Chris Solinsky

Galen Rupp answers his critics

The community that closely follows American distance running is full of zeal, snark and great passion.

Last week, in a race in Belgium, Galen Rupp broke the American record in the 10,000 meters, and by more than 11 seconds, finishing in 26 minutes and 48 seconds. That was his personal-best time, by more than 22 seconds.

Rupp's run was the fourth-fastest in the world in 2011. He is now the 16th-fastest man in history at 10k; his 26:48 is the 29th-fastest of all time.

Chris Solinsky had held the American record, 26:59.60, set in May, 2010. Solinsky's run was the 81st-fastest 10k ever run; Solinsky is now the 39th-fastest man in 10k history.

All those superlatives -- and what did Rupp get from the American track and field community?

Along with the praise -- a healthy dose of angst and criticism.

No American man has won an Olympic medal in the 10k since Billy Mills in 1964. There's a lot of pent-up emotion. Bring on the therapy sessions!

"Dear Galen Rupp: Time to Move Up to the Marathon," said one poster to the message boards at, criticizing Rupp's finishing kick.

As was duly noted, Rupp was blown away in the last lap of the race by eventual winner Kenenisa Bekele and Kenya's Lucas Rotich.

Bekele won in a world-leading 26:43.16. Rotich took second, Rupp third. Bekele, for the unfamiliar, is the world-record holder and arguably the greatest 10k (and 5k) runner of all time.

More than one critic also noted that Rupp was blown away at the close of last month's world championship 10k in Daegu, South Korea, finishing seventh.

Also on the message boards: the assertion that Solinsky's effort, at the beginning of the 2010 outdoor season, was just as good as Rupp's, at the end of the year and on a super-fast track.

The event in Belgium, in Brussels, called the Van Damme meet, is notorious for speed. Dating back to 1996, 12 of the 16 fastest 10k runners of all time have turned in their best at Van Damme, including Bekele's world-record 26:17.53, on August 26, 2005.

Wait -- there's more.

Alberto Salazar, the 1980s distance great who is now coaching both Rupp and Britain's Mo Farah in Oregon -- Farah won silver in Daegu in the 10k and gold in the 5k -- said the following in comments published on the IAAF, or international track and field association, website:

"… When you run World Championships in hot weather you've got to deal with it.

"But even though Galen is not a big guy he's still big compared to a Kenyan or an Ethiopian. It's a disadvantage if you are a Caucasian running in the heat versus an African, you just have more body mass and it's going to be harder."

What's an American record-holder to do?

First things first.

"I mean, I don't -- I don't think it has anything to do with being white," Rupp said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters, asked if it was a disadvantage to be a white runner in a discipline dominated by dark-skinned Africans.

"I think his point in saying that is more that I'm just a bigger guy than a lot of these guys," adding a moment later, "It's easier for them to stay cooler longer. I think that was the point [Salazar] was trying to make with that statement. You know, I agree with it."

As for his finishing kick -- Rupp agrees with his critics. He needs to get stronger.

It's a process, he said.

Farah has urged patience. Salazar has urged patience.

If there is anything the American distance community ought to understand, that's for sure it -- if there is to be greatness in the 10k, it takes patience.

Rupp, for instance, finished 13th in the 10k at the 2008 Olympics. To go from 13th in 2008 to seventh in 2011 -- that's definitely moving up, isn't it?

"Sometimes it takes time," Rupp said. "It takes years of doing a lot of strength workouts and to keep the same approach we have been taking. You have got to be able to finish fast in slow races to be able to close in fast races."

A couple years ago, he said, it was "hang on as long as you can." Now it's the "fun part, where I'm going to be there at the end."

He said, "For me to make that next jump, I have to be sound. I'm close to making that big jump. I think I have the pieces in place to do something well. I have great people around me and full confidence they are doing the right thing."

