Rupp Pulls Rare Feat at USA Track Championships

Finishes second as a collegian

June 21, 2007

By Brett Hess

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Brett Hess

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INDIANAPOLIS - Galen Rupp circled the Indiana University track time and again. All the while, his coach, Alberto Salazar, stood above turn two shouting Rupp's lap splits and encouragement.


It was the Oregon junior's first-ever race against professional competition and the lad was doing quite well.


Early in the 25-lap (10,000 meters) race at Thursday's USA Outdoor Championships, Rupp was content to bide his time in the middle of the 25-runner field. But after two miles, when the pack began to splinter, Rupp and Salazar sprung into action.




"I felt good so I needed to stay (in contention)," Rupp said. "I didn't want to lose contact. It was hot, but I was prepared."


In the back of Rupp's mind--in the front may have been the 86-degree temperatures and humid conditions--was who he was running against.


"I couldn't believe who I was running against," Rupp said. "I mean, these were my heroes growing up. Now, I'm running against them."


Rupp said his confidence grew as he ran with the ever-dwindling lead pack.


"Galen, that was a 67 (second lap)," Salazar shouted midway through the race. "There are five of you. Stay right there."


Rupp is an Oregon legend in the making. But Salazar long ago reached Oregon legend status. A 1984 Olympian (in the marathon) and American Record holder (also in the marathon), Salazar was the face of American running in the 1980s. Now he's ready to pass the mantle.


"I've coached Galen for seven years," Salazar said after Rupp's race Thursday. "He does the hard part. I just stand off to the side."


It didn't look like Salazar was just standing there. When asked if coaching elites like Rupp gets his competitive juices flowing again, Salazar said, "Well, in a way."


By the time the race was down to its final six laps, there were only three in the lead group. And Rupp was one of them.


"That was a 66 Galen," Salazar shouted. "This is where it gets hard! Don't lose focus! Don't lose contact!"


Ultimately, Rupp backed off and the lead pack of two, Abdi Abdirahman and Dathan Ritzenhein, pulled away.


"That was a 67," Salazar shouted with one mile to go. "Keep you're form! One of them is coming back! Keep your form! Don't look back!"


Sure enough, as though Salazar had been in a few of these championship races, Ritzenhein cracked and started drifting back with two laps to go.


Abdirahman was on to his eventual victory in 28:13.


With one lap to go, Rupp began his surge. He blew past Ritzenhein right in front of Salazar and then sailed to a second-place finish in 28:23. It has been so long since a collegian had placed in the top two at the U.S. Championships, it couldn't be documented immediately.


"Oh, yeah," Rupp said when asked if he was planning to represent the United States this August in the World Championships in Japan. "I can't wait."


For coach and mentor, now, a little time off is in the offering. Rupp said he wasn't counting, but he has likely run ten 10,000-meter races since December, including the NCAA championships two weeks ago. 


"I trained for this, so, no, I'm not tired," Rupp said. "The heat did start to get to me. That's why I dropped off. I'm from the northwest; it's not hot like this. We came out a week early to get used to it and I think it helped."


Rupp said it was time now for some rest.


"I am going to take a week off and run very easy," Rupp said. "Then it's back to training again."


Twenty minutes later, Salazar spoke the same words: a week off and then back at it.


So is Rupp turning pro? That question was asked but not answered. Rupp smiled and just said he's happy to be running in Japan.


Coming home for 100-meters


First-year pro Leroy Dixon was back at the same track Thursday that he won an Indiana state high school championship on. Dixon, from South Bend, Ind., competed in the 100-meters and advanced to Friday's semifinals.


Dixon, a former South Carolina standout, now runs for Nike. He certainly has the largest cheering contingent of any athlete at the meet. Over two dozen family members and friends were just 10 rows up from the starting blocks of the 100-meter to see Dixon begin his bid for a U.S. championship.


Dixon advanced to Friday's semifinals with a personal best of 10.07.


Afterwards, some tense moments in the medical tent as Dixon was treated for an undisclosed ailment.


"We need to get him back to the room," said someone in Dixon's camp. "He really needs to go right now. We'll talk to you tomorrow."


Dixon runs in the 100-meter semifinals Friday afternoon and if he advances, then again in the finals Friday evening.