All it took was a 3:58 last mile.
Written by: Mario Fraioli
For 12 laps of the men’s 5,000-meter final on Friday night, Bernard Lagat sat patiently. When the time was right, he struck.
Closing his last mile in 3:58.2, with a final lap of 56.79, Lagat added yet another U.S. 5,000-meter title to his already impressive racing resume, winning in 13:23.06. Finishing a close second was Chris Solinsky, who crossed the finish line in 13:23.65. Galen Rupp, doubling back after his 10,000-meter victory here last night, held on for third in 13:25.52.
“Really?” Lagat asked when told of his split for the final mile. “No. Chris of course didn’t make it easy. He took control of the race from the beginning. I was thinking that was going to happen. It wasn’t easy. It may have seemed kind of easy the way I was following him but I was working hard.”
After a painfully slow opening mile of 4:39, Solinsky’s Oregon Track Club teammate Matt Tegenkamp, back on the track after his runner-up finish in the 10,000 meters last night, moved to the front and made the pace honest with laps of 61.3 and 61.6 seconds. Coming through 2 miles in 8:55, the field began to string out and the main contenders–Lagat, Solinsky, Rupp, Tegenkamp, and Andrew Bumbalough–separated themselves from everyone else.
“Matt kept it honest,” Solinsky said after the race. “When he fell off, I just tried to push the pace and give myself the best chance I could to win but Bernard had a little bit more left at the end.”
At 4K (10:56.6), it was down to three: Solinsky, Lagat and Rupp. Solinsky continued to press down on the gas pedal, covering the penultimate lap in 58.9 seconds and dropping Rupp. Heading into the final lap, the crowd at Hayward Field erupted with applause as the American record holder in the 10,000 meters wound up for his final push to the finish line. At the Bowerman curve, however, Lagat found another gear, swinging wide into lane 2 and moving into the lead for the first time all night. Using his unmatched finishing speed, Lagat held on down the final straightaway to break the tape and win the first of what he hopes will be two national titles this weekend. Lagat will line up for the 1,500m final on Saturday afternoon.
“I have nothing to lose now,” Lagat said of his mindset heading into tomorrow’s race. “I’ve already made the team. Today was the most important race of the weekend. I’m really happy, I’m excited. I’m going to rest up now. But tomorrow I’m going to be in there to run serious again. I just want to win again tomorrow if possible. I know the guys are going to be thinking ‘hey, this guy has run three races already’ so they may be thinking it’s time to put the hammer down but tomorrow I’m going to be running tough as well.”