The genesis of this race started two years ago, in Indianapolis. In the men's 10,000 meters, Jorge Torres did not have a mark for the 10,000 meters. John Chaplin saw fit to allow Torres into the meet, giving his previous racing experience and his level of fitness. In that race, Jorge Torres followed Abdi Abdirhaman, with Dathan Ritzenhein on his back, and won the race, his first national track title.
In 2007, Abdi reversed the results, taking the 10,000 meter title, with Jorge taking fourth. In November of 2008, after leading much of the early way in the Men's Olympic Trials marathon, Abdi had to drop out around fifteen miles.
The 10,000 meters tonight, after the 10,000 Abdi ran two weeks ago, was to be his race of redemption. Abdi wanted to make the team, he had been training hard. But, so had a few others, Galen Rupp, Jorge Torres, Ed Moran, Adam Goucher, were all there. So, just how would they fare?
In a night that was track geek heaven, the men's 10,000 capped a night of highly emotional races, which of course meant that half of the coaches, athletes, and sport enthusiasts stayed up into the wee hours of the morning discussing, disecting and disgorging any meaning from one of the most captivating distance races in memory.
First we have the Black Cactus himself, Abdi Abdirahman. Abdi had trained well, with his friend Bernard Lagat. The workouts were severe: " I mean, we work hard, like three times three miles up hill as a tempo run. You don't have to do that, but we did. Kip (Bernard Lagat) taught me how to win. I respect him. So much to learn from him..."
Then we have Galen Rupp, the annointed one. Galen has had more pressure on him since he started running at Central Catholic than virtually any distance runner. Under the watchful eyes of Alberto Salazar and, while at Oregon, Vinn Lananna, Galen is a true distance talent and prodigy. Such a damning moniker is not fair, as Galen seems like a young man who has come to grips with fame, but, at times, perhaps just wants to be another 21 year old on the Duck campus.
Then, you have Jorge Torres. Jorge and his brother Eduardo, made waves as preps in Illinois, then at Colorado, and since then, on the roads and the track. Steve Jones,
former World Record holder in the marathon, has been coaching Jorge and Eduardo.
I had been checking in, and Steve spoke of how both had been coming along. In all
honesty, last January, when I heard about Jonesie coaching Ed and Jorge, I picked
Jorge to make the 10,000 meter team. In my mind, there are few coaches who possess
the knowledge and experience that Steve has, and Jorge and Ed approached Jones with the appropriate respect.
Adam Goucher is a fighter. I have watched him since high school. I admire his grit, his fighting ability and his 5,000 meter performance last year in Indy has never left my mind. In my mind, it might be unfortunate that both he and Kara are at different phase in their running, but we will have to see how it plays out. The facts are that Adam dealt with very painful back pain all spring until about four weeks ago. He is tough as nails,and he wanted to make this team.
His appeal to make the 10,000 meters was fine. We have no issue with Adam or Alberto on this. My concern was that the process be explained, and quite frankly, it was not.
The race went as most pundits thought, but that did not take anything away from the drama.
Abdi Abdirahman had a simple race plan, " My coaches told me that I better take the pretenders out of the race, and make this a man's race. That was an understatement.
With the largest crowd that this writer has seen in North America for a 10,000 meters, most of the 20,936 fans reported stood in rapt attention, as Abdi surged to break up the field of 25. Running 67 pace, with a surge, here, a surge there, the front pack whittled down to Abdi Abdirahman, Galen Rupp, Josh Rohatinsky, Jorge Torres, Fazil Bizuneh.
Fazil followed Abdi to the front and through most of the first eleven laps, was there as Abdi's tough but erratic pace, broke up the field into about four packs. The 4 kilometer mark was hit in 11:04.77 as the 67 pace continued to break up the pack.
At the 5 kilometer mark, the front pack was down to Abdi, Galen and Jorge, with Ed Moran, Josh Rohantinsky, Adam Goucher running behind a hard charging James Carney.
The pace was relentless as Abdi, with his shades on, pushed and pushed. Galen right behind with Jorge Torres on the inside, the trio hit six kilomters in 16:37.91, seven kilometers in 19:25.37. Rupp looked back about seven kilometers and saw James Carney pushing very hard to regain contact, but, it was not to be.....
Abdi Abdirahman was averaging 67.3 a lap as he continued to move closer to his goal. " I knew that it was going to come down to a kick, so I just kept pushing the pace. I was relaxed," Abdi told the assembeld media after the race.
