Upset City! Michigan’s Ben Flanagan Stuns Everyone to Win 10,000m Title

June 6, 2018

EUGENE, Ore. — Some people know it as TrackTown USA. But tonight, Eugene was Upset City as Michigan’s Ben Flanagan stunned Alabama’s Vincent Kiprop to win the men’s 10,000 meters on day 1 of the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Before tonight, Flanagan, a fifth-year senior from Kitchener, Ontario, had never finished higher than 14th in an NCAA final. He did not even qualify for this meet last year, finishing 22nd at the East Regional. And he entered tonight’s race as the 19th seed, with a 29:13.72 pb. But none of that mattered as Flanagan demolished his PR, running down Kiprop in the home straight to end his collegiate career as a champion, clocking a stellar 56.95 final lap to win in 28:34.53 to Kiprop’s 28:34.99.

Article continues below player
Like this article? Subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on social media
The latest running news, sent to your inbox weekly or when urgent news breaks.

You have been subscribed.

Watch the finish for yourself.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Chavez tracked down Ben Flanagan’s mom and has a nice read here.

The Race

Sometimes the 25-lap 10,000 can be a snoozefest. Not this one; when was the last time you saw someone take out a collegiate 10k in 29 seconds for the first 200?

Ben Flanagan Wins NCAA 10,000m

Ben Flanagan Wins NCAA 10,000m

Kiprop and his Alabama teammates, Gilbert Kigen and Alfred Chelanga, wanted to push the pace early, but they significantly underestimated how fast they were running. Even after “backing off” over the second 200, Kiprop still hit 60.94 for his first lap with Kigen and Chelanga right behind him. Kigen took over on lap 2, dropped a 64.05, and by 800 (2:05.25), Alabama’s Kenyan trio had over three seconds on the NCAA’s best 10k runners.

That was as large as the lead would get, however, as the Alabama guys began to slow and the chase pack, led by NAU’s Tyler Day, reeled them in. Day would stay there for a while before he and teammate Matt Baxter felt the pace slowing and made a move to the front at 3600 meters. Those two would trade the lead over the next four kilometers, clicking off 68s and 69s (28:20/28:45 10k pace) as the race began to resemble their front-running effort from NCAA XC in November. With no Justyn Knight, would the Lumberjacks be able to go 1-2?

Not so fast. The constant grinding began to take its toll on Day and Baxter, and Kiprop was back in the lead at 7600 meters. He would hold it, running 70s and 71s until the race really heated up with two laps to go. At that point, six men remained in the lead group: Kiprop, Baxter, Flanagan (content to bide his time and conserve energy in the pack), Day, Kentucky’s Jacob Thomson, and Utah State’s Dillon Maggard.

With two to go, Baxter made a hard move into second, pressing Kiprop in an attempt to take the lead, but the Kenyan held him off. But as they approached the bell, Maggard made an attack of his own. Maggard has the best mile speed of anyone in the field — he ran 3:56 on Utah State’s DMR at NCAA indoors — and looked poised to use that speed to kick away from the field.

on the backstretch

On the backstretch

Flanagan and Kiprop had other plans. Kiprop made a strong move into the lead as they ran past the East Grandstand on the back straight, and Flanagan was the only one to respond. With 200 to go, Kiprop had a lead of two strides on Flanagan, but the Michigan man would not allow it to grow as they rounded the Bowerman Curve. As he hit the homestraight, Flanagan began closing the gap, gradually at first before blowing by Kiprop, beating his chest, and throwing out his arms in the final meters to earn a memorable victory.

Flanagan immediately transitioned to a state of euphoria, and before he embarked on a victory lap, he had one question, which he asked directly into the ESPN camera:

Where’s my mom?

A classic line — and slightly more polite than the last one uttered by a Flanagan after a big victory (Shalane Flanagan at the NYC Marathon). For the record, NYC Marathon champ Shalane Flanagan — no relation — approved of Ben’s line.

