Rupp wins 5,000 for second title at U.S. Olympic Trials

EUGENE — Galen Rupp never thought he would outkick one of the best in the business.

He did just that, surpassing Bernard Lagat near the finish line in the 5,000-meter final at the Olympic track trials on Thursday night.

And Rupp never thought he would be mentioned in the same breath as the late Steve Prefontaine, a legend around these parts.

He accomplished that, too, breaking Pre's nearly 40-year-old meet record when he burst across the line in 13 minutes, 22.67 seconds, eclipsing the mark by a scant 0.13 seconds.

Quite a night for the former Oregon Duck distance runner. Quite a trials, too, as Rupp also won the 10,000 last week.

"I couldn't be more happy with how the meet went for me here," said Rupp, who's planning to run in both events at the London Games. "I knew this was going to be the hard one."

Shortly before the race, marathoner Abdi Abdirahman sent out a tweet that simply read: "The boss of America distance running is on the track."

He was referring to his good friend, Lagat.

It's not hyperbole, either, since Lagat is a four-time national champion at this distance. Not only that, but Rupp had never beaten him.

That all changed on a drizzly evening. The torch may just have been passed.

Lagat, Rupp and the third member of the U.S. team, Lopez Lomong, were setting a blistering pace. On the final bend, Lagat went into his trademark kick, taking over the lead.

But Rupp showed he may just have a future in sprinting as well, closing the gap and retaking the lead — just how his coach, Alberto Salazar, envisioned.

"I told him, 'The only way you can have the confidence you can kick it on the last lap, is to leave it to the end here. If you go early, we're never going to know. In London, you're going to have to do it in the last lap,'" Salazar said. "That was the plan today, get it going a little bit."

With that, Rupp shed two weights off his shoulder. He knows he can kick with the best and beat one of the favorites in London.

"He's 1 for 13 against Lagat now," Salazar said. "I was going to joke afterward that if Galen had lost today, we still have another five years to beat Lagat. We figure we can get him when he's around 45."

One of the reasons for Rupp's surge is that he's training in Portland with British runner Mo Farah, who left London so he could train without the spotlight on him. Farah is the reigning 5,000-meter world champion after holding off Lagat last summer in South Korea.

Lagat was certainly impressed with what he saw out of Rupp. He actually had a feeling Rupp was going to pass him.

"That did not surprise me. Galen Rupp has been running strong," Lagat said. "With two laps to go, when I saw him running near me, I knew I needed to be running relaxed."

A lesson learned.

"Normally, that (final kick) is my strength and today that was a little different because I was little ahead of these guys in the beginning," Lagat explained. "I didn't want to be running for the fourth spot. "It was an unbelievable victory. The way Galen did it, pushing hard, running an amazing time, that does not surprise me tonight that he was running strong. What we're going to see from Galen is that he belongs at the top."

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