Galen Rupp Knocks it Out of the Park to Win Olympic Trials and His 8th Straight USATF 10,000m Title

July 1, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. — In a chaotic men’s 10,000 final on day one of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, there were two constants: the oppressive heat and the dominance of Galen Rupp. Over the course of 25 laps, Rupp played with the field en route to his eighth straight U.S. title, clocking 27:55.04 for the win.

As his competitors struggled with the sun — Bernard Lagat, Hassan Mead, Eric Jenkins were notable DNF’s; 2015 Team USA member Ben True was almost lapped — Rupp thrived, surging and leaving a broken mess of bodies in his wake. By the final lap, it was down to Rupp and Shadrack Kipchirchir, and it was no contest. For 9800 meters, Rupp had demonstrated the strength that makes him the American greatest 10,000-meter runner in history and the U.S. marathon champion. For the final 200, he showed the closing speed that has led him to a 3:50 mile personal best.

When Rupp moved on the final turn, Kipchirchir was already stretched to his breaking point. Heading off the Bowerman Curve, Rupp could simply cruise to the finish line before mimicking a home run swing in front of the adoring Hayward Field fans. Kipchirchir wound up a hard-fought second in 28:01.52 while his U.S. Army WCAP teammate, Iona alum Leonard Korir held on for third in 28:16.97, comfortably ahead of fourth placer Scott Fauble (28:45.53).

The Race

Galen Rupp And Shadarck Kipchirchir Galen Rupp And Shadarck Kipchirchir

With race-time temperatures 79 degrees in the shade and the competitors running under sunny skies and with a light tailwind, conditions were a lot different than most of the paced, set-up 10Ks that are contested under the lights these days. A national TV audience on NBC and a nearly full Hayward Field crowd of 20,987 got to watch 2012 Olympic silver medalist, and seven-time defending national champion Galen Rupp take on an accomplished field, and one of the toughest he’s faced since making his first US Olympic team in 2008.

The sun, wind, and high temperatures would take its toll. As would Rupp, who dictated the terms of the race with two big surges in the middle going.

At the gun, Ben Bruce took the field through the 400 in 69.12 and 800 in 2:19.24 with Rupp (oddly attired with black tape on his arms and legs, apparently a new Nike wind-breaking technology) in second. Jacob Riley took the field through the 1600 in 4:38.13, with Bruce and Rupp sitting in second and third. Forty-one-year-old Bernard Lagat looked comfortable in 6th.  

It was at 2200 meters  that Rupp made the first of his two bold moves to shake up the race and instantly broke open a 30-meter lead. With a 65.49 lap and then a 64.93, Rupp was well clear of the field. 2012 Olympian Diego Estrada led the chase pack, followed closely by Christo Landry, Mead, Lagat, Kipchirchir and Ben True.  

Heading into 3200 and with his lead up to 40 meters Rupp ran a 66.06, splitting 9:03.14. But at 3800, Rupp  purposefully slowed down and his 68.06 lap allowed the main chase pack, still 15 strong, to catch up. As they caught him at 3900 meters, Rupp deliberately moved to a slow jog out into lane 2 to let Estrada take the lead. Estrada at first seemed unwilling, and in leading, slowed things down considerably so the next few laps were run over 70 seconds.

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Was Rupp purposefully messing with the field? A four-lap surge — he split 4:25.52 from 2000 to 3600 meters — implied there was a lot available in the tank. By 4400, Rupp was in second, itching to change gears again and reassume the lead.

And then, at 4800, he made the second big move of the race, surging again to the lead, this time running 63.54 for the next 400. This time however some of the field thought they could stay with Rupp as nearly half the race was completed. Lagat moved to close down the gap but wasn’t able to catch him immediately. Kipchirchir was able to bridge the gap, bringing Lagat in tow, and at 5200 it was Rupp, Kipchirchir, and Lagat now 25 meters clear of Mead in fourth.

Kipchirchir and Lagat appeared to be smart in going with Rupp at this stage, as the chase pack of Korir, Mead, True and Eric Jenkins were 50 meters down. In retrospect, however, Lagat may have chosen the wrong pack and moved too early.

