In another historic night at the Olympic trials, former Duck Galen Rupp used a 52 second final lap to run his way into the history books with a 13:22.67 finish to break Steve Prefontaine’s meet record of 13:22.80, set back in 1972.
The pace was set early by Mo Trafeh, who was trying to reach the Olympic A standard of 13:20. Rupp kept himself in contention during the race, making his move to the front with two laps to go. Rupp temporarily lost the lead with 80 meters to go, but charged past Bernard Lagat for the win. Lagat took the second place finish in 13:22.82 while Lopez Lomong rounded out the top three, finishing in 13:24.47.
“I’m on cloud nine,” said Rupp. “We have two great guys, incredible finishers. I was just trying to get in there and I’m just happy I was able to hang on.”
As if Ashton Eaton’s world record in the decathlon wasn’t enough of a perfect story, Rupp followed suit by breaking a 39-year old meet record held by one of the most storied distance runners in history, Steve Prefontaine.
“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,” said Rupp.
The women’s 5,000 final provided an equally exciting finish. OTC Elite’s Julia Lucas charged to the front during the final mile, and it seemed as if she would win the race in a landslide. In the final lap, however, Lucas slowed down and lost her lead. Julie Culley and Molly Huddle overtook Lucas to move into first and second respectively. Kim Conley charged down the final 100 meters to not only edge out Lucas by .04 seconds, but also hit the A standard she needed by .21 seconds.
“This is beyond a dream come true,” said Conley. “Four years ago, I was watching the Olympic Trials on TV thinking ‘Wow, it would be cool to run here,’ and four years later I’m an Olympian. I still can’t believe it.”
The day also featured a group of Ducks in both the men’s and women’s 1500 meter preliminaries.
Oregon’s Jordan Hasay ran in the third heat of the women’s 1500 meter preliminaries, which had one of the tightest finishes of the day as the top six finishers would automatically advance. Hasay positioned herself strategically, tucking in behind the leaders in third place for nearly the entire race. With 250 meters to go, Hasay would make a move towards the front, but would be out-kicked in the end. Alice Schmidt would go on to win the heat in 4:15.70, while Hasay finished fourth in 4:16.06 to advance to the semifinals.
“I think I will do better with a faster pace,” said Hasay. “It will definitely be faster tomorrow.
It’s an honor to be out there representing Oregon.”
The preliminaries of the men’s 1500 meter race featured a quartet of former Ducks with Matthew Centrowitz in heat one, A.J. Acosta in heat two, and Jordan McNamara and Andrew Wheating in heat three. Centrowitz ran a similar race to Hasay, tucking himself behind the leaders early on. Centrowitz would surge to the lead at the bell, but like Hasay, was out-kicked in the final stretch, finishing third in 3:42.02 to advance to the semifinals. Acosta placed second in his heat, finishing right behind William Leer in 3:40.98 to automatically advance. Acosta’s time was the fourth fastest of the day. In the third and final heat of the afternoon, Jordan McNamara made his move in the bell lap to edge out Leonel Manzano by .13 seconds to win his heat in 3:40.78. Andrew Wheating tucked himself in the back as usual, using his signature kick on the last lap to advance with a fourth place finish in 3:41.14.
“I’m running angry,” said McNamara. “I feel like one of the best three in the country. Things finally have come together.”
Both semifinals for the men’s and women’s 1500 will be on Friday with the finals being on Sunday during the final day of competition.
In the men’s 3000 meter steeplechase final, OTC Elite’s Evan Jager kept himself in contention throughout the duration of the race, settling into third early on. Going into the final lap, Jager propelled himself over the water jump to take the lead, eventually winning in 8:17.40 to earn a spot on the Olympic team. Donald Cabral finished second in 8:19.40, while Kyle Alcorn grabbed the final spot on the team, finishing third in 8:22.17.
“I wanted to go up in top three,” said Jager. “I ended up finding myself in second and I got to conserve energy…then I was in the lead with 500 to go and pushed it from there. I saw I had it and had pure elation on my face and I knew I was going to London.”
Friday’s competition will feature the start of the women’s heptathlon, a busy day of qualifying rounds and semi-finals, as well as the finals of the women’s shot put and the women’s 3,000 meter steeplechase.