It’s Official: Rupp Versus Lagat This Weekend

Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat are squaring off this weekend. Photo:

Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat are squaring off this weekend. Photo:

Both runners own American indoor records.

Written by: Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

For the second straight year, the final stop of the Indoor Visa Championship Series will be in the thin air of Albuquerque, N.M., where the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships will be contested this weekend, February 26 and 27.  The event, which will be held at the Albuquerque Convention Center, will feature distance events at the 800m, mile, and 3000m distances.  

Olympians Bernard Lagat, Galen Rupp, Amy Begley, and Jenny Simpson headline the 3000m competitions, which are the lone distance finals on Saturday.  The match-up between Lagat and Rupp is particularly interesting.

Lagat, a two-time Olympic medallist who won last year’s national indoor 3000m title in a slow and tactical race, is coming off of a national record two-mile performance of 8:10.07 set two weeks ago as part of the New York Road Runners’ Deuce Challenge in New York.  He split 3000m in that race in 7:39.35, the fastest by an American this year.  For one fleeting week, Lagat owned all five indoor American records from the 1500m to the 5000m until Rupp took back his USA indoor 5000m standard –which Lagat had broken in Boston in February, 2010– with his 13:11.44 clocking last Saturday at the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham, England.

Rupp is a late entrant in the 3000m.  The 24 year-old, who is training in Portland, Ore. under Alberto Salazar, was supposed to race in a 10,000m in Christchurch, New Zealand, this week.  But due to a 6.3-magnitude earthquake which struck that historic city, the meet was cancelled, and Rupp and Salazar flew home the next day from Australia (they never made it to New Zealand).  Also entered is Brent Vaughn, the 2011 USA Cross Country Champion, who will be racing for the first time since earning that title in San Diego nearly three weeks ago.  Aaron Braun, Trevor Dunbar, and former University of New Mexico Lobo standout Chris Barnicle will also compete.  

The women’s 3000m is headlined by 2008 Olympians Amy Begley and Jenny Simpson (née Barringer).  Begley, also training in Portland under Salazar, has only raced once so far this year, finishing seventh in a 3000m at the University of Washington.  However, she seems fully recovered from an Achilles surgery she had late last year.  Joining her on the line will be Simpson, who has already had a robust indoor season.  The former University of Colorado star won the New Balance Games invitational mile at The Armory in New York City, then ran a fast 8:50.78 for 3000m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston.  Also entered in the 3000m is Lauren Bonds of the adidas Raleigh Track Club, who has run 4:34.65 for the mile this year.  

Both Simpson and Bonds are also entered in the women’s mile, which will be run on Sunday, and it is indeed possible for Simpson to win both races.  Her 4:28.60 performance at the New Balance Games remains a world-leading time in the event.  Fellow New Balance athlete Frances Koons –a kidney cancer survivor– has the third fastest time in the world, having run 4:31.53 two spots behind Simpson in that same race.  Training as part of the New Jersey-New York Track Club, Koons has succeeded under the watchful eye of veteran coach Frank Gagliano.  Others with top-ten times in the race include Lauren Johnson and Bonds. Sara Hall, Gabriele Anderson, and Heidi Dahl will also be competing.   

The men’s mile features two of the hottest runners on the indoor circuit, former Stanford teammates Russell Brown and Garrett Heath.  Brown has had quite the month of February, first running a then world-leading time of 3:54.81 in Boston at the New Balance Grand Prix.  Following that performance, the Oregon Track Club Elite member paced Bernard Lagat through 2000m at his two-mile American record run in New York, and then traveled across the pond to run a personal best 3:38.17 for 1500m at the Aviva Grand Prix in Great Britain.  

Heath has the fourth-fastest mile time in the world this year at 3:55.87. A week after the New Balance Grand Prix, Heath finished second to Tim Nelson at the Flotrack Husky Classic 3000m in 7:50.28, a personal best.  Other entrants in the mile include Kyle Miller, Aaron Braun, Jeff See, Josh McAdams, and the University of Oregon’s A.J. Acosta.  

The women’s 800m features Phoebe Wright, the first-year pro out of the University of Tennessee.  Wright has won all three of the races she has entered so far this year, including a 2:00.39 at the New Balance Games. Somewhat of a surprise this year has been Heidi Dahl, who ran 2:01.80 career best in January.  Joining Wright and Dahl on the line will be Molly Beckwith, the former Indiana University standout, and Heather Kampf (née Dorniden) of Team USA Minnesota.   

Duane Solomon, the winner of the New Balance Grand Prix 600m leads the men’s 800m field, which includes Jacob Hernandez, Tetlo Emmen, and Mark Wieczorek.

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