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Galen Rupp Wins Thrilling Men’s 10,000 At U.S. Olympic Trials

The top-3 finishers all broke Meb Keflezighi's 8-year-old Olympic Trials record.

The top-3 finishers all broke Meb Keflezighi’s 8-year-old Olympic Trials record. 

EUGENE, Ore. — With a steady rain falling over the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field on Friday night, it was pre-race favorite Galen Rupp who reigned over the field in the men’s 10,000-meter final.

Swapping the lead for much of the race with his Nike Oregon Project teammate Dathan Ritzenhein, who needed to secure an Olympic “A” standard of under 27:45 in addition to a top-3 finish in order to qualify for the U.S. team that will compete in London later this summer, Rupp made his final move to the front with three laps to go, running away with a comfortable victory in an Olympic Trials record of 27:25.3.

“I had a goal coming in to win,” said Rupp, who finished second to Abdi Abdirahman at the 2008 Trials. “And I always feel really lucky to be able to run here, basically on my home track, especially for such a big event like the Olympic Trials.”

Ritzenhein, who made a valiant effort forcing the pace for much of the race, finished third in 27:36.09. Matt Tegenkamp, a 2008 Olympian at 5,000 meters, overtook Ritzenhein on the last lap to finish second in 27:33.94. All three men finished under Meb Keflezighi’s previous Olympic Trials record of 27:36.49 set in 2004, and will move on to represent the United States at the Olympic Games in London.

Passing through 5K in 13:56, Rupp threw in a quick 64-second lap to cut the lead pack down to five. In addition to Ritzenhein and Tegenkamp, Stanford’s Chris Derrick (4th, 27:40.23) and Aaron Braun of McMillan Elite (5th, 27:41.54) came along for the ride. Subsequent laps were clicked off in 65 and 66 seconds, as the lead group passed through 8K in 22:09. Ritzenhein took another turn at the front with five laps to go, with Tegenkamp also pressing, before Rupp threw in a 63.9 second lap to separate himself from the field with just over 1000 meters until the finish line.

“I was really happy too that I was able to help my training partner out, Dathan,” Rupp said of sharing the early pace with Ritzenhein. “It worked out great that we were able to work together early in the race, but at 5K it was every man for himself.”

Tegenkamp was thrilled to make his second Olympic team, especially after an up-and-down season last year which culminated in disappointing tenth-place finish at the world championships in Daegu. The University of Wisconsin alum quietly kept himself in contention on Friday night and put himself in position to respond to any decisive moves.

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“I’ve had quite an up-and-down year, three years for that matter, and what a lot of people didn’t know was that everything had a purpose this year and it all went into this race,” Tegenkamp explained. “For me it was about staying as relaxed as possible and making the right moves, covering the moves, being patient and just toughening it out. And when we separated ourselves with 6 or 7 laps to go it was just hold on for dear life.”

For Ritzenhein, who was injured much of last year and finished a heartbreaking fourth at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January, Friday night’s third-place finish in under Olympic “A” standard time was a huge weight lifted off his shoulders. The now three-time Olympian, who like Rupp is coached by the legendary Alberto Salazar, can breathe easy and focus solely on his preparation for the upcoming Olympic Games.

“It’s been a really emotional evening here for me. It’s been a tough road,” Ritzenhein admitted. “Making my third Olympic team, it wasn’t easy. The last couple years have been very difficult for me so coming out here my training had been going great. The plan working with Galen trading leads is something I owe to him big time. He said it was in both our best interests, but it was definitely in my interest more than his, and so I’ll owe him big time for this.”