February 2, 2016
Yesterday, American Matt Tegenkamp called it a career at age 34, announcing his retirement. With PRs of 3:34.25, 3:54.2, 7:34.98, 8:07.07 AR 2-mile, 12:58.56, 27:28.22 and 2:12:28, Tegenkamp obviously had a fantastic career and fantastic range. According to our research (see point #6 below), Tegenkamp is the only American to be ranked in the top 100 all-time in the U.S. in both the 1500 (24th at 3:34.25) and marathon (97th at 2:12:28).
When Ryan Hall retired last month, we remembered the six most glorious moments of his amazing career. We do the same for Tegenkamp below.
1) Tegenkamp Gets 4th At 2007 Worlds
The finest race of Tegenkamp’s career had to be this one (video is cued to the last 300).
Tegenkamp came just .03 away from becoming the first American-born athlete to win a medal ever at Worlds in the men’s 5000 and the first American-born athlete to win a medal in the 5000 since 1964.
If getting 4th at Worlds and missing a medal by .03 isn’t impressive enough, take a look at some the names both ahead of him and behind him in that race.
There is certainly no shame in losing to Eliud Kipchoge or Bernard Lagat (Moses Kipsiro — who ran 12:50 two weeks later — got the bronze) and he beat the likes of Mo Farah, Tariku Bekele, Craig Mottram, and Adam Goucher.
2) Tegenkamp Breaks 13:00 – Runs 12:58.56 in Brussels in 2009
Tegenkamp’s one and only sub-13:00 clocking put him in some rare company. Bob Kennedy had shown in 1996 that it was possible for an American-born athlete to break 13:00 but since then no one born in America had broken 13:10 except for Tegenkamp (Bernard Lagat did it in 2005 and 2006). Dathan Ritzenhein actually beat Tegenkamp to the sub-13:00 club by a week by going from a 13:16 pb to 12:56 pb in a single race, but Tegenkamp got the sub-13:00 clocking he deserved a week later on September 4 in Brussels. While Ritz’s sub-13:00 took a little bit of the excitement off of Teg’s sub-13:00 (as did the fact that Teg was only 7th in the race), Tegenkamp is still one of just six Americans to have broken 13:00.
More: LRC Tegenkamp Breaks 13:00 in Brussels
3) Matt Tegenkamp Sets U.S. 2-Mile Record of 8:07.07 at 2007 Pre Classic
Worlds was far from the only great race Tegenkamp ran in 2007. He also broke the U.S. 2-mile record that year at the Prefontaine Classic by running 8:07.07 in the famous race won by Australian Craig Mottram, who after winning the told NBC on live television, “It comes down to the size of your balls.”
According to LetsRun.com stat guru John Kellogg, an 8:07.07 2-mile converts to 12:59.72 for 5,000 (and 7:30.91 for 3,000) so on an absolute scale, this was the second-best performance of Teg’s career.
4) Matt Tegenkamp Wins 2009 USA 5,000 Title, Leads Jerry Schumacher 1-2-3 Sweep
At the 2009 USAs, Matt Tegenkamp unleashed the big kick that got him 4th at Worlds in 2007 and thanks to a 53.47 final lap he was the U.S. champion. It was a day to remember for both him and coach Jerry Schumacher‘s Oregon Track Club as Teg’s teammates Chris Solinsky and Evan Jager were second and third. And here’s a stat that may surprise you: that win in Eugene was the only U.S. or NCAA outdoor title that Tegenkamp ever won.
In many ways, it was only fitting that Tegenkamp’s win was made easier by the fact that Bernard Lagat didn’t run the 5000 or 1500 at USAs that year as he had double byes into Worlds as the reigning double World Champ. As great as Teg was, there always seemed to be someone just a little bit better. As a junior, he got fifth at World Cross — which would have been the best finish by an American junior since the East African nations began competing in 1982 — but he wasn’t even the top American as Ritz finished third that day. In college, Tegenkamp was incredibly good throughout, but early in his career Bernard Lagat’s brother Robert Cheseret was unbeatable and then a resurgent Ryan Hall claimed the title during Teg’s redshirt senior campaign. As a pro, Tegenkamp likely would have been a four-time U.S. champion (he was runner-up three times in the 5,000) if Lagat hadn’t switched his citizenship to the U.S. from Kenya. Teg was also second twice more in the 10,000, losing to Galen Rupp each time. And of course, Teg’s sub-13 would have been the first American-born sub-13 in 13 years save for the fact that Dathan Ritzenhein did it a week earlier.
You can watch the entirety of Tegenkamp’s special day at USAs below. The co-founders of LetsRun.com, Robert and Weldon Johnson, provided the play-by-play for the broadcast (and sadly had 100% forgotten they had done so until we found this clip). We were wondering why we felt a special bond with Teg.
Mat Tegenkamp’s Thrilling USA Win over Solinsky and Jager with the Brojos Announcing:
5) Matt Tegenkamp Takes Down Dathan Ritzenhein at 2001 U.S. Junior XC Meet, Goes On To Finish 5th At World Juniors
Every year in America, there is a new group of standout prep racers. The question is always the same: “How many of them will continue to thrive at the next level?” Tegenkamp certainly had a great high school career at Lee’s Summit High in Missouri (5th at Foot Locker, first Missouri HSer under 9:00) but how would he do when the competition got better? There are plenty of Foot Locker phenoms who don’t amount to much after that.
U.S. distance fans had to wait a bit longer than usual as Tegenkamp redshirted his freshman fall at Wisconsin. When he finally did lace up the spikes, he sent shockwaves through the U.S. distance running community by taking down the man thought of as unbeatable in the US ranks Dathan Ritzenhein at U.S. juniors (Tegenkamp, who is 11 months and 11 days older than Ritz, was a year ahead of Ritz in school, but Ritz was coming off his second straight Foot Locker title) in Portland. Tegenkamp then went on to show that that race was no fluke as he’d finish 5th at Worlds (behind Kenenisa Bekele and Ritz, among others).
We were at the 2001 USA XC Champs and took a video of Teg beating Ritz. Check out one of the first videos ever shown on LetsRun.com. Back then, to watch the video, you had to click on a link we had up and then wait forever as your dial-up connection downloaded the video. High-speed home Internet and YouTube didn’t exist yet.
Looking back at it now, it’s clear that Tegenkamp has no need to apologize for finishing ‘only 5th’ at Foot Locker as a senior in 1999. Take a look at the top five in that race:
6) Matt Tegenkamp Does The 10k (and Marathon)
Matt Tegenkamp once famously said he’d never do a 10k as a pro (he ran one at conference in college) and a thread “Teg doesn’t run the 10k” became an instant classic on LetsRun.com. That all changed in 2011 when Teg decided he would indeed move up to the 10,000 and Teg had some fun with it as he announced he indeed would run the 10k.
Tegenkamp’s 10,000 debut was highly successful as he ran 27:28.22 but as was the case for much of his career, he was a bit overshadowed by others who were even better as Teg was the third American in the race, beaten by Bobby Curtis (27:24.69) and Tim Nelson (27:28.19).
Teg didn’t just stop at the 10,000. He’d eventually run two marathons – a 2:12:28 in Chicago in 2013 and a 2:13:52 in Boston in 2015.
According to our research, Tegenkamp is the only American to be ranked in the top 100 all-time in the U.S. in both the 1500 (24th at 3:34.25) and marathon (97th at 2:12:28) (Stats came from tilastopaja.org).
Talk about Tegenkamp on our fan forum/messageboard: BREAKING: Matt Tegenkamp retires from pro running!