Where Your Dreams Become Reality
24% Of LetsRun.com Voters Saw It Coming: Matt Tegenkamp Becomes The Second American To Break 13:00 For 5,000m In 8 Days
Matt Tegenkamp followed up Dathan Ritzenhein's Zürich performance with another barrier-shattering run in the 5,000m.
If Tegenkamp had run 12:58.56 ten days ago, the LetsRun.com message boards may have crashed in celebration of another "Mzungu" running under 13:00 like Bob Kennedy and Craig Mottram. Instead his 12:58.56, while absolutely an amazing performance, seemed almost a foregone conclusion. "Ritz" crashed the party a week early and showed "Teg" it could be done. All that was left was for Tegenkamp, the more proven 5,000m track runner, to get the job done.
And get it done he did. The Memorial van Damme 5,000m race was much different than the Weltklasse. Last week, the field went out in 4:04 for the 1,600. This week it was 4:11. Last week, Ritz was literally in last place and falling off the back, getting gapped with the brisk early pace. This week, Teg was tucked into the middle of the pack, wearing black Nike arm coverings thanks to the chilly weather.
Last week, the race winner Kenenisa Bekele gapped the field with some fast laps in the middle of the race, staying out in front for the remainder. Of course, Ritzenhein found his groove and passed the entire fading field as people were running 65s and 66s and he was clicking off 62s. This week, Teg hung on to a pack of seven (or eight, if you count Bekele), while the Great One got a lead, was swallowed up by the pack of eight, and then won his 18th consecutive 5,000m.
Tegenkamp looked very good the whole race. His performance didn't seem spectacular, however, as he did not really kick anybody down at the end. However, he closed in 2:00 for his final 800m, with a closing 400m in 57 seconds. His time, 12:58.56, is less than 2/5ths of a second from the old American record.
It truly seemed like Ritzenhein proved it could be done, and Tegenkamp did exactly what he should have done.
Our biggest question is, "Who would have won if Tegenkamp raced Ritzenhein in the Weltklasse last week?"
While Tegenkamp's performance seems amazingly anti-climactic considering the ridiculous rarity of white men breaking 13:00 for 5,000m, the performance should be celebrated. We all have complained now and then (or all the time) about the lack of great American distance runners, about the discouraging gap between the East Africans and the Americans, about "our" (meaning American-born athletes) lack of "drive" or discipline or talent compared to our African competitors.
Times have changed. Some American coaches and athletes have decided that we can compete. Some have decided that we can, and will, break barriers. 2009 has been an amazing year for American distance and mid-distance athletes and Tegenkamp and his "camp" (including Chris Solinsky, who was a DNF) deserve a ton of credit for "re-defining" excellence.
Once upon a time (nine days ago), Bob Kennedy's 12:58.21 was the gold standard that seemed untouchable. Now it's like shark bait. Does it not seem clear that Solinsky, German Fernandez, Evan Jager, Galen Rupp and the rest of the young up-and-comers will also be, soon enough, etching their names in the sub-13:00 club?
Alan Webb (mile AR), Dathan Ritzenhein (5,000m AR), Ryan Hall (half marathon AR), Daniel Lincoln (steeple AR) and now Matt Tegenkamp have signaled a huge turning point for male American-born runners (the women have had more than their share of success as well!). Exciting times to be a fan of American distance running!