'...Big things' for 2011 U.S. track team

DAEGU, South Korea -- Christian Taylor, 21 years old, won the triple jump Sunday at the 2011 track championships with an audacious leap of 17.96 meters, 58 feet, 11 1/4 inches, the fifth-best in history. He declared afterward, in the tone of a respectful competitor, not a jerk, "I came to win." Will Claye is just 20 years old. Both Claye and Taylor were going to be seniors at the University of Florida until turning pro. What are the odds that these would be the two guys finishing 1-3 at the worlds in the same event? Yet that's what happened, Claye jumping a personal-best 17.5, or 57-5. He said, "We came out here, did our best and ended up doing big things."

The American team did, indeed, do big things.

First and foremost, it topped the medal table, with 25, the second-highest medal total at a worlds for Team USA, one shy of the 26 won by the 1991 and 2007 teams.

But for the thoroughly unexpected, the American team actually could have reached the elusive 30 mark, which would have been sweet validation indeed for Doug Logan, the vanquished former chief executive of USA Track & Field, who had said all along that 30 was eminently do-able -- only to get sent packing before the plans he had put in place to get to 30 could be realized.

The Americans put four men in the final 12 in shot put, an event the U.S. has dominated in recent years. None got a medal. The U.S. has also been strong in the 400-meter men's hurdles; no medals there in Daegu despite two finalists. The Americans took home no medals in pole-vaulting, men's or women's, a traditional strength.

And, once again, in the very last event of the championships, the men's 400 relay, an event won by the Jamaicans -- anchored by Usain Bolt -- in world-record time, 37.04, the American men did not get through without disaster.

The 2008 Olympics, the 2009 world champs and now these 2011 worlds -- all DQs. This one involved a collision on the final exchange involving American Darvis Patton and Britain's Harry Aikines-Aryeetey. Details, even after repeated viewings of the tape, remain sketchy.

"I felt his big knee in my arm," Aikines-Aryeetey said in a television interview.

Under no circumstances would the Americans have beaten the Jamaicans. Even so, Justin Gatlin, who had run the second leg, said, "You can't tell me we weren't going to set an American record."

Stepping back to assess the U.S. team's "big things" over the nine days of the meet:

The 12 medals won by the U.S. women are the most-ever; the 1993 team won 11.

Allyson Felix didn't win individual gold in her 200/400 double. But she did win silver in the 400, bronze in the 200 and gold in both the 400 and 1600 relays. Four is the most medals ever won by a woman at one meet; American Gwen Torrance, Kathrin Krabbe of Germany and Marita Koch of East Germany also won four.

If Felix had been a country, the four medals she won would have tied her for seventh on the 2011 medals chart.

Also: those four medals lift Felix's career world-championships total won to 10. That ties her with Carl Lewis for most medals won by an American.

Jenny Simpson, 25 and still a newlywed (last October), won the first gold for the United States in the women's 1500 since 1983. Then, a couple days later, Matthew Centrowitz, 21, a fifth-year senior at Oregon, won bronze in the 1500.

The U.S. men swept the high jump, long jump and triple jump golds. The U.S. men -- Trey Hardee and Ashton Eaton -- went 1-2 in the decathlon. Dwight Phillips' long jump victory was his fourth at the worlds, to go along with his 2004 Olympic gold.

Phillips is 33, turning 34 in October. Bernard Lagat, who took silver Sunday night in the 5000, is 36, turning 37 in December. Lagat is the 2007 5000 and 1500 champ and, as well, the 2009 1500 bronze and 5000 silver medalist; he won silver at the 2004 Games in Athens when he was still running for Kenya.

Lagat, Phillips, Simpson, Centrowitz -- they illustrate the mix of veteran and younger talent that made up this team. That same sort of mix is likely to be on display next year for the United States track team at the Olympics in London.

"If Jenny can do it … if Matt can do it … if Bernard can still do it … I'm proud of my team," Lagat said.

Taylor, asked about the U.S. men sweeping the jumps, said, "It's about time. That's what I would say. Like I said, to have Dwight in the same group and having that family -- you know it's like, I wouldn't say a brother, but he's kind of old, so kind of like a dad! I mean, it's just been a great experience.

"The U.S. definitely represented and showed the world that we are the best team in the world."

So -- what does this performance here in Daegu mean for London?

Maybe a lot and perhaps very little.

