(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission. 

EUGENE, Ore. — You could call it what you want: a war of attrition, fartlek, or game of cat and mouse.

The men’s Olympic Trials 10,000m was a pure test of will, with athletes wavering back and forth trying to decide what to do on Hayward Field’s maroon oval. In the end, Galen Rupp won his eighth consecutive national title thanks to superior tactics, securing yet another entry into the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. Behind him, two U.S. Army servicemen, Shadrack Kipchirchir and Leonard Korir, surprised the 20,987-person crowd earning their first-ever Olympic team berths.

“This was one of the harder ones for sure, if not the hardest,” said Rupp, sporting his gold medal. “It was really tough with the heat and just great competition too. You saw some really, really good guys out there really struggle.”

From the start, all eyes were on Rupp, the American record holder and Olympic silver medalist, as he took a pause from Olympic Marathon training to run in front of his Oregon fans. Taking their usual place in his wake, the field was sure to key off Rupp, the winner of more USA 10,000m titles than anyone in history.

It was six minutes in when Rupp threw a surprise surge that caught the field by surprise, stringing out the bunch within seconds. Building a three second lead at 3200m (9:03.14), Rupp ran by alone steps ahead of the field.

Yet the 30-year-old veteran questioned the move and dialed it back a notch, not wanting to risk going too early and fading in the end. It was a smart decision.

After returning to the group for the better part of five minutes, Rupp got antsy. With 13 laps remaining, he’d shoot well out front once again, drawing a gasp from the Hayward Field faithful. Kipchirchir and 41 year-old Bernard Lagat were the only men bold enough to risk their chances and go with the former University of Oregon Duck.

That decision ultimately would backfire for Lagat. While in third place at 7,400 meters, Lagat suddenly stopped and collapsed to the track due to heat exhaustion. He wouldn’t be the lone victim of the elements.

Oregon Track Club Elite’s Hassan Mead found himself in third with Lagat’s demise, though too would succumb to the conditions. Mead was in third nearly until eight kilometers, when he stopped and needed medical attention (he’d later get up and jog a few laps through the finish, though is in results as a DNF).

Rupp continued to lead with Kipchirchir on his tail while the new third placer—Korir—was poised to make an Olympic team some 20 seconds behind. It’s was all thanks to Korir’s mindset he learned in boot camp: don’t give up.

“You know, my training in the Army, they always tell me, we always say ‘don’t give up.’ When I saw those guys, I think there were three guys in front and I was running with Hassan Mead, I told myself ‘don’t worry, you still have almost eight laps to go,'” he recalled. “With a mile to go I felt really good and I saw I was in a position to make the third spot. When that opportunity presented itself, I told myself ‘You know what, this is the time now to keep pushing and working hard.'”

A bit of drama was left for the last lap, when Kipchirchir tested Rupp at the bell with a fierce sprint. Rupp kept enough in the tank to respond entering the Bowerman curve, and powered home to win in 27:55.04, further solidifying his spot as the winningest 10,000m American in history.

“They are all special. Being able to run an Olympic Trials, it’s a whole other level than a normal national championship and I’m just so thrilled to be able to represent my country again,” said Rupp. “Personally, just to have my kids here and my family, this is definitely a little extra special for me.”

Rupp made sure to make it clear that he has not decided what events to run in Rio, and that decision will come following the 5000m. If he qualifies in the 5,000m, he will make a decision whether to run the 10,000m/marathon double or the 5,000m/10,000m double.

Coached by Olympic marathoner Dan Browne, Kipchirchir (28:01.52) and Korir (28:16.97) are the second and third U.S. Army representatives to qualify for the Olympics. Yesterday, John Nunn won the 20K Race Walk in an Army vest.

“We represent the Army, this is our job, we have to do well and when we set a goal we have to accomplish it. It means a lot to us,” said Kipchirchir, speaking for the Army’s success here.

Interestingly, Galen Rupp is the first American to qualify for the 10,000m and marathon at the same Olympics since Dan Browne, who ran both disciplines in Athens in 2004. Browne, who coaches Kipchirchir and Korir, was very emotional after the race. He told Race Results Weekly that this wasn’t a day he’d ever forget.

“It’s magical, just magical,” he said. “It’s awesome. Definitely, I’m just so excited for my guys.”

Fourth went to Hoka One One Team Northern Arizona Elite’s Scott Fauble in 28:45.53, steps up on Bowerman Track Club’s Chris Derrick (28:47.24). Among those not to finish in addition to Lagat and Mead were Eric Jenkins, Futsum Zienasellassie, Diego Estrada, and German Fernandez.

Favorites Falter in Men’s 800m Prelims

It was a tumultuous first round of the men’s 800m, with the harsh reality of the Olympic Trials elimination system in full force. Duane Solomon, an Olympic finalist in 2012, as well as Donavan Brazier, the NCAA Champion and collegiate record holder, were on the outside looking in when all was said and done.

