SportsTrack & Field

The Hayward edge

Opperman, Jarod

Galen Rupp’s amazing year somehow just keeps getting better. Last week he finished his college career with six individual NCAA titles. This week he’s a USA champion.

At the 2009 USA Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field, Rupp outlasted a field full of professionals to win the 10,000 meters with a time of 27:52.53 and punch his ticket to the World Championships in Berlin in August.

After his run, Rupp said he just felt a lot of gratitude to the people of Eugene for the last five years and he couldn’t think of a better way to go out than at Hayward Field for his last ever race in a Duck uniform.

“This is why they call it Track Town USA,” Rupp said. “People were hanging around for a 10k award ceremony at 9 o’clock at night. Most places, as soon as the race is over, people are out of there. This has been so fun for me to be part of this rejuvenation of Oregon track and field. It is special to be a part of – it’s hard to put into words.”

Rupp beat out Nike team runner Dathan Ritzenhein, who also qualified for Worlds, by six seconds to claim the US title. Oregon runner Luke Puskedra also participated in the race, but he finished well in back of the front with a time of 29:11.

Rupp’s finish wasn’t the only bright spot for Oregon track and field. NCAA decathlon champion Ashton Eaton also made a splash by placing second in the decathlon on Friday with 8,075 points. He finished just behind Trey Hardee of Nike, who had 8,261 points. Jake Arnold of Asics finished third to also make it to the World Championships.

“There were some things I wasn’t happy with, but overall the only thing that matters is you’re top three, and that’s what I got,” Eaton said. “It’s going to be sweet. This will be the biggest meet I’ve ever been in. I know it’s going to be a long season for me, but I’m looking forward to the experience.”

Eaton won the long jump on the first day of the competition with a jump of 24.9 feet and he placed second in high jump, 100 and 400 meters and the 110 meter hurdles.

The state of Oregon also made a big splash in the 5,000 meters. Three Oregon Track Club Elite runners swept the qualifying by going one-two-three. Matt Tegenkamp placed first with a time of 13:20.57, and he was closely followed by teammate Chris Solinsky with a time of 13:20.82. Evan Jager was a distant third in 13:22.18.

Tegenkamp, who struggled through much of last year, said he tried to stay out of the middle of the pack so he wouldn’t get boxed in.

“In a championship race you have to respond to what happens,” he said. “Sometimes that means sitting back and waiting to make your move. It came down to needing to close in 53 seconds to win. If I needed to close faster than 53 then I would have done it.”

Outside of the long distance races that Oregonians dominated, a big story of the championships was Tyson Gay. Gay, who owns the fastest time by an American in the 100 meters with 9.77 seconds, did not run in the finals of the event, although he won his first-round heat in record time.

He won the heat in a wind-aided 9.75 – which means it doesn’t count as a new record – to easily qualify for the finals, but Gay had an automatic qualifying time for the World Championships. That meant he didn’t need to run again, and he opted to shut it down to prevent an injury before August.

“I knew it was wind-aided, so it wasn’t going to get in the books,” Gay said. “At the same time, I got to know that I am able to turn over that fast. I’ll be able to do that when I execute.

“This has been the plan for a month or so. I’m just trying to stay healthy and get ready for the world championships.”

In the finals of the 100, Michael Rodgers won with a time of 9.91 seconds to beat out runner-up Darvis Patton by 0.01 seconds. Monzavous Edwards was third in 10 seconds.

In the 400 meters, 2008 Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt defended his crown with a 44.50 sprint that matched his already world’s-best time from earlier this year. Merritt has yet to lose a race this year.

Gil Roberts of Texas Tech was second at 44.93 and 2008 Olympic silver medalist Kerron Clement was third with a run of 45.14.

The final day of the championships was also a busy one for the men, with six finals up for grabs. The high jump, shot put, 400-meter hurdles, 800, 1500 and 200 meters all finished up and the final roster for the USA team was set.

The day started off with a little bit of a disappointment in the high jump. Reigning Trials champion and Eugene resident Jesse Williams placed fourth after tying with two other jumