Lagat, Lomong land spots on men's 5000m team for London Games
By: Steve Nearman, Running USA wire
EUGENE, Ore. - (June 28, 2012) - Just as the record crowd Thursday night at legendary Hayward Field was settling down after a thrilling women's 5000 meter final, 16 men took to the wet evening track in what would be a most fitting end of the day in the final event - the men's 5000 meter final.
The stars of the show were most certainly going to be the 37-year-old Bernard Lagat, the Kenyan-turned-American who has every accolade in the world by his name except Olympic champion, and the 26-year local Portland / Eugene kid Galen Rupp (left, PhotoRun) who one day may elicit the same memories as the great late Steve Prefontaine does on this very track.
The subplot was that several athletes in the field did not have the "A" standard 13:20 needed to compete at the London Olympics, including Rupp's teammate Mo Trafeh.
Thus it made total sense for Trafeh and Brandon Bethke to sprint out into the lead and force a fast pace, something that "A" qualifiers like Lagat and Rupp had little interest in doing.
In the end, the crowd once again was on its feet as Rupp did the unimaginable, taking down Lagat in a sprint down the last straightaway and winning the Trials, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
His time of 13:22.67 not only gave Rupp his second Olympic race for London (earlier in the week he won the 10,000 meters in a Trials record), but it also erased one of the most venerable records at Hayward, Pre's 1972 Trials mark of 13:22.80.
The victory also marked a breakthrough for Rupp. In 12 previous battles with Lagat, he finally won his first.
For his part, after Lagat crossed the finish 15 hundreds of a second later in 13:22.82, he glanced over to Rupp and gave the man some 11 years younger and his heir-apparent a thumbs-up. Lopez Lomong, former Sudanese citizen third here in the 1500 in 2008, was third again in 13:24.47 for his second trip to the Olympics.
"A win is a win whether you do it from the front or the kick in the home stretch," Rupp said. "In London I'm going to have to beat people in the last 100. Bernard Lagat is one of the best closers of all time. I'm happy with the way I'm progressing, but you don't win medals by not closing in the last 100."
On breaking Prefontaine's record, Rupp said: "Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Pre is a huge compliment, but I was thinking about making the team first and foremost."
That was the goal of everybody in the field of 16, which is why Trafeh and Bethke took off in search of a top-three finish and an "A" qualifier in the process. The 14 others just let them go, with Lagat, Lomong and Rupp in front of the chase pack.
They passed 3000 meters in 8:12.50 and the pace began to quicken. Bethke dropped back (eventually finishing last) and it was just Trafeh putting down 66-second 400s, valiantly trying to run sub-13:20 for the win, some 13 seconds faster than his qualifying mark.
With 1200 to go, Trafeh had 25 meters on the field, which Lagat would later say concerned him. But just a lap later, Lagat and Rupp accelerated and cut the deficit, putting Trafeh in third and then fourth as Lomong moved up.
Rupp and Lagat threw down a 61-second 400 to set up an epic duel over the bell lap. Rupp, Lomong, Lagat and Georgetown graduate and Portland resident Andrew Bumbalough, four runners, three Olympic spots.
On the backstretch, Lagat began his signature kick, powering past Lomong at 200 meters and rounding the final curve for home. Out of the corner with 100 meters to the line, Lagat in full sprint got by Rupp on the outside and looked headed for his 13th straight victory over Rupp.
But with the never-say-die tenacity of Pre, Rupp came back on Lagat and caught his elder at the line.
"I said to myself 'Keep your head down, keep your form and keep driving for the finish'," said Rupp, who became the first man to take the Trials 5000 / 10,000 double since Curtis Stone in 1952. "I knew that at any moment he was going to pass me. It was unbelievable about him running a 10K in the rain. I knew I was going to get strong competition from Bernard and Lopez."
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy to beat Bernard," continued Rupp, who competed here for the University of Oregon as well. "He's a great runner."
Lagat makes his fourth and possibly last trip to the Olympics, while Rupp heads to London for his second Games. Lagat said that in catching Trafeh, he used more energy early on that he usually saves for his kick.
"First of all making the team was the most important thing," said Lagat, the U.S. 5000m record holder (12:53.60). "I have been looking for something I don't have, an Olympic Gold medal."
U.S. Olympic Trials - Track & Field
2012 London Olympic Games qualifier
Eugene, OR, Thursday, June 28, 2012
1) Galen Rupp (OR), 13:22.67*
2) Bernard Lagat (AZ), 13:22.82
3) Lopez Lomong (OR), 13:24.47
4) Andrew Bumbalough (OR), 13:26.67
5) Ryan Hill (NC), 13:27.49
6) Ben True (NH), 13:28.02
7) Elliott Heath (CA), 13:28.20
8) Hassan Mead (MN), 13:30.21
9) Scott Bauhs (CA), 13:31.69
10) Mo Trafeh (CA), 13:36.19
*Olympic Trials record (previous record, 13:22.80, Steve Prefontaine (OR), 1972)
Deeper results and more Olympic Trials information at: www.usatf.org/events/2012/OlympicTrials-TF
this article Courtesy of Running USA wire