Bernard Lagat Sitting on A Bench after Dropping out while in 3rd Bernard Lagat Sitting on A Bench after Dropping out while in 3rd

The Carnage Begins the Second Half of the Race

Soon the conditions and Rupp’s relentless fartlek were taking its toll and the field was beginning to wilt. (German Fernandez dropped out in the first half of the race and did not stop to talk to the media after) From 4800 to 6400, Rupp split 4:16.75, in what would prove to be his fastest four-lap segment of the evening. Yet Kiprchirchir and Lagat hung in there and the lead over Mead, Korir, True, and Jenkins continued to grow.

With nine to go (6400 meters), True and Jenkins were dropped by Mead and Korir, who appeared to be the only two still capable of catching the big 3 of Rupp, Kirchirchir and Lagat. At 7K, Rupp and Kipchirchir put a small gap on Lagat, who was feeling the heat. Within 100 meters, Lagat was beginning to slow and began looking back on Mead, who was trying to bridge the gap. At 7200, there was a 40-meter gap from Lagat in third to Mead in fourth and another 50 meters back to fifth place Korir.

But by 7400, Mead had regained contact with Lagat and soon thereafter, Lagat’s dreams of making another Olympic team were shattered as he withdrew and fell to the track, at nearly the same spot that Sanya Richards-Ross had abandoned the women’s 400. Still new to the 10K, Lagat will be left to wonder if he should have played it safe and waited with the chase pack and raced for third as opposed to going with Rupp’s big move at 4800 (more on that below).

The first two spots seemed clear, with Rupp and Kirchirchir running strong and well in front. Now Mead was third, Korir in fourth, Jenkins fifth, Chris Derrick sixth, and True seventh. But the drama was far from over.

Hassan Mead Down on the Track Hassan Mead Down on the Track

Just a lap after Lagat stepped off to the track, Mead too began to struggle and a rapidly-closing Korir had passed him for third. Mead stayed on his shoulder for 200 meters but would not hang on for long. Derrick was fifth but nearly 50 meters back.  

More than 23 minutes into the race, and people were dropping like flies. Jenkins at that point was trying to hang on to Derrick, but withdrew at 8K and then Mead came to a halt at 8200 laying on the track (pictured right), then jogged it a few laps after smashing his glasses on the track in disgust. With Rupp and Kipchirchir well clear, it was now Korir in third with Derrick fourth.

With three to go, Rupp surged off the Bowerman Curve and then easing up 100 meters later.  Kipchirchir seemed content to sit on his shoulder and looked very comfortable. After all the work Rupp had done, could Kipchirchir’s patient running end up leading to an upset win?

With 450 to go, Kipchirchir took the lead, but Rupp was in close pursuit and looked VERY comfortable. Approaching a group of lapped runners with 200 to go, Kipchirchir slowed slightly and Rupp regained the lead, making his third big move of the race.

He closed in 30.0 to convincingly win his second consecutive 10k Trials and eighth straight national 10K title in 27:55.04, running his last 5K in 13:35.

The tough running of Kipchirchir paid off as he was second in 28:01.52 and Korir would hang on for third in 28:16.97. Scott Fauble was fourth in a gritty performance, running 28:45.53 and Chris Derrick (a late add to the field earlier in the week) finished 5th (28:47.24).

1 Galen Rupp
Nike Oregon Project
2 Shadrack Kipchirchir
U.S. Army
3 Leonard Korir
U.S. Army
4 Scott Fauble
5 Chris Derrick
Bowerman TC
6 Samuel Chelanga
7 Martin Hehir
8 Brendan Gregg
Hansons-Brooks DP
9 Jonathan Grey
adidas / Boulder TC
10 Robert Curtis
Hansons-Brooks DP
11 Ben True
12 Jacob Riley
Hansons-Brooks DP
13 Ben Bruce
14 Scott Smith
15 Christopher Landry
16 Johnny Crain
ZAP Fitness Reebok
17 Alex Monroe
Brooks / Boulder TC
18 Erik Peterson
19 Jim Spisak
NE Distance
20 Noah Droddy
DNF Hassan Mead
DNF Futsum Zienasellassie
Northern Arizona
DNF Bernard Lagat
DNF Eric Jenkins
Nike Oregon Project
DNF German Fernandez
Nike Bowerman TC
DNF Jason Witt
Hansons-Brooks DP
DNF Diego Estrada

Analysis: Rupp’s domination of the men’s 10,000 continues.
Tonight’s win was Rupp’s eighth straight US title in the men’s 10,000. He’s been a cut above the rest of the Americans over 25 laps for some time, and tonight was just further proof. While some of the U.S.’s biggest names were struggling, Rupp never showed weakness and made running 27:55 in tough conditions (with a big negative split) look really, really easy. A truly spectacular performance, but one we have come to expect from Rupp.

According to friend of LRC David Graham, Rupp is the eighth U.S. man to qualify for the Olympics in both the 10k and the marathon.

1. Lewis Tewanima (1912) – who won a silver in the 10,000 and finished 16th in the Olympic marathon
2. Joie Ray (1928) – finished 14th in the Olympic 10,000 and 5th in the marathon
3. Billy Mills (1964) – won gold in the 10,000 and was 14th in the marathon
4. Frank Shorter (1972) – was 5th in the 10,000 and won gold in the marathon
5. Frank Shorter (1976) – did not compete in the 10,000 at the Olympics, was first clean athlete across the line in the marathon
6. Dan Browne (2004) – finished 12th in the 10,000 and 65th in the marathon
7. Meb Keflezighi (2004) – did not compete in the 10,000 at the Olympics, won a silver medal in the marathon
8. Galen Rupp (2016)

Galen Rupp Says #8 Wasn’t Easy
While the public may have taken Rupp’s win tonight for granted, Rupp did not saying, “This was one of the harder ones for sure if not the hardest….For me they are all special, but being able to run the Olympic Trials is a whole another level than a national championships. Personally for me to have my kids here, my family, this was definitely extra special for me.”

Rupp said he came in with the plan to surge and was hoping to break the field earlier but Kipchirchir answered his second move. Rupp then had a battle on his hands. “I knew it was going to be a real battle at the end,” he said.

Rupp Says He Won’t Run Three Events in Rio, but Will Run the 5k at the Trials
Galen Rupp would not commit to running the marathon at the Olympics. He’s been training for the marathon, but would only say he’s definitely doing the 10,000m in Rio. The question is what double does he attempt: the 5,000-10,000 or the 10,000-marathon.

The additional training for the marathon has been taxing on Rupp as evidence by his surprising loss at 5,000m eight days ago in Portland.

Rupp said, “It’s been a little bit of a learning process” and “The last couple weeks I’ve been feeling really tired.” But a “crash course on rest” got him ready for tonight and he looked like vintage Rupp.

Galen Rupp Was Full of Praise for Alberto Salazar: “It’s easy to get greedy”

Rupp was full of praise for coach Alberto Salazar’s role in the eight USATF titles saying they have always taken the incremental approach to improvement starting when he was 16 years of old.

The result has been an amazing run where Rupp has avoided any serious injury that has limited his training. He said Alberto told him, “It’s easy to get greedy (when things are going well and push too hard and get injured)” so instead of getting greedy they have taken the incremental approach of gradually adding miles each year. Rupp said, “It’s really a testament to him (Alberto)”.

This race was nuts
True and Mead, who went 2-3 behind Rupp last year, were nonfactors in the end, Lagat and Jenkins DNF’d and Derrick and Martin Hehir, two guys who only got into the meet a few days ago after USATF expanded the field from 24 to 27, finished fifth and seventh. In all, seven of the 27 starters dropped out and only four men ran within a minute of Rupp’s winning time. Heck, Rupp was three seconds away from lapping Ben True — that’s how good he was tonight. Mead jogged the last few laps but miscounted and still only ran 24.

USATF does not have an honest effort requirement (to our knowledge) so Mead, Jenkins and Lagat should be fine to come back for the 5,000.

Leonard Korir is an Olympian and yet he thinks he’s not as fit as he was last year (but he’s got a good excuse).
Last year, Korir was on fire on the roads in the US. He won the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon, the Bix 7 miler, and was third at Falmouth. This year, his fitness isn’t as high as he’s only been training for less than six months as he had to go through Army’s basic training upon joining the military.

“It means a lot [to make the team]. I think I’ve been training for almost six months right now. I’m not in shape like last year but I believed in myself, in my coaches and my leadership in the Army,” said Korir. “I’m happy to represent the Army and the US in the Olympics.”

“[Even though I was behind early in the race] I know you never give up. In the Army, I was told, ‘You know what when you are out there, you have to be a fighter. You have to fight to the end.’ So when I saw those guys [ahead], I think I was in fourth place, I told myself, ‘You know what? Keep fighting. Go for it.’ And with a mile to go I was feeling strong and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to make the team.’”

Korir gave a lot of credit to his Kenyan-born WCAP teammates Paul Chelimo and Kipchirchir.

“Every day, I follow them in practice. I try to hang [with them] and it’s making me stronger. They always kick my ass everyday but I usually tell myself this pain is going to make me strong.”

We asked Korir what he was thinking when Rupp made his big move and he didn’t go with the top three. He said that he was keying off Mead as he had made the team last year and he thought Mead would eventually bridge the gap to third but he soon realized Mead was struggling so he went after them by himself.

It was a special night for the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) and coach Dan Browne

Kipchirchir and Korir are both in the Army WCAP program and coached by Dan Browne, who made the US Olympic team at 10,000m and the marathon in 2004 under the tutelage of coach Alberto Salazar. Browne was still competing as an athlete at the last Olympic Trials in 2012 in the marathon, finishing in last place.

Browne soon turned to coaching and his WCAP team is based out of the Nike campus in Beaverton, Oregon. Browne was full of praise for Alberto Salazar saying Salazar was instrumental in helping his group get going and has been willing to give Browne advice when asked.

Browne said he was very confident that Kipchirchir would walk away from the Trials as an Olympian. He wasn’t as confident in Korir, but held out hope. Interestingly, Browne told Korir a slightly different thing as Korir said that Browne has been saying nearly every day all year long that on July 1, both Korir and Kipchirchir would become and Olympians and that was proven true tonight.

Browne said the workouts of Kipchirchir are at another level of late and noted the progress he has made this year. Last year, Kipchirchir made Worlds but he was only the 4th place finisher and got to go to Worlds when Ben True opted to only run the 5k. Tonight Kipchirchir was giving Galen Rupp a run for his money. Now Browne turns his focus to the more difficult task of trying to contend for the medals in Rio.

Chris Derrick Definitely Earned His Place In This Meet

As we said above, Chris Derrick only got into the meet last week on petition after USATF expanded the field from 24 to 27. This prompted some on the message boards to accuse USATF of Nike favoritism (Derrick runs for the Nike sponsored Bowerman Track Club) and question whether they would have done the same for another runner. However, Derrick more than proved he belonged in this race as he finished in 5th only two spots out from the Olympic team. Derrick explained the petition process a bit and admitted, “It’s not how I wanted to do it obviously. … Jerry and I weren’t super comfortable with it, but we said, ‘It’s in the rules and it’s not like I’m kicking anyone else out of the meet.'”

Talking about the race itself, Derrick was frustrated saying, “It sucks because I know that would be my type of race. … I just don’t have the fitness right now. It’s as simple as that. Maybe there is some alternate reality where I get in that gap between Lagat or I can follow Korir and he and I can duke it out for third. But once I was separated and kind of in the wind … my legs were dead. They had nothing.”

Remember though that Derrick didn’t just need to be top-3 here, he also needed the 28:00 Olympic standard and on a super hot day where Rupp was the only one to break 28, that wasn’t in the cards. Derrick said he saw with 5-laps to go he needed to run 5-flat and said to himself, “Well, that’s not gonna happen.”

Still, while not making the Olympics is a tough pill to swallow, this was a big step in the right direction for Derrick. Talking about how much his fitness has progressed since he struggled to a 28:38 last place finish at Pre, Derrick said:

“I’ve been working out with three tremendously fit guys up in Park City. Ryan Hill, Mo Ahmed and Lopez Lomong. And I haven’t finished a workout with them yet. And  I felt pretty good about a few of them. So they’re monster fit. It’s just that aerobic strength to absorb a move and then recover just hasn’t returned yet. I know it’s still there. As LetsRun guys say, ‘Talent doesn’t go away’. … I hope. I know if I put in another year of solid training I’ll get back to that point, but it’s obviously very frustrating to not be at that point at an Olympic Trials.”

Looking ahead, Derrick will double back in the 5,000 and then have a summer track season. He’ll put the marathon off for another year and a half or so.

The full 9-minute interview with Derrick is below and worth a watch.

Scott Fauble didn’t surprise himself by finishing fourth — he was devastated to miss out on the Olympic team
Fauble, a Portland grad whose best NCAA finish on the track was 11th in 2012 (he DNF’d the 10,000 last year) ran a tremendous race to take fourth in tough conditions, but that didn’t soften the blow at all for him. He was on the verge of tears in the mixed zone as he spoke about his performance.

