Who's the Greatest American 10,000 meter male runner of them all? by Elliott Denman

After Galen Rupp's record sixth US title, Elliott Denman has a question: who is the best American male 10,000 meter runner of them all? 

Galen Rupp wins sixth 10,000m US title, photo by PhotoRun.net
  SACRAMENTO - It's a legitimate debate now - who's the greatest American
10,000-meter runner of them all?
   And the debating teams lined up Thursday night at Sacramento State University's
Hornet Stadium to make their points.
   Is it (1) Billy Mills, upset winner of the 10,000 at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, in the race often called the most dramatic in Olympic history, and still the only American to bring home gold fromthe 25-lapper at the Games?
    (2) Frank Shorter, better known as a marathoner, of course, and the 1972 Munich gold medalist over the 26.2-mile route, but still a mighty force in 10,000-meter history as an Olympic silver medalist and a five-time American champion?
   Or (3), the relatively new kid on the block, Galen Rupp, the still baby-faced 28-year-old Oregonian who already (a) owns an Olympic medal (the London 2012 silver, just back of training partner Mo Farah of Britain); (b) the American record, the 26:44.30  he ran at his home Hayward Field track in Eugene May 30, ( c ) after his decisive, controlled  28:12.07 triumph in the USA Outdoor Championships Thursday night, a sixth consecutive American crown ?
   (Sorry, fans of Lewis Tewanima, the Carlisle Indian School teammate of Jim Thorpe, who took the silver medal at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, back of Finland's Hannes Kohlemainen, we're imposing the statute of limitations here.)
  Hornet Stadium-goers surely did get the chance to cast votes Thursday night at Hornet Stadium,
as Rupp ran his Shorter-topping winning streak to six at the Nationals.
  As the fates would have it, former Sacramento resident Billy Mills was back in his once-
hometown to host an open 10K road run Thursday night that was held just outside Hornet Stadium while
the nation's best runners, jumpers and throwers were cavorting inside it.
   All finishers in the Billy Mills 10K were treated to tickets to the action raging inside
Hornet Stadium.  If they had the energy left, or were fast enough to get back in time,
they'd have been witness to yet another piece of not-the-fastest but still magnificent,
 masterful Rupp running.
   The blond blazer had very good reason to get this race over in a hurry - wife Keara, back in
Portland, is expecting the Rupps' first children any day now. (Editor's note: Galen noted that Keara is expecting twins.)
  This will be a Billy Mills year - guaranteed.
   Major plans are in place for appropriate celebrations to honor the 50th anniversary of
the former Kansas runner's epic come-from-behind win over Tunisia's Mohammed
Gammoudi and Australia's Ron Clarke at Tokyo Olympic Stadium in '64.  (And yes, for the
Lakotan-tribe member, that was a display of magnificence that had many students of
Native American achievement harking back to Tewanima, who was of Hopi heritage.)
    The Big Question: At 28, has Rupp's "body of work" already surpassed Mills's and Shorter's?
  Even the best of debaters would have a hard time arguing otherwise.
  His Thursday night 25-lap winner was typically Ruppian.
   He started conservatively, hung with pack for lap after lap in the early going, and as
the challengers began falling back, Rupp gradually stepped forward, finally flooring
with a last-lap sprint that broke this thing absolutely wide open.
   Of course he was in a rush.  Keara needed her husband back with all
  Chris Derrick, the ex-Stanford star, who was the last man standing up to
Rupp as the race entered its 25th lap, understood all that.  He knew he was about to
be pounced.  And there wasn't a thing he could do to change the script, other than holding on
for an honorable second place, some 40 meters back, in 28:18.18.
   "Once Galen's off like that, he's in a league of his own," said Derrick.  "And right now, there's
nothing that I or any other American, for that matter, can do about it."
  Third-placer Ryan Vail (28:26.02), fourth-place Sean Quigley (28:29.84) and virtually
every other  man in the race could make the same concession speech.
  Consistency-consistency-consistency, under the coaching regimen of
Alberto Salazar, that's the key element to the ongoing Rupp success story.
  Salazar continues guiding Rupp to new goals, to new aspirations, to
all the new things that might conspire - to a lesser pupil - to bring
on staleness.
  "We have it all worked out," Rupp tells you.
  With no Olympics, no outdoor World Championships, there's still no shortage
of goals for the Rupp-Salazar team. Do they ever have it all worked out.
   Rupp opted out of the 5,000 to be held Friday night at Nationals at
Hornet Stadium - leaving that race for Bernard Lagat & Co. - to fly back to
   He (and Salazar) are already pointing to his next time out.
   It's the big 5,000 meters in Paris -where he'll get to lace 'em up against many of the
best Kenyans, Ethiopians, and more.
   The date is July 5.
   With the expected cooperation - and approval - of Keara Rupp, hubby Galen
has plans to be on the starting line, again testing his mettle, again building
on the portfolio of personal achievements that any American will ever be able to top.

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