Men 10000 m
 Final only. Random draw. Double waterfall. 2/3 (16/8) on main
   NCAA Meet: M 28:01.30  6/1/1979    Suleiman Nyambui, Texas-El Paso          
     Hayward: H 26:25.97  6/8/2008    Kenenisa Bekele, ETH                     
College Best: C 27:08.49  5/1/2010    Sam Chelanga, Liberty                    
    Name                    Year School                  Finals 
  1 Ben Flanagan              SR Michigan              28:34.53  
  2 Vincent Kiprop            JR Alabama               28:34.99  
  3 Dillon Maggard            SR Utah State            28:38.36  
  4 Tyler Day                 SO No Arizona            28:39.03  
  5 Matthew Baxter            SR No Arizona            28:39.35  
  6 Jacob Thomson             SR Kentucky              28:40.50  
  7 Gilbert Kigen             JR Alabama               28:55.66  
  8 Robert Brandt             JR UCLA                  29:13.12  
  9 Colin Bennie              SR Syracuse              29:13.66  
 10 Arsène Guillorel          SR Samford               29:16.71  
 11 Grant Fischer             SR Colo State            29:20.73  
 12 Connor McMillan           JR BYU                   29:32.65  
 13 Lawrence Kipkoech         JR Campbell              29:34.52  
 14 Michael Crozier           SR Georgetown            29:38.21  
 15 Frank Lara                JR Furman                29:42.87  
 16 Alfred Chelanga           JR Alabama               29:44.08  
 17 Emmanuel Roudolff-Leviss  SO Portland              29:45.39  
 18 Jonathan Green            SR Georgetown            29:46.57  
 19 Nahom Solomon             SR Georgia Tech          29:46.96  
 20 Matt Welch                SR Portland              30:02.69  
 21 Mike Tate                 SR So Utah               30:14.75  
 22 Conner Mantz              FR BYU                   31:37.34  
 23 Clayton Young             JR BYU                   31:37.54  
 24 Rory Linkletter           JR BYU                   31:37.69

Quick Take: Ben Flanagan believed he was ready to win, and credited his teammates for sticking around campus and pacing him in workouts even though their own seasons were over

Two years ago, Flanagan felt as if he was in over his head and wound up 14th. But the 23-year-old said he learned from that experience and even though he entered with a 29:13 pb, he knew based on his workouts and his 57.51 close at regionals (when he ran 29:17 in the Tampa heat) that he could contend for the win today.

He just wasn’t sure his coach, fellow Canadian Kevin Sullivan, knew it. So before the race this morning, he told him just that. Flanagan was expecting Sullivan to ask him to be realistic and lower his expectations. But Sullivan was thinking the same thing.

“I know,” Sullivan told him Flanagan. “I know you can win.”

Flanagan also doled out thanks to his teammates, several of whom were done with their seasons but kept training in order to pace Flanagan in workouts

“They took out every [rep] and they made my workouts so much easier, so much more doable, boosted my confidence,” Flanagan said. “So I owe so much to those guys. And that’s just the type of guys they are. They’re my best friends, they’re the best teammates you could ever ask for.”

Quick Take: Kiprop may have cost himself the win by going out in 60.94 for the first lap

The pass

The pass

Flanagan deserves major props for the win as closing in 56.95 in a 28:34 race is very impressive — and he could have shaved a couple more tenths off had he not celebrated early. But Kiprop also closed well — 57.36 — and it’s fair to wonder if, in a race that was decided in the final meters, if his insane first lap came back to bite him in the end. Kiprop’s 60.94 (with a 29.x first 200) certainly took more out of him than Flanagan’s 64.35.

Kiprop, who was also second in the 5k indoors, admitted that he made a mistake — he did not realize how fast he was going on the first lap.

“I was like, ‘Ooh, that’s fast,’” Kiprop thought to himself upon seeing the clock.

Kiprop tipped his hat to Flanagan, but after learning his lesson tonight, believes he will be ready to take the title next time around.

“I think next time it will be good, man. “[Today, Flanagan] did it, and maybe this was his day.”

Quick Take: The NAU guys were justifiably proud of their effort and were going to take it out

We often hear the modern distance fans complain that no one pushes the pace in championship races. Don’t tell that to the NAU crew. Just as they did in cross country, Tyler Day and Matt Baxter pushed the pace for much of the race and said after the race had the Alabama guys not hammered it early, they were going to push it themselves.

Day said they were hoping to break it open as they know while they are extremely strong, they don’t have a blistering fast last lap. Day said that if the Alabama guys hadn’t taken it out early they were going to take things into their own hands 800 into the race if the first two laps were 70 or slower and run something like 65-66.

