The Olympic silver medalist booked his ticket to Moscow.
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DES MOINES, IOWA — Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp won his fifth national 10,000m crown in a row here tonight, biding his time until fewer than 800 meters remained to strike and securing a birth on the IAAF World Championships starting line. The 27-year-old athlete led Oregon Project teammate Dathan Ritzenhein and Jerry Schumacher-coached Chris Derrick across the line in under 29:00 minutes.
“It’s a good feeling, it’s all about winning here,” said Rupp minutes after his win. “I just keep it rolling as long as I can. It’s fun winning national championships as these are meets we point to all year.”
The final event on Thursday’s program was listed as 10,000m, but turned out to be more like a tempo run with a hard mile tacked on at the end. Hansons-Brooks Distance Project member Jake Riley did the leading duties through halfway, running a pedestrian 14:56 that kept all 25 entrants within 20 meters of each other.
“It’s like I was out for a tempo run with the boys,” said Riley.
Sitting in second was Derrick –Riley’s teammate at Stanford– with Rupp and Ritzenhein mid-pack ready to make their way to the front. The slow pace ranged from mid-sixties to mid-seventy seconds per lap, making Ritzenhein think he was in the early stages of a marathon rather than a track 10,000m.
“I was just thinking this is my marathon pace; we were just clipping along at 4:50-something a mile,” said the 2:07:47 marathoner. “I was thinking this was good for me. I’m comfortable at that, but I knew the pain would come at the end.”
After fellow Hansons-Brooks athlete Bobby Curtis touched the lead and mixed it up with a surge, things began to get interesting. A cat and mouse game ensued, with bursts coming in spurts.
The three-time Olympian in Ritzenhein changed everything with five laps to go, injecting a blazing 400m surge that reduced the lead pack to six: Ritzenhein, Derrick, Rupp, Matt Tegenkamp, Aaron Braun, and Ben True. Things remained calm for another lap before Ritzenhein surged once again, trying to force a man or two off the back.
He would do just that, as Tegenkamp, True, and Braun could no longer handle the new found milers race.
“I just tried to keep the hammer down,” he said. “I looked back once and saw a little gap to fourth place, maybe a step or two, then I really tried to accelerate.”
Ritzenhein had done exactly what coach Alberto Salazar had told him to pre-race: to make it a mile instead of a 10,000m at the end.
“I knew that it was going to be slow,” said Ritzenhein. “He told me beforehand that ‘I don’t want you to go until a mile to go. You can run 3:56, and I don’t think anyone other than Galen can do that right now.’
“It’s a hard way to break people. It’s one thing to out-kick people or just have a nice steady pace. But to know you’re in the front and know you’d have to break people one by one, that’s what I was trying to do. I was trying to get rid of everyone, even Galen too,” he said.
With just Ritzenhein, Derrick, and Rupp remaining out front, it was clear who would be making their way to the IAAF World Championships this August. All three men had already earned the “A” qualifying standard of 27:40 before.
But what wasn’t so clear was who was going to win the race. The answer came with 600 meters remaining, as Rupp moved up to another gear –one similar to his 3:50.92 indoor mile speed.
“It was to be expected at a meet like this. Kind of got to go with it,” said Rupp, speaking of the slow beginning. “I had an idea it was going to go like that when we got here. It is what it is and you just try to sit back and conserve energy.”
At the bell Rupp briefly looked back before continuing to press on. He would run the remaining 400 meters without a challenge, cruising down the homestretch to the applause of Drake Stadium, finishing with a time of 28:47.32.
“Whether it is fast or slow, I feel confident in my ability to win,” said Rupp, who is also entered in Sunday’s 5000m.
Second place went to Ritzenhein and third to Derrick, 28:49.66 and 28:52.25, respectively. This will be Derrick’s first trip to the IAAF World Outdoor Championships.
“Feels great!” said Derrick. “It feels awesome, it’s kind of been the thing I’ve been looking forward to all year.”
A disappointed Ben True rounded out the top four in 29:07.26. The high heat and humidity got to the 27-year-old.
“It drains your energy a little bit,” said True. “I tried going and those guys just made a nice big jump on me. I just didn’t have it today; they ran a lot faster and that’s how it is.”
Like Rupp, some of those who ran the 10,000m will return to the track to compete in the 5000m. Among those who have declared are Ritzenhein, Derrick, True, and Curtis. Olympians Bernard Lagat, Evan Jager, and Lopez Lomong are also entered.