“There was no time to react. I tried to do a little move,” said Solomon, who appeared nonchalant in the mixed zone, before learning his fate. Leading for the first 700 meters, the USC alum wasn’t aware that the pack was closing fast behind him. Caught by a previously boxed-in Drew Windle (1:48.66), Joseph White (1:48.68) and Charles Jock (1:48.71), Solomon’s 1:48.71 mark was not quick enough to advance (Jock and Solomon had the same time to the hundredth of a second, but when timers examined it to the thousandth of a second they gave the edge to Jock, 1:48.704 to 1:48.710).

“It was a rookie mistake on my part. I should have run all the way through the line,” said Solomon. “I hope I get another chance… I’ve been working on my kick a lot. My kick is there. I’ve felt really good in the last 100m of my races. I didn’t want to put too much into it but I didn’t know they were [there].”

As for Brazier, fatigue was the culprit. Tightening up down the stretch after leading a majority of the way, the newly minted professional athlete was beat by Clayton Murphy (1:47.61), Brandon Johnson (1:47.62) and Harun Abda (1:47.88). Brazier’s time was 1:48.13.

“I got tired and slowed down,” Brazier explained, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders. “I wanted an honest race and I tried doing it. It didn’t work out and it’s back to the drawing board.”

Brazier will continue to train at Texas A&M in College Station. There will be no trip to Rio de Janeiro or the IAAF World Junior Championships in Poland; he bypassed the USA Junior Championships in favor of the Trials.

“After that I feel bad, really bad,” he said. “I should have gone out faster, about two seconds faster… I’m tired man, I’m tired. I had a long season. I’m trying to get through this. I think I was focusing too much on the long run at this meet instead of just focusing on the rounds. That’s something I’m going to work on.”

For the winner Murphy, it was a good day at the office.

“I got through. Prelim day legs for sure. It was nice to knock the rust off. I hadn’t been on the track for a while. All in all, a good day,” he said. Turning his attention to the elimination of Brazier, Solomon, and Nick Symmonds (who scratched yesterday) all being out, Murphy remained focused on himself. “I mean, it’s still a tough field. It’s an Olympic Trials. Anything can happen, obviously. I’ve still got to line up and race two more races if you want to make the team.”

The fastest time on the day was clocked by Boris Berian, returning to Hayward Field with an axe to grind. Running 1:46.03 to win heat two, the fastest-ever first round time in an Olympic Trials, Berian looked in control through the round (despite a hard charge by Erik Sowinski down the stretch). Berian is glad to have the lawsuit with Nike behind him, and now can focus entirely on the task at hand. He broke in a fresh new pair of New Balance spikes.

“I’m a lot more relaxed now,” he said. “It’s been a while since I raced so I just wanted to get out, cut, and not slow down.”

“I’m just trying to stay as focused as I can. Keep all the crazy legal stuff to my agent and lawyers and kind of just me relax, focus on running, and relaxing.”

The third section was surprisingly won be Penn State’s Isaiah Harris in 1:47.60, a step up on former Nittany Lion and current Brooks Beast Cas Loxsom (1:47.76). Shaq Walker, who also just turned pro, was third in 1:47.76 as well.

Ludlow, Montano Leads Women’s 800m Qualifiers

The first section was the fastest for the women’s 800m, where Molly Ludlow and Alysia Montano went first and second in 2:00.30 and 2:00.56, respectively. Veterans of the Trials system, Ludlow and Montano did what was necessary to assure a spot in tomorrow’s semi-final.

“I’ve trained so hard and am so strong that making it through the rounds for me is not an issue. It’s just another day at the office. I really do feel like I’ve got a lot left in me,” said Ludlow. Fourth at the Trials in 2012 and at last year’s USA Championships, she’s hoping to move up onto the podium. “I’ve literally gotten fourth place at every single meet you could ever think of. I’m so sick of getting fourth place.”

Brenda Martinez was next fastest in 2:00.85, winning heat two over Chanelle Price (2:01.13) and Phoebe Wright (2:01.35). Favorite Ajee’ Wilson fought off Stanford’s Olivia Baker down the stretch of the third section. Their times were 2:03.31 and 2:03.68, with high schooler Sammy Watson hot on their heels in 2:04.12. Watson would not advance.

Other winners included Chrishuna Williams (2:03.18) and Kate Grace (2:01.36). One prominent Oregon Duck advancing was NCAA champion Raevyn Rogers (third in heat five, 2:01.67), though Duck alum Laura Roesler was eliminated after her 2:03.55 showing (fourth in section four).

“I thought I ran pretty strong, running a conservative pace, and everyone was just finishing strong. I was too but…” said Roesler. “I knew everyone was in the mix, of course they are going to be when you go through in 60 or whatever we did. I expected that. Everyone’s a contender and you can never count anyone out. I expected all eight people in the field to be there.”