By Chris Lotsbom (@chrislotsbom) and David Monti (@d9monti)
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
EUGENE, Ore. (25-Jun) -- On an uncharacteristically warm evening at historic Hayward Field, top-ranked American distance runners Molly Huddle and Galen Rupp prevailed convincingly in the 10,000m at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships here. Huddle, twice the national 5000m champion, won the 10,000m title for the first time, while Rupp won a record seventh straight title. Both athletes will represent Team USA at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in August.
CALCULATED WIN FOR HUDDLE
Huddle, 30, had a doubly difficult task tonight in order to win the race and secure her place on the national team. First, she needed to beat three-time 10,000m national champion Shalane Flanagan, and her up-and-coming teammate Emily Infeld. Second, the Saucony-sponsored athlete needed to better the IAAF World Championships qualifying standard of 31:45.00. That meant taking a calculated approach. Checking her watch frequently, she tried to make sure sure she wasn't going too fast or too slow.
"Shalane went out a little hard, so I thought I would just follow rather than take over," Huddle told reporters after the race. She continued: "I tried not to push it too hard when I was in the front; I knew it would come down to the last mile or so."
Huddle; Flanagan; Infeld; NCAA 5000m champion, Emily Sisson; 2012 Olympic Trials champion, Amy Cragg; and former Ivy League star Alexi Pappas had broken away from the field by the 5000m mark (15:55.15). Flanagan had done nearly all of the leading, but when the pace sagged to a 78-second lap after the 6-kilometer mark, Huddle went in front. Lap times started falling, until the first sub-75 was registered right after 8-K. That was too much for Pappas, Sisson and Cragg, leaving Huddle, Flanagan and Infeld to battle for the win.
"I figured around 31:30 to 32-flat pace was what it would take to narrow it down to three or four people," Huddle explained. "So I just wanted to stay in that zone."
Huddle ran the penultimate lap in an aggressive 72.5 seconds, and that put some daylight between her and her two Nike Bowerman Track Club rivals. A 65.6-second final lap put the race away, and gave her a winning time of 31:39.20, comfortably under the world championships standard. It was the first time in five tries that she had beaten Flanagan in a 10,000m track race.
"I was hoping I did; I wasn't sure," Huddle responded when a reporter asked if she thought she had a 65-second closing lap in her legs. "I know Emily Infeld can be pretty quick, so I was trying to leave another gear in case she was there."
Flanagan came home second in 31:42.29, with Infeld just a step behind in 31:42.60. All three women qualified for the IAAF World Championships.
"The goal was just to get it down to three people by the last few laps so we could absolutely secure Emily and I making the team," said Flanagan, America's best female marathoner. "Ultimately, it was to make the team, and then if I could go for a win, that would be fantastic."
RUPP EXTENDS STREAK TO SEVEN
Entering tonight's race, Galen Rupp had not lost a national championship race over the distance since 2009, winning six straight crowns over 25 laps. To claim his seventh in a row, the 29-year-old simply had to move into position at the head of the field and strike with less than a kilometer remaining. That he did, injecting a sudden surge 800 meters from the finish, crossing the stripe to the delight of Hayward Field fans first in 28:11.61.
Over the course of the race's opening kilometers, a slew of men took their turn at the front, pushing the pace with hopes of achieving the IAAF World Championships 'A' standard of 27:45.00. Aaron Braun, Tyler Pennel, and Bobby Curtis all led at least a portion of the race's early laps, helping propel the large pack through halfway in approximately 14:07. Rupp refused to touch the lead, playing his usual strategy of being patient.
With a mile to go, 11 men were still in contention, including Ben True, Hassan Mead, and then-leader Diego Estrada.
Just as everyone expected, though, it was Rupp making the race's deciding move, taking the lead with under three laps remaining and not looking back. Having steadily been running 69/70-second laps, Rupp's 63.86-second circuit with two to go would only serve as a preview of what was to come.
Shaking all but True and Mead after a penultimate lap of 57.78 seconds, Rupp continued to push into the final lap alone in front, not breaking stride as he ran away with the title. Finishing in 28:11.61, Rupp smiled and signaled a thumbs up shortly after the win.
"It feels good, you know, I'm obviously pleased to get another championship," said Rupp, sporting his Nike Oregon Project singlet. "Out here in Eugene, it's always special for me."
Behind Rupp, True finished second in 28:14.26 and Mead third in 28:16.54, both qualifying for their first IAAF World Championships team on the track by virtue of placing in the top three and having the qualifying time before the race.
"It's great, I'm real excited," said True, who plans to double back and try to qualify in the 5000m on Sunday morning. "I'm just so happy to be able to make it there. Still, I don't know about this distance [laughs]. I'd like to have it half the distance so we'll see on Sunday if I can make that happen."
Addressing a very large throng of media members for the first time since performance enhancing drug allegations surfaced against coach Alberto Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project, Rupp steadfastly said he fully supported his coach and the team's response, which was published on Wednesday.
