Hoped-for Rupp-Solinsky Showdown fails to materialize.
Written by: Matt Fitzgerald
Former Oregon Duck Galen Rupp delighted his hometown fans at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., Thursday night, winning his third consecutive USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships 10,000-meter title with a time of 28:38.17. Finishing second in a thrilling finish was Matt Tegenkamp, in 28:39.97. Third place went to Scott Bauhs, who ran 28:40.51.
The race was the most anticipated 10,000m national championship in a long time. The fact that five runners came into it with qualifying times under 27:30 was cause enough for excitement. But what raised the excitement to a fever pitch was the on- and off-the-track rivalry between the two fastest qualifiers, Galen Rupp and Chris Solinksy. It began when Solinsky stole Rupp’s thunder in a much-hyped bid to break the American record for 10,000 meters at the Payton Jordan Invitational last year. Rupp did indeed surpass Meb Keflezighi’s mark, running 27:10.74. Trouble was, Solinsky ran 26:59.60.
The rivalry was taken up a notch at last month’s Prefontaine Classic, where both Solinsky and Rupp entered a 10K field that also included a murderer’s row of top Africans. The long-awaited rematch failed to materialize, however, when Rupp scratched moments before the start of the race, citing concerns about a high pollen count. Solinsky dropped out of the race less than halfway through with a hamstring injury. Immediately afterward, a frustrated Solinsky told a reporter, “I wouldn’t be surprised…if it was a ploy,” apparently meaning that he suspected Rupp never intended to square off against the man who had stolen his thunder a year before.
Unfortunately for the nearly 10,000 fans who came out to watch the action on the first day of this year’s championships on a cool, dry evening in Eugene, the showdown once again failed to materialize. This time Solinsky was a late scratch, perhaps delivering a form of payback. Remaining in the field, however, was Solinsky’s former University of Wisconsin and current Nike Oregon Track Club teammate, Matt Tegenkamp–no slouch with a 12:58 5000m PR on his resume.
The lights were on at Hayward Field and the sun was near setting when the last race of the day’s program started almost 20 minutes late, at 8:09 PM. Abdi Abdirahman led most of the early laps at a pace that was unchallenging for the top qualifiers and guaranteed a fast and exciting finish. Rupp hovered quietly in second place, running with a black mask covering his nose and mouth—apparently the pollen count was high again—until the 6,000-meter mark, when he ripped it off, causing the crowd to erupt.
Still, Rupp stayed patiently off the front until the start of the second to last lap, when he surged into the lead with a show of force that revealed just how much he’d been holding back in the previous 23 laps. Only Tegenkamp and Bauhs were able to stay with him. After completing the lap in 58.2 seconds, Rupp lifted his tempo even further. Bauhs popped off the back, leaving only Tegenkamp on Rupp’s heels. With 150 meters to go, Rupp shifted into his highest gear and Tegenkamp sank behind him like an anchor. Rupp closed the race with an astonishing 54.4-second lap.
One can only wonder what might have been had Chris Solinsky been in the race. Solinsky is still entered in the 5000 meter final, which will be contested Friday evening.[sig:MattFitzgerald]