He said the goal was not to serve as a rabbit for the rest of the field, which sort of ended up happening in the middle, but Day said he was quite proud afterwards when another competitor came up to him and told him it was the hardest 10k he’d ever run.

While the NAU duo finished 2-3 in cross country and 4-5 today, they were still quite happy with the result.
“I’m still really happy with the race. For us to go 2-3 in cross, there is always big expectations going into a 10k on the track… ‘Can you go 1-2 as you don’t have [Justyn] Knight in the race?’ That would have been cool – but for us to come out here 4th and 5th – that’s better than we’ve ever placed before and a big step in the right direction,” said the Kiwi Baxter.

This was Baxter’s last track race in an NAU uniform but he still has cross country eligibility and is promising big things.  “You are going to see me and T-Day back in cross – the terrible duo,” said Baxter, who was then asked how they could improve on their 2-3 showing this year. “We’re going to improve – let’s just say that. What does that mean? Does that mean 1-2? We’ll see.”

Quick Take: Proof positive that the end of a 10k doesn’t come down to has the best speed

Television commentators often incorrectly assume that whoever has the best speed (meaning best shorter PRs) is going to win in a kick.

The next time you hear that nonsense analysis, remind yourself of this race. The last lap quickly turned into a three-person battle for the win. The 1500/mile PRs of those that were still battling for the win with 300 to go were as follows.

Dillon Maggard 3:42/4:01.2 (3:56 DMR split at NCAAs)
Vincent Kiprop 3:45
Ben Flanagan 3:50/4:07.05

As we all know, the winner ended up being Flanagan, the guy with the slowest 1500/mile pb, not the former miler Maggard who competed at NCAAs in the mile indoors in 2017 and in the 1500 outdoors in 2016. (Maggard ended up third). We asked Maggard if he was feeling good about his chances given the fact he was a former 1500 guy. While happy to still be in it, Maggard admitted he knew he was “hurting pretty bad” with 800 to go, but thought he had the wheels to contend for the win. He just didn’t quite have enough over the final 200. And for good reason. Tonight represented a big pb for the former 29:01 performer.

Maggard, who had never scored outdoors before but was 5th indoors in the 3k and DMR, is now looking forward to the 5,000 on Friday where he is the 4th seed based on his 13:30 pb. He said tonight’s showing gives him confidence and “takes the edge off” for the 5k as he’s got nothing to lose.

Quick Take: The foreign domination of the 10k continues

Flanagan victory means that only one American has won the NCAA 10,000 title in the last 15 years. Since American Daniel Lincoln won in 2003, Galen Rupp‘s win in 2009 is the lone US victory.

The Last 15 10,000 Winners
2004 Alistair Cragg Arkansas 29:22.43
2005 Robert Cheseret Arizona 28:20.11
2006 Josphat Boit Arkansas 28:37.64
2007 Shadrack Songok A&M‑Corpus Christi 28:55.83
2008 Shadrack Songok A&M‑Corpus Christi 28:46.69
2009 Galen Rupp Oregon 28:21.45
2010 Sam Chelanga Liberty 28:37.40
2011 Leonard Korir Iona 28:07.63
2012 Cameron Levins Southern Utah 28:07.14
2013 Lawi Lalang Arizona 29:29.65
2014 Edward Cheserek Oregon 28:30.18
2015 Edward Cheserek Oregon 28:58.92
2016 Edward Cheserek Oregon 29:09.57
2017 Marc Scott Tulsa 29:01.54
2018 Ben Flanagan 28:34.53

Be a fan and talk about this crazy race on our world famous fan forum / messageboard:

*Official 2018 NCAAs Day 1 Discussion Thread
*What!? Some guy I’ve never heard of just won the ncaa 10k!!!
  The unheralded Ben Flanagan of Michigan via Canada is your NCAA champ.
Men’s 10k Thread – Men’s 10k is on!!! 29 point first 200.
*WHAT THE HECK happened to BYU?

More: Full Day 1 Recap:  LRC Day 1 Recap: Terrific Field Action As Denzel Comenentia Leads The Meet By Himself, Josh Kerr Is Thinking NCAA Record, & Florida’s Title Chances Take A Hit

Like this article? Subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on social media

The latest running news, sent to your inbox weekly or when urgent news breaks.

You have been subscribed.