Hassan Mead Ends Galen Rupp’s Epic Streak to Win His First U.S. Title in a Bizarre Men’s 10K
June 22, 2017 to June 25, 2017
June 22, 2017
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For eight years, Galen Rupp dominated the men’s 10,000 meters like few athletes have dominated an event. Yet at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships tonight, in what will likely go down as the final track race of his storied career, there was no storybook ending for Rupp — he finished a well-beaten fifth as Hassan Mead closed his last 800 in 1:57.38 (26.9 final 200) to win his first-ever U.S. title in 29:01.44. The American Distance Project’s Shadrack Kipchirchir and Leonard Korir went 2-3 — just as they did at the Olympic Trials last year — to earn the other two berths to Worlds as Rupp could not hang with the top guys over the final 150 meters. Mead’s winning time was the slowest at USAs since Dan Browne ran 29:46.06 to win in New Orleans in 1998.
Even though the race started after 10:00 p.m. local time, temperatures were still in the 80s and unlike the women’s race that preceded it, there was no Shalane Flanagan-type willing to force the pace. In fact, the first 1600 of the men’s 10k (5:08.72) was over six seconds slower than the women’s 10k (5:02.03).
Entering the home stretch just before 2400 meters, NCAA record holder Sam Chelanga had had enough and threw in a hard surge, sprinting to the front and creating a gap on the field as the crowd cheered. Rupp and a few others closed the gap quickly however, with Chelanga dropping a 64.67 from the front. He kept the pressure on the next lap, again surging as he entered the home stretch to split 65.09, but this time the pack was less inclined to follow and allowed Chelanga to maintain a gap as he hit the finish line at 3200 (9:55.44), over a second up on Rupp in second.
What followed next was bizarre, but undoubtedly entertaining. For the next several miles, Chelanga repeatedly employed the exact same tactic: he would throw in a surge entering the homestretch and open up a gap only for the chase pack to reel him in over the first 300 meters of the next lap before repeating the cycle and surging again entering the homestretch of the following lap. Throwing in repeated surges and essentially fartleking a race is not an unprecedented tactic, but it’s one that is rarely seen in a race of this caliber.
Yet while Chelanga’s antics made the 25-lap more interesting, once the chase pack realized that Chelanga did not intend to sustain his moves up front, they stopped reacting to the moves immediately, content to reel him in over the course of a lap. And as Chelanga began to tire himself out, the pace slowed from 67’s and 68’s to 71’s and, on lap 21, a 74.04.
At that point, the lead pack consisted of Chelanga, Mead, Korir, Kipchirchir, Biya Simbassa (another ADP athlete), Rupp, Diego Estrada and Chris Derrick. Once again, with a mile to go, Chelanga made a move, but this time Mead went with him before Rupp assumed control with three to go after a 64.50. But Rupp, who has closed out so many of these races from the front in the past, allowed himself to be passed without putting up much of a fight with 900 to go and it was Korir who lead with two laps remaining after a 65.63.
The racing began in earnest on the backstretch of the penultimate lap when Derrick made a hard move to the front, and he led Mead and Simbassa at the bell with Kipchirchir, Korir and Rupp in hot pursuit.
On the backstretch, Mead hit the front followed by Korir, and as they rounded the final turn Kipchirchir pulled up on Mead’s shoulder as Rupp was beginning to fade.
Off the final turn, it was a three-man race: Korir on the inside, Kipchirchir on the outside and Mead in the middle. Midway down the home stretch, Korir hit his top gear, and it looked as if he was going to steal yet another race with a late move. But he could not sustain his speed, which allowed Mead to power home for a well-deserved U.S. title. Simbassa took fourth while Rupp had to settle for fifth. Estrada ran down Derrick and Chelanga on the final lap for sixth as both men were exhausted from their earlier moves.
Results (full lap-by-lap splits)
Quick Take: This was the end of an era
Galen Rupp made his first U.S. team as a 21-year-old in 2007 and he’s run the 10,000 at the Olympics or Worlds every year since, winning the last eight U.S. championships. Both of those streaks came to a screeching halt tonight as he simply could not contend with the kicks of Mead, Kipchirchir or Korir over the final lap.
If Rupp had more than two months to prepare for this race (he ran the Boston Marathon on April 17), he likely would have been more of a factor — after all, he was fifth in the Olympic 10,000 only 10 months ago (last year he had almost five months to recover from the Marathon Trials to the 10,000 Trials), Likewise, if Rupp had been contending against the guys he had to beat back in 2007, he may have been able to make the team with his current level of fitness. But in 2017, the U.S. is too talented in the distance events for Rupp to be able to cruise to an easy victory when he’s not close to his best.