LaShawn Merritt, the 2008 400 gold medalist, took silver in the event here and anchored the gold medal-winning 1600 relay. His future remains uncertain pending the outcome of litigation stemming from a 21-month doping-related suspension he has already served.

Tyson Gay, who had been America's best 100 and 200 sprinter, was hurt. Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 400 gold medalist -- hurt. Chris Solinsky, the 10,000-meter American record-holder -- hurt. Bryan Clay, the 2008 Olympic decathlon champ -- hurt. Standout hurdler Lolo Jones -- hurt. None of them competed here.

Do any or all of them make it to London? No one can predict.

Who knows whether Gay, who has struggled to stay healthy, can get fit?

Beyond which -- the brutal nature of the U.S. Trials, in which you're top-three or you stay home -- allows for no sentiment.

Just ask Phillips. He finished fourth at the Trials in 2008.

Or Simpson. "I mean, all this can do is bolster my confidence," she said.

But now Daegu is over, and London awaits. And she said, "I'm very cognizant of the fact this doesn't mean that I'm any shoo-in for any race following this."

Distance Night at the Prefontaine Classic

EUGENE, Ore. -- Last year, Chris Solinsky ran his first-ever 10,000 meter race on the track. What a debut. He became the first American to break 27 minutes, finishing in 26:59.60. So when meet organizers let it drop earlier this week that Solinsky would be joining what was already an incredible field for the Pre Classic 10k here Friday night, the American track cognoscenti got all geeked up. And for good reason.

Maybe, just maybe, there might be a new American record. And at venerable Hayward Field, no less.

But no.

Instead, what was offered was yet another lesson in the vagaries of distance running, and how both difficult and beautiful it is.

Britain's Mo Farah won the race, in 26:46.57, breaking the European record for the 10k. (To show you how truly, profoundly difficult a sport track and field can be to keep straight: On the official computer board, Farah's record is called an "AR." That doesn't stand for "American record." That means "area record." Which means "European record" and, presumably, "British record," too. Which, of course, he set while running on American soil.)

Twenty-six guys started the race; nine broke 27 minutes. That is a crazy, crazy fast field.

Solinsky was not one of those nine guys.

He dropped out with 18 laps to go. He made a solitary figure walking off the red track as the others whipped by.

By the end, 14 guys in the race would set personal-best times. The 2004 Athens Games bronze medalist, Zersenay Tadesse of Eritrea, who finished fifth Friday night, in 26:51.09 -- he did not set a personal-best time. The 2004 and 2008 Games silver medalist, Sileshi Sihine of Ethiopia, sixth here Friday in 26:52.84 -- again, not a personal-best.

Imane Merga of Ethiopia, ranked No. 1 in the world last year in the 5k, finished second -- a personal-best Friday, 26:48.35. Josphat Bipkoech Bett of Kenya, just 20 years old, the 2008 world 10k junior champion, 26:48.99 for third -- a personal-best.

As he emerged later from under the Hayward grandstands, Solinsky, 26, sighed.

He so wanted to race this race, against this kind of field, because last year proved he could do it.

That's why he dropped into the race in the first instance.

But what he hadn't broadcast beforehand was that he'd been battling a wobbly left hamstring. He thought he could hang in there. But he couldn't. His hamstring, he said, is about a week away from being right.

At least he made it to the starting line.

The other top American expected to challenge Friday night, Galen Rupp, didn't start, apparently because of high pollen counts. It happens here in Eugene.

Solinsky not only started but was hanging in there, turning splits in roughly 64 seconds, when he decided, with about 18 laps to go, that there was no point in risking more. The nationals are in three weeks, back here at Hayward. The world championships, in Daegu, South Korea, are at the end of the summer.

"I'm very incredibly angry at myself to give away an opportunity to run with the best in the world," he said.

"It's the Pre Classic," he said. "I didn't want to miss the Pre Classic," this stop on track and field's calendar named for Steve Prefontaine, the middle-distance running icon -- and University of Oregon legend -- who died in 1975  at age 24 in a car accident.

He said, and this is why Chris Solinsky is going to be fine, "I just wanted to compete."