10, as he set a then-American Junior Record on his home track at Stanford by running 13:29. He went on to finish 3rd at the NCAA 5,000m championships as a true freshman behind two excellent NCAA runners (and ahead of many more) who are significantly older than he is. He didn't run USAs and many of the runners ahead of him ran significantly faster on the year and that's why we held him out of the top 10.

Discuss our rankings in the official message board thread.

More LRC 5,000m Coverage:  *Photos From Worlds
NCAA Indoors: *Rupp, Rupp, Rupp  *NCAA 3k: NCAA Ranks Surrender To Rupp
NCAA Outdoors: Day 3: LRC: Nothing Can Stop Rupp. The perfect senior season ended in style and more than made up for the first 3 years as a 4:00.08 final 1,600 gave him his 6th NCAA title of the year.
USATF Schumacher's Boys Go 1-2-3 In Men's 5k
Worlds: Men's 5k Prelims  LRC 3 Americans And 3 Kenyans Advance, Saif Shaheen Out
12th IAAF World Athletics Championships - Day Nine LRC Bekele Holds Off Lagat & Completes Historic Double To Stamp Himself As The Greatest Of All Time

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