Fearsome Kick Brings Lagat Fifth USA 5000m Title

Fearsome Kick Brings Lagat Fifth USA 5000m Title

Like a tornado, they knew it was coming but were powerless to stop it.

As the slow early laps ticked off during the men's 5000m final on the second day of the USA Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Chris Solinsky and Galen Rupp were thinking about how to neutralize Bernard Lagat's gold-medal closing speed. Solinsky, the USA 10,000m record holder, called upon his Oregon Track Club teammate Matt Tegenkamp to get things going.

"He took the first step to make it honest," he said of Tegenkamp who took second in the 10,000m last night.

With seven laps to go, Tegenkamp took the pace down to a 64-second lap, then ran 61, 62 and 63 from the front. Lagat, Solinsky and Galen Rupp, last night's 10,000m champions, switched gears to follow. Solinsky wasn't sure of the pace, but knew it was fast.

"I have no idea," he told reporters about the pace. "I was just running as fast as I could."

Tegenkamp fell back, and Solinsky took over the lead with Lagat in close pursuit. The 2007 world 1500m and 5000m champion said that he was working hard to keep up.

"It might have seemed easy with the way I was following, but I was working," he said. "I was working hard."

With three laps to go, Solinsky turned a 59.9 second circuit. Lagat stayed right on his heels, but Rupp began to slip back. He would have to settle for third place.

"I just didn't have an extra gear like those guys," said Rupp who, like last night, ran half of the race with a pollen-blocking face mask to prevent an allergic reaction to the elevated grass pollen here.

Solinsky went down to 59.1 seconds for the penultimate lap, but Lagat did not flinch. Then the former Wisconsin Badger gave it all he had on the final lap. Lagat continued to follow, then went wide on the final turn, scorching the final 400 meters in 56.8 seconds to win his fifth national 5000m title in 13:23.06. That last lap was just too much for Solinsky who is still nursing a hamstring injury.

"Kip, he's got gears beyond gears," Solinsky marveled.

Lagat, who will run in the 1500m final tomorrow, was pleased with his race and told reporters that he will only run the 5000m in Daegu no matter what happens tomorrow.

"I can enter into one event," Lagat explained because the World Championships schedule would force him to run two races in the same day if he doubled as he did in Osaka in 2007. "I am already in the team for the 5000 and, if I win tomorrow, I'll have to make a decision."

He paused and saw an opportunity to jest with the media.

"You know what?" he said. "The decision is made: 5000 meters."

Both Solinsky and Rupp will join Lagat on the USA 5000m squad, and Rupp will also run the 10,000m. Rupp confirmed his intention to double with reporters tonight.

"I'll compete in both in Korea," he said. "It's definitely a realistic double to do. It's a doable double for sure."


Molly Huddle's victory in the women's 5000m was less dramatic, but every bit as satisfying. Huddle, the national 5000m record holder, benefited from seven scratches, including Shalane Flanagan, Jenny Simpson and Kara Goucher.

"Last night, I fell asleep thinking about every different scenario," said Huddle, who painted her nails blue to match her Saucony uniform. "If Shalane shows up, and nobody else; if Kara shows up. There's about six different girls who change the race when they're there. So, I had a little bit of a contingency plan for all of it. But, basically I wanted to run conservative no matter what."

Huddle decided to use the race to simulate the 5000m preliminary round she would run in Daegu. She ran the penultimate lap in 71 seconds, then cut way down to 64 seconds for the last lap. The move delivered her to the finish line in 15:10.01, a solid four seconds up on second place Amy Hastings (15:14.31). Hastings's Mammoth Track Club teammate Angela Bizzarri finished third (15:16.04).

"I've kicked well before; 63-64 on a good day," Huddle mused. "But, I was thinking, if I make it to world's I'm going to have to do that in the heats, like a 2:10 800. So, I was thinking at the end to try to simulate that. That's what got me through, otherwise you kind of psych yourself out."


Although UCLA's Cory Primm and Oregon's Elijah Greer failed to make the cut, the other key players all advanced to Sunday's final in the men's 800m. U.C. Irvine's Charles Jock led all qualifiers, posting a 1:45.80 winning time in the first heat. The 6'-4" Jock led nearly all of the race, until he was passed in the homestretch, then reclaimed the lead to get the win.

"The wind on the backstretch sucked," Jock said. "I had to fight that twice. So, I was a little happy when Cas (Loxsom) took the lead. I gave it to him, then I just kind of followed him through, then I got him in the kick in the last 100."

Three-time defending champion Nick Symmonds finished fourth in Jock's heat, slowing in the final meters to save energy.

"I just wanted to feel really good for 600; it's kind of breezy out there so I didn't want to have to move until about 600," Symmonds intoned. "It was kind of congested, so I went around. There was quite a bit of pushing, but I got the job done."

Khadevis Robinson won the second heat in 1:48.78 with a long kick from 200 meters out, and NCAA champion Robby Andrews finished third in the same heat, also advancing to Sunday's final.

In the women's two-lap contest, Alysia (Johnson) Montano controlled the first heat and won in 2:01.37. Geena Gall got second (2:01.53) and also advanced. In the second heat, Maggie Vessey appeared to be regaining her strong form from last season, winning in 2:01.94 after Phoebe Wright pushed the pace and finished second (2:02.00). Wright said that she was all business today.

"I don't like to mess around in the semis," said Wright. "I got a pack of girls on my heels, and none of them are slouches so I didn't want to take any risks."

By David Monti (c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved; Used with permission

(Photo: Bernard Lagat with wife Gladys and son Miika and daughter Gianna after winning the 2011 USA 5000m title -p hoto by Jane Monti)