Still, what Rupp has accomplished in this event should not be understated. Not only is he the American record holder in the event and the only American man to medal in the event globally in the last 50 years, but until tonight, he hadn’t lost to a fellow American in a 10,000 in over seven years (Chris Solinsky was the last guy to beat him, at Payton Jordan in 2010, when Solinsky shocked the world with his 26:59 10,000m debut).
QT: Hassan Mead Stops Rupp to Get US Title #1, but Says He’s Still a 5k Runner
It was certain someone besides Galen Rupp was going to win USAs at 10,000m next year, but Mead ended the era of Rupp a year early.
Mead was obviously pleased after the race, “It’s awesome. Not many people get to win US titles in a (world) championship year. I could see Shadrack and Leonard were coming hard. To win it was awesome.”
Mead, who has run 3:37 in the 1500 both this year and last, was very confident in his kick saying, “The slower it went, the better. I had great confidence in myself that I had the best kick in the group. If it went 33 minutes and it came down to the last k, I was ready to run 2:22 (for the last 1000m).”
It didn’t come down to the final 1000m, but rather the final 650 and Mead said Derrick made it very hard. “Chris took off at 600 and I was surprised. I thought he was going to settle after 200 but he kept pressing and pressing. I respect the man so I just tucked in and thought ‘wait, wait, wait, wait’ and with 250 to go I was like ‘now or never’ and I just took off. It was fast. I don’t know what we split but we were pretty much going all-out to the bell,” Mead said. For the record, the final 600m, leader to leader was 1:24.9 (29.6, 28.4, 26.9).
Mead came up short at the 10,000m last year at the Olympic Trials, but made the Olympics at 5,000m so he was not having it that he’s now a 10,000m runner. “I’m still better in the 5k. If I’m going to be world-class in both events I’ve got to start doing both,” he said noting he’ll be toeing the line in the 5000m tomorrow.
Mead was glad to be the guy who stopped Rupp’s win streak and said Rupp congratulated him after the race,
“His record speaks for itself. He came [up to me after the race] and said, ‘Congrats’ and I said ‘I appreciate it.’ Real class to him. US distance is getting so tough. I bet you two years ago he was so confident I bet you he would have gotten away with it. To put a stop to that [streak] is nice.”
Quick Take: Galen Rupp didn’t talk to the media after the race
While Rupp congratulated Mead after the race, he clearly came in expecting to win or, at the very least, make the team, and the fact that he could do neither did not sit well with him after the race. Rupp initially walked through the mixed zone without talking to anyone, only to return for his belongings and walk through a second time — again ignoring interview requests. USATF PR staffer Amanda Brooks followed Rupp through the zone and asked him to return as several outlets wanted to talk to him, but Rupp again said no and he was off into the Sacramento night.
Rupp was not required to stop, but it’s bush-league behavior for the best 10,000 runner in U.S. history to skip out on the media after running what was likely his final race ever on the track. It certainly paled in comparison to Nick Symmonds earlier in the day, who was willing to stick around and answer every question after his final race on the track.
Of course, Rupp would certainly be asked more difficult questions than Symmonds as Rupp hasn’t spoken to a large media contingent the since the leaked USADA report came out that said it was “highly likely” that Rupp and five of his NOP teammates broke anti-doping rules when they received L-Carnitine injections prior to the 2012 Trials. After refusing to stop in the mixed zone, Rupp did ultimately talk to Ken Goe of The Oregonian as he has some quotes from Rupp here.
Quick Take: Sam Chelanga: “You watch these races, they race the same all the time. I gave you something different today.”
Chelanga said that he regretted his strategy “a little” in the middle of the race, but overall was proud of what he did. Chelanga said he considered making a sustained move to the front, but before he knew it there were only four laps left and it was too late. Chelanga was also expecting someone else to come with him and help him split pacing duties, but the cavalry never came, which forced him to surge on his own.
As for why he employed the tactics he did?
“Sometimes you’ve just gotta race, man,” Chelanga said. “People were just jogging. And I figured, these people didn’t come to watch us jog…You guys know this man. You watch these races, they race the same all the time. I gave you something different today.”