Who would win? Galen has this relaxed gait, that is a forefoot landing. He floats like Bill Rodgers or Garry Bjorkland. His ability to float gives him this ADD appearance-short attention span, floating around, but it is probably one of his best running traits. He can hold on to a tough pace, and his 1,500 meter races all indoor and outdoor, built up his leg speed.
Jorge Torres looked great as well. Jorge is a typical distance runner, with sub four minute speed. Jones prepared him well and Jorge was expending as little energy as possible.
Just after 8k, passed in 22:13.99, Jorge fell back fifteen meters, but pulled himself back in. Adam Goucher was moving up in the chasing pack and by 9 kilometers, with a couple of 68.5 400 meters, Rupp, Torres and Abdirhaman were together and Adam Goucher looked to be pushing the pace to get to the final position.
9 kilometers was hit in 22:13.99 and with the next two laps in 68.2, the chasing pack was getting closer, but it was down to the final three, Abdi, Galen, Jorge.
The bell was hit in 26:41.3 and Jorge Torres was falling off the back, but still in control of his destiny. Ed Moran, Josh Rohatinsky, and a hard charging Adam Goucher with James Carney in tow.
Galen Rupp tried to lead, but Abdi Abdirahman would not have it. After leading most of the race, it was obvious Abdi had not come here to take second! Running a final lap of 60.5, Abdi Abdirahman made his dream a reality, winning his first Olympic Trials race with a fine time of 27:41.89.
Galen Rupp, running 62 last lap, pushed the last lap, finishing in 27:43.11, taking second with the crowd of happy Ducks applauding his finish.
Jorge Torres held on, achieving the American dream. The son of Mexican immigrants, Jorge ran 27:46.33 to take the third position. Jorge's brother, Eduardo (11th place,
28:35.91), was able to watch his twin achieve the dream, and we could see a smile
erupt on his face as he pushed the last 300 meters of the race.
The drama of the chase pack went to the finish. Ed Moran ran 27:52.10, cutting the lead packs cushion to six seconds. Josh Rohatinsky, one of Galen's training mates, fook fifth in 27:54.41. James Carney, who had gone hard after the lead pack for several kilometers ran 27:58.81 for sixth. In seventh, Adam Goucher, while not achieving Olympic team standard showed that he lives the Olympic credo, running his fine 27:59.31, not giving up until the very finish.
Dathan Ritzenhein ran 28:05.31 for eighth, with Sean Quigley in ninth in 28:21.96 and Tim Nelson in tenth in 28:29.95.
In 13th place, Meb Keflizighi, who has been injured since the Olympic Trials, ran his 28:39.02 off seven weeks of training. " We had figured he needed at least eight weeks, " noted Meb's coach, Bob Larsen. Daniel Browne, who had run so well at the marathon trials, finished fourteenth in 28:42.78.
Madison's Matthew Downin ran 28:55.66 in 19th, with all 25 starters finishing.
My biggest memory of the night will be, about two hours later, at the Villard Street pub, with Alberto Salazar, Steve Jones, Toby Cook, Seig Lindstrom from TFN talking about track as Galen laughed nearby with friends and Jorge and friends hung out. Coaches and
friends abounded, paying homage to a truly great race, and twenty-five runners who laid it on the line, and answered, in one way or another, the voices we all hear, about how fast we can run, and what would happen with just three more months of good training.
What was answered on that track after twenty-five laps? That 20,936 fans thought the lunacy of running as fast as you can for twenty five laps deserves to be honored. That the men who made the final, just like the women in the 5,000 meters earlier in the night, do something better than most of us assembled, and should have a place where they can be applauded, cheered and discussed.
The Hardest Team to Make, Tracktown, Eugene 2008, has been earning its stripes all week long. A great facility, a great festival, heck, I have been having fun in the dorm life-flash backs for me to 25 years or more ago!
The Villard Street Pub has been a meeting point for everyone in the evening. I see ways we can improve making this a nice money maker for the city. Congrats to Vinn Lananna and Greg Erwin and their team for making this event a reality. Congrats to Mike Reilly, always the man behind the scenes.
But also, credit should go to Tom Jordan, the Pre meet director, the man who, with the help of Nike, kept world class track alive in this country when no one else understood.
For a nice interview with Tom, written by Matt McGowan of Run Ohioplease check: http://www.runohio.com/
Heading over to the last day of the meet!