By Parker Morse, Running USA wire
EUGENE, Ore. - (June 25, 2009) - Amy Yoder Begley and Galen Rupp, both 2008 U.S. Olympians at 10,000 meters, won their respective national titles for 2009 at the distance on Thursday evening at the University of Oregon's famed Hayward Field.
Yoder Begley in an upset
Yoder Begley, who won an NCAA 10,000m title on the Hayward track in 2001, was a fan favorite at last year's Olympic Trials for her tenacious pursuit of the Olympic "A" qualifying standard, even though she finished third behind eventual Beijing bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan and her training partner Kara Goucher.
This year, Yoder Begley was not just running for time. She and Flanagan agreed to share the early pace, trading 800s "at least through 5K," she explained, "and maybe through four miles." The tactic worked, as the pair dropped all other contenders by four miles in to the race, with Katie McGregor the last to lose contact. The two hit halfway in 15:51 and at 8000m, with over eleven seconds lead on McGregor, in 25:16, a whisker over 5:03 pace for five miles.
Yoder Begley led most of the last mile, taking the bell at 30:15, and Flanagan asserted herself on the backstretch, bidding for the win with 200 meters remaining, but Yoder Begley wasn't giving up easily, responding instantly to the move and regaining the lead on the last turn. From there on it was all Yoder Begley as the Arkansas grad turned in a Hayward Field record of 31:22.69 for her first senior national title on the track; Flanagan was runner-up in 31:23.43, with McGregor third (32:08.04).
"I've been learning to sprint this year," said Yoder Begley. "It was Kara [Goucher]'s turn last year. This year was my turn."
"My husband gave me a new mantra this year," she added. "Just do it, don't think. He said last year I hesitated when [Flanagan and Goucher] broke away. There was no hesitation this year."
With Goucher, who won a bronze medal in Osaka in this event, stepping up to the marathon for Berlin, Flanagan would love to see a World Championships medal to match her Beijing medal. "I have a lot of work in front of me over the next month, sharpening up," she said.
Olympians and marathoners played a different role in the men's race. Perennial Olympian Abdi Abdirahman did the early work with 2004 silver medal marathoner Meb Keflezighi visible in the front as well. But it was 2008 Olympic marathoner Dathan Ritzenhein, a relatively new Eugene resident, who took over for the second half, trading laps with James Carney and using carefully-timed surges to split challengers off the pack whenever he saw an opportunity. "I was watching the big screen with every lap," said Ritz, "looking for the little gaps and trying to open them up."
Rupp himself may have been running his last race in an Oregon singlet, after winning five individual NCAA titles across three seasons for the Ducks. "This place has been really special for me," said Rupp. "It helps a lot to have that roar, and I'm sure it rattles the other guys."
Finally between 7000m and 8000m, it was just Ritzenhein, Rupp and Tim Nelson, and around 8K it was just Ritz and Rupp. Ritzenhein looked strong and under control, but it was Rupp who had speed to spare. With 500 meters remaining, Rupp turned that speed on, and almost immediately opened up a 20 meter gap on Ritzenhein. By the time he had come back around to the final homestretch, Rupp was waving to the crowd and grinning.
His final time for his first senior title was 27:52.53; Ritz came in at 27:58.59, and Nelson, the team's third Oregon resident, in 28:01.34.
"It's been an incredible year, not just for me but for the Ducks," said Rupp. "I'm glad I could close it out with a win."
USA 10,000m Championship - Thursday, June 25, 2009
1) Galen Rupp (OR), 27:52.53
2) Dathan Ritzenhein (OR), 27:58.59
3) Tim Nelson (OR), 28:01.34
4) James Carney (CO), 28:13.37
5) Ed Moran (VA), 28:34.54
1) Amy Yoder Begley (OR), 31:22.69
2) Shalane Flanagan (OR), 31:23.43
3) Katie McGregor (MN), 32:08.04
4) Magdalena Lewy Boulet (CA), 32:20.45
5) Molly Huddle (RI), 32:43.11
Complete results at: USATF.org.