Thrilling 10,000m races and a blistering 100m highlight opening day of competition.
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Amy Begley had a breakout performance Thursday in winning the women’s 10,000m ahead of Shalane Flanagan on the first night of competition at the 2009 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon. In the men’s 10,000m, Galen Rupp claimed an emotional victory while wearing his green and gold University of Oregon uniform for the last time. And earlier in the day, defending 100m world champion Tyson Gay made a statement with a time of 9.75 in the first round of the men’s 100m.
A much-anticipated 10,000m showdown between Flanagan and Kara Goucher was spoiled when Goucher scratched from the event to focus on Friday’s 5000m final. In nearly perfect weather conditions at 7:50 PM Flanagan took the lead early and hit the 1K mark first in 3:08. With stiff winds on the backstretch, though, she appeared not to want to lead all the way, so instead she took turns in the front spot with Begley. The pace slowed just slightly over the next 2K, as Flanagan hit 3K in 9:29 before giving the lead back to Begley. By that point the two women were well clear of the rest of the field with Katie McGegor and Magdalena Lewy Boulet.
Lewy Boulet popped off the back just short of the halfway mark, which the remaining leaders reached at 15:51, right on pace to meet the World Championships “A” qualifying standard of 31:45, which McGregor had not yet met. At 6K Flanagan threw in a surge, running the next lap in 72 seconds, enough to break McGregor. Begley was up to the challenge, though, and was soon back in front. Flanagan stayed glued to Begley’s backside until the last lap, when she kicked, overtaking Begley and appearing poised to open a gap. But Begley responded, digging deep to pull back alongside Flanagan. Mere inches separated the two women as they flew down the backstretch.
It was Begley who crossed the line first in a stadium record time of 31:22. Her last lap was run in 67 seconds. When asked how she planned to build on this performance in preparing for the World Championships in August, Begley said, in reference to her coach, Alberto Salazar, “I’m just going to keep training hard. Alberto’s been right all along, so I’m just going to keep doing what he says.”
In the men’s 10,000, Abdi Abdirahman broke straight to the lead, seeming to desire a fast time. He reached 1K first in 2:48, behind the pace needed to meet the World Championships “A” qualifying standard of 27:47. James Carney and Meb Keflezighi then took turns in the lead, but Abdi retook the lead and increased the pace again at 3300m. Before long, however, Meb was back in front. At 4K a tightly packed lead group of more than a dozen runners remained together. It was Ritzenhein’s turn to surge just short of halfway. His 64-second 12th lap quickly withered the lead group to six runners. Two laps later, James Carney was in front, but the pace slowed, and Ritz grew impatient and went ahead once more. Ritz’s relentless pace put Keflezighi under pressure, and he was the next to drop off, followed by Josh Rohatinksy.
At 6800 meters, Ritz pulled up again, all but forcing Carney to lead. Ritz’s next surge broke Carney and then Nelson. The 8k mark was reached in 22:31, still slower than “A” standard pace but getting closer. It was now a two-man race between Ritz and Rupp. Ritz poured on the gas over the next few laps, but Rupp continued to look relaxed a step behind him. With 500 meters to go, Rupp finally made his move, dropping Ritz instantly. Rupp’s closing lap was 62.9, his winning time 27:53.52. Ritz held on for second ahead of Tim Nelson.
There were few surprises in the first rounds of the 1500m. In the first women’s heat, Christin Wurth led wire to wire, winning in 4:11.84. Shannon Rowbury used a strong kick to take the second heat in 4:15.19. “I went out pretty easy, and it was pretty windy down the backstretch, so I just tried to keep myself covered,” she said. Arkansas Razorback Dorian Ulrey won heat one of the men’s 1500 easily in 3:41.42. Lopez Lomong and Chris Lucezik ran away from the rest of the field over the closing 500 meters of heat two to advance to Sunday’s final. American mile record holder Alan Webb had to lean at the tape in heat three to beat out David Torrance for the last qualifying spot in heat three. Chris Lear won the heat with a sub-55-second last lap. The fourth heat was by far the fastest, and as a result the top six runners moved on, as four time-based slots were up for grabs among the four heats. Beijing Olympian Leo Manzano won in 3:39.91.
The heats of the men’s 3000m steeplechase were notable for the absence of familiar names such as Dan Lincoln and Anthony Famiglietti and were filled instead with young talents, including Billy Nelson, 24, who finished second to Aaron Aguayo, 24, in heat one. Aguayo’s winning time was 8:42.01. Daniel Huling won heat two in 8:34.13. Also qualifying for the final was former NCAA champion Josh McAdams.
In the men’s 100m, Tyson Gay won the first heat in a wind-aided time of 9.75. Before the start of the meet, Gay announced his intention to run only the first round of the 100. As the defending world champion in the event, that’s all he had to do to qualify for the World Championships. But his goal was more than just to meet the minimum requirement to advance to Berlin. “I want to run fast,” he stressed at an adidas media event on the eve of the competition. And that he did, recording the sixth-fastest time ever run in all conditions.
Nevertheless, he was not satisfied. “I ran a horrible race,” he said afterwards, explaining that a previous false start by another competitor caused him to start poorly. When asked if this meant he might run another round, Gay answered, “I want to, but I’ll talk it over with my coach and see what he says.” Stay tuned.
Top qualifiers for Friday’s semifinals of the 800m included three-time Olympian Hazel Clark and NCAA champion Lisa Gall on the women’s side and four-time national champion Khadevis Robinson and 2008 US Olympic Trials champion Nick Symmonds on the men’s side.