Rupp broke his old U.S. mark of 26:48.00 with a solo last 800m in 1:57.
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The two-day Prefontaine Classic got off to a fast start at Hayward Field here on Friday night, as Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp broke his own American record, winning the most competitive 10,000m race in the world so far this year in a world-leading 26:44.36. His mark, the second-fastest ever on U.S. soil, surpassed his own American record of 26:48.00 set at the Memorial Van Damme meeting in Brussels in 2011.
Rupp, 28, said that running a record tonight was not his primary goal. Instead, he was simply trying to win over a tough field.
“Honestly, I wasn’t looking at a time until about a quarter mile to go, a lap to go,” Rupp told reporters after the race. “Other than that, I was just worried about competing. You know, I felt great the whole race.”
PHOTOS: Rupp Smashes U.S. 10K Record!
Australian Olympian Ben St. Lawrence got the race off to a good start, leading the field through the first 3000m in 8:03.08 before retiring. Pacemakers Mike Kigen and Stephen Sambu of Kenya, and Dawit Wolde of Ethiopia tried to keep the pace high, but lap times crept up to over 64 seconds, even flirting with 65 seconds. Through 5,000m in 13:26.44 and 8000m in 21:32.24, Rupp stayed focused on his main rivals, Kenya’s Paul Tanui and Bedan Karoki who were still with him and Sambu, who decided to finish the race.
“I could tell the pace was starting to slow down a little bit,” Rupp said. “So, I thought those guys may be getting tired. So that’s when I decided to just go for it.”
With a little more than two laps to go, Rupp surged to the front, and his rivals could not cover the move. He clipped off the penultimate lap in 59.4 seconds, and with his coach Alberto Salazar shouting to him from the side of the track, he ran the final circuit in 58.5 seconds to get the record. Rupp, who said the partisan crowd helped carry him tonight, was surprised by his strength over the final laps.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect coming in here,” Rupp explained. “It’s early in the season, but my training had been going well. I was definitely feeling tired from all the volume we were doing and workouts have been pretty intense. We rested this week and felt a little better, but I was just really worried about competing.”
Rupp’s performance didn’t surprise Salazar, however.
“I’m real pleased with it,” Salazar told Race Results Weekly. ”His training has gone phenomenally well. I’m not surprised at all.”
Behind Rupp, Tanui—the 2013 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist at the distance—finished second in a career best 26:49.41. Karoki, who runs for the DeNA team in Japan, also set a personal best, clocking 26:52.36. Sambu, who was only contracted as a pacemaker for the race on Wednesday, came home fourth in 26:54.61. He recently showed excellent fitness by winning the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K in New York City in a personal best 27:39.
Also on Friday, Kenya’s Job Kinyor won the 800m in a solid 1:44.70, followed by a fast-closing Elijah Greer—like Rupp, a former Oregon Duck—in 1:45.30. Erik Sowinski, the reigning USA 800m indoor champion, took third in 1:45.64. Reigning world indoor champion Chanelle Price won the women’s two-lap race in 2:00.38 over Maggie Vessey (2:00.48) and Canadian Melissa Bishop (2:00.52). Mary Cain, who made her 2014 outdoor debut here finished 8th in 2:02.31.
The 40th Prefontaine Classic continues Saturday, highlighted by the return of 2012 Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha of Kenya and the Bowerman Mile.