"It's been hard, I'm not going to lie. It's been difficult to focus, but you know I think I am real happy that the report came out yesterday and I stand behind it 100-percent. I believe in clean sport and I think the truth will prevail," Rupp said.
FAVORITES ADVANCE IN 800M QUALIFYING
In 800m qualifying, nearly all of the favorites advanced. On the women's side, Ajee' Wilson and Alysia Montano ran smoothly from the front in the first of four heats, finishing one-two in 2:01.96 and 2:02.00, respectively. Wilson's time was the fastest of the day.
"My coach just wanted me to lead it, or try to lead it, and based on how it went just run how I felt," said Wilson, the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships gold medalist. She continued: "My coach was at the top of the turn and he just told me to bring it in so I just maintained and finished."
Also advancing was 2013 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist Brenda Martinez. She led from 600m to the finish in heat 3, clocking 2:02.33 at the finish. Molly Ludlow led from gun to tape in the second heat to win in 2:03.73, and 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships gold medalist Chanelle Price won the fourth and final heat in 2:02.60.
Olympian Erin Donohue, who had pulled together a comeback campaign after years of battling injury, dropped out of the second heat only about 100 meters into the race. She appeared to be limping.
In men's 800m qualifying, times were fast with 24 men breaking 1:50. At the top of the heap was University of Akron's Clayton Murphy who led a four-up sprint in the third heat, clocking 1:46.35, just ahead of reigning World Championships silver medalist Nick Symmonds (1:46.37), BYU's Shaquille Walker (1:46.51) and the NJ-NY/Hoka One One's Mike Rutt (1:46.57). All four advanced.
"I just got to focus on myself," Symmonds told reporters. "If you watch any of my interviews from previous championship rounds I've always said I love to feel flat the first round. I was a little flat today. If I do everything right in the next 24 hours I'll make it through the semis."
Duane Solomon completely dominated the first heat, leading wire-to-wire in 1:47.39, a remarkable time considering he purposely slowed way down in in the final 30 meters.
"I felt good, that was good because this was my first race really that I was able to get through without any injury or pain," said Solomon, who had been dealing with a soleus injury. "It feels good to get one out of the way and get the legs moving again. It should be good to go tomorrow."
Also advancing with solid chances for a top-3 finish in the final were Casimir Loxsom (1:47.76), Erik Sowinski (1:47.80), Brannon Kidder (1:47.80) and Boris Berian (1:48.47).
Charles Jock, who had run an excellent 1:45.40, only finished seventh in the third heat. He had been dealing with a hamstring injury.
MEDALISTS CENTROWITZ, MANZANO ADVANCE IN 1500M QUALIFYING
In the opening round of the men's 1500m, nearly all of the pre-meet favorites advanced automatically. Two-time national champion and World Championships silver medalist Matthew Centrowitz led all qualifiers by winning the second section in 3:44.39.
"I felt good enough for the first round and kicked the rust off, and can get ready for the final," said Centrowitz, closely tailed by Robby Andrews (3:44.47) and Jordan McNamara (3:44.92) at the line. "Everyone wants to get the qualifying spots so I expected someone in the last lap to come up on me."
Ben Blankenship returned to the site of his Prefontaine Classic National Mile win to finish first in section three in 3:44.86, defeating two-time national winner Leo Manzano (3:45.00) and fellow Nike Oregon Track Club Elite teammate Pat Casey (3:45.09).
Jogging through the mixed zone, Blankenship yelled "Stepping stone to the final!" in the media's direction before hustling off to cool down.
Andrew Wheating won the first (and slowest) section in 3:47.91 with a snappy 52.2 second final lap. Among those advancing to Saturday's final were three Oregon Ducks --Daniel Winn, Colby Alexander, and Will Geoghegan-- as well as Hoka One One and New Jersey/New York Track Club teammates Kyle Merber and Ford Palmer.
COBURN A STEP CLOSER TO ANOTHER NATIONAL TITLE
America's best women's steeplechaser, Emma Coburn, ran the fastest time in the first round of that event tonight, winning the second heat in 9:36.90. She's won the national title three out of the last four years.
"I got really impatient at about 150 meters, so I just went ahead," said Coburn. "I just wanted to be out of traffic. But, it was a fun race, and now it's just time to recover and prep for (the final) on Saturday."
Coburn's main rival and New Balance teammate, Stephanie Garcia, ran the second fastest time of the evening, wining the first heat. Just-graduated collegians Colleen Quigley and Leah O'Connor, also advanced, as did veterans Ashley Higginson and Bridget Franek. The 2013 national champion, Nicole Bush, failed to advance after falling into the the water pit. She finished ninth in heat one.
PHOTO: Molly Huddle (right) on her way to victory over Shalane Flanagan, Amy Cragg, Emily Infeld and Emily Sisson at the 2015 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)