by Rob Moseley
Five-time NCAA champion and 14-time all-American Galen Rupp returned to Hayward Field in rousing fashion Friday night, breaking his own American record in the 10,000 meters during the Prefontaine Classic.
Running a controlled pace before exploding through the final kilometer, Rupp broke the tape in 26 minutes, 44.36 seconds. He beat his previous record of 26:48.00 by nearly four seconds.
Needing to average around 64 seconds per lap to threaten the record, Rupp and the lead pack ran a handful above 65 seconds over the final stages of the race. But he blistered the track with a 59.4-second penultimate lap, and then a 58.5 final lap, as cheers from the home crowd roared down around him.
"I really was telling myself to sit back, relax and work on my finish," Rupp said. "I'm most happy with the way I closed today."
Rupp, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, beat by more than a minute the time from his final 10,000 at Oregon, 27:52.53 in 2009.
"It's just great to be back at Hayward Field," said Rupp, who announced that he and his wife are expecting twins. "This is what makes this place so special, all the people who came out on a Friday night to watch a 10k and other distance races."
With pollen counts high in the Willamette Valley, there was some question prior to the race whether Rupp — an allergy sufferer who warmed up wearing a mark — would be in the field. Once he emerged for the start, a cheer went up in the grandstands.
Rupp raced out with the lead group at the start, then quickly drifted back to the middle of the pack on the first pass through the backstretch. After three laps, Rupp's coach, Alberto Salazar, yelled from trackside that "you've got to move up a little."
Rupp responded, moving up from a group of runners that trailed the lead group into the pack at the front. "Perfect, Galen," Salazar said following the fourth lap; again after six laps, Salazar said, "Perfect, Galen, perfect."
Over the final one-third of the race, it seemed Rupp's previous record might be safe, with announced lap times above 65 seconds. But then Rupp made a powerful move in the homestretch with about 850 meters to go, before crushing his final two laps.
Also Friday, UO alum Elijah Greer ran the 800 meters in a season-best 1:45.30, though he expressed disappointment with finishin second. The Pre Classic continues Saturday with several other Ducks in the field.