Quick Take: The plan was for the ADP guys to use team tactics, including speaking Swahili, to take down Galen Rupp
After the race, we spoke to Scott Simmons, who coaches Kipchirchir, Korir, Simbassa and Chelanga, and he explained to us that part of his group’s plan was to throw surges into the middle of the race to break up the rhythm and help his guys take down Rupp and the rest of the field. Though the outcome was great for Simmons’ group (a 2-3-4 finish), the execution wasn’t exactly what they had drawn up as Chelanga wasn’t supposed to surge that much and that the other guys were supposed to go with him when he did. He also said that the plan was for his athletes to speak Swahili to each other to discuss tactics in the race without their opponents knowing, but we’re not sure if that wound up happening either.
Still, Simmons was a happy man as his group was able to put three in the top four tonight.
Quick Take: Shadrack Kipchirchir pays tribute to Rupp and says he wants to medal in London
One thing about the men of the ADP/WCAP: they’re ambitious. In March, Leonard Korir told us that Team USA’s goal was to win gold at World XC (they wound up fifth). Today, Kipchirchir said that he wants to medal in London, even though he was only 16th at Worlds in 2015 and 19th last year. Of course, we also thought it would have been nuts for Paul Chelimo to say he was going to medal at this time last year, and he did just that in Rio.
Kipchirchir also paid tribute to Rupp, whom he credited for helping him make it to Rio last year.
“He’s the guy that always make[s] it hard,” Kipchirchir said. “Going back to last year, I made the team because of him. When he took off [during the Olympic Trials], it dragged me along. He’s the top guy, and I salute him for that. And we’re going to miss him. Track and field will not be good again when he leaves. So I wish he could stay longer [on] the track. Beating him is like…I mean, I love Galen. He’s a tough competitor.”
Quick Take: Korir Wanted to Win, But Was Glad to Make the Team
Korir made his second straight US 10,000m team, but said his goal was to win. “You want to win but at the same time you have to be careful (you don’t make the top 3 by going for the win).”
He wanted a faster race, but when it went slow he thought “let’s hang in there and hopefully I’ll make the team.” He thought Galen Rupp would make a big move and the plan was to follow it, but when the big Rupp move never materialized, it was uncharted territory and a new USA champion.
Quick Take: Chris Derrick Goes for It and Dies: “It was good to lead with 250 to go and it was shitty to run a 40 (last 200).”
Chris Derrick made a big move from home with 650m to go and held the lead for nearly a lap until the lead pack caught him with a little over 200 to go. At that point, Chris totally faded, with what he said was a 40-second final 200m, to finish 7th in 29:12.58.
Chris said he discussed with coach Jerry Schumacher before the race a plan and the plan was to wait until late in the race to make a move. That’s what he did here.
“I don’t think I can run 53 or 54 (final 400m), but I bet I can run 1:27 (final 600m),” Chris said with the thought “I bet that will do it (make the team). So I went. I knew I was pressing a little bit.”
Even if Chris had run 1:27 it wouldn’t have been enough to win tonight as leader to leader the final 600 was roughly 1:24.9 (29.6, 28.4, 26.9).
When he got passed Chris said, “(It was) definitely partly mental, but my legs just wouldn’t go anymore. It was good to lead with 250 to go and it was shitty to run a 40 (last 200).” Chris didn’t want to get congratulated on a moral victory for pushing the pace with 600m to go, “I don’t really buy into that. Like Yoda said, ‘do or do not; there is no try.’”
Chris said in retrospect maybe he should have pushed the pace with over a mile to go, but now he said he’ll turn his attention to making his marathon debut in the fall. Chris said he’s not done with the track as he’d still like to break his 10,000m PR which dates to his Stanford days (27:31), but he has to think about possibly running the marathon in 2020, so it would be nice to get one under his belt. He said Schumacher has the idea on the marathon that, “you have to run one before you can race one” so Derrick’s expectations wouldn’t be too high the first one “maybe 2:12, 2:11” and “go from there.”
Quick Take: Who the heck is Biya Simbassa?
Two years ago, if you told us the Ethiopian-born Biya Simbassa would beat Galen Rupp in this race, we’d have laughed you off. Though he did run 28:42 as a junior at Oklahoma (via Iowa Central CC), he never even qualified for NCAAs on the track (indoors or outdoors). But he’s made a rapid improvement since joining ADP last fall and now he’s #4 in the whole United States.
“Every week or month we’ve had with training has progressed him to the next level,” Simmons told us before the meet. “He’s improved everything and honestly when he first came, he was an unknown entity, unknown potential. We got busy on developing every aspect of his running. I think the most surprising thing was the development of his speed and his ability to finish fast.”