“Fourth place sucks, especially here. Part of me is like, ‘I ran as well as I could run today,’ but part of me is like, ‘I wanted more.’”

Fauble would not have made the Olympic team even if he finished in the top three — his 28:00.43 pb from Stanford this year is .43 short of the standard and the IAAF does not invite people to fill the fields. Still, he said that he knew he was in shape to run well today as he’s been crushing workouts and racing well (he was 2nd at the US Half Champs in April).

“I’m not here to be okay,” Fauble said. “I’m not trying to be just decent. I want to win races. I want to be competitive.”

Fauble said that it was a tough decision not to go with the chase pack when Rupp broke up the pack midway through but knew he would not be able to sustain that pace for the rest of the race. Fauble rolled people up instead, moving from 9th with nine laps to go to fourth at the finish.

We definitely recommend the interview below as Fauble shows the highs and lows of the Olympic Trials.

Don’t discount Bernard Lagat in the 5000
One of the more surprising interviews of the night was the one we did with Bernard Lagat after his DNF in this race. Normally, when someone drops out of a race they are disconsolate but that wasn’t true of Lagat, who was very upbeat.

Lagat said it’s easy to say now that he made a tactical mistake by trying to go with Rupp and Kipchirchir since Korir made the team after coming from behind but he was not going to second-guess himself.

“That )the decision to try to go with Kipchirchir and Rupp) is a fault when I look at [it] right now (after the race) but at that point it was the best decision just to make sure I was staying with Galen Rupp and Shadrack, because you know what, I knew I was running with the 10,000-meter runners. Ben True was still behind me and you still have Hassan Mead and other guys. So I thought that was [right] decision,” said Lagat. “But when Galen is moving that fast, it seems to me that I overcommitted. So I over committed but only to realize that the guys I was worried about were also feeling the heat and tired like [me].”

“So I dropped out just to conserve a little bit for the 5000 meters,’ said Lagat. “We never know what would have happened [if I hadn’t gone with the move]. But I’m not going to go back that way (and think about what might have happened). I’m a guy that looks forward,” said Lagat. “I’m going to come back and run the 5000 meters and qualify – that’s what I promised my son. I”m done crying.”

Lagat said his training has been going very well and reiterated his DNF at the Pre Classic was due to illness, not a lack of fitness.

Quick Thought: Ben True just felt drained out there, still hates the 10k

When Rupp made his second move, True tried to respond and go with the second group, but had nothing and from there it was a death march to the finish line. True admitted he didn’t know whether there was an honest effort requirement, so he decided to finish the race to be sure.

True wasn’t 100% sure why he felt so terrible, but the heat likely had something to do with it. True said perhaps he took the last week too easy and that this race would serve as a shock to the system. But he also said it’s unfortunate as now he has to go into the 5k with an extra race effort in his legs.

Galen Rupp victory lap with his kids Galen Rupp victory lap with his kids

Rupp And Salazar’s “Gimmicks”
In 2011 it was the infamous pollen mask, at the marathon it was his “holey” shirt and today it was special Nike athletic tape designed to decrease wind resistance. Salazar dislikes the use of the word “gimmicks,” but he and Galen are often better prepared than everyone else in the field. Alberto Salazar today said he wanted it to be as hot as possible as the heat is an advantage for Galen. More here: 6 Minutes and 6 Points with Alberto Salazar

Syracuse’s Martin Hehir Just Got Into The Trials 48 Hours Ago And More Than Took Advantage of It With A Fantastic 7th Place Showing
Hehir, who was 9th at NCAA xc in the fall, only got into the Trials two days ago when USATF decided to let Chris Derrick in and let the two guys in front of him in as well. Syracuse quickly got Hehir a ticket and he ran great in Eugene for the first time in his career. Hehir has struggled with allergies in Eugene in the past (Hehir was just 21st at NCAAs in Eugene in 2014 and 13th in 2015). Hehir’s allergies are so bad that Syracuse would only take him to Eugene the day before his races but USAs are late enough in the year that allergies aren’t much of an issue.

Hehir’s 61.72 last lap was the second-best of anyone in the field.

More: Special Olympic Trials Section

NBC’s Live Extra has live streaming of the Olympic Trials

#8 for Galen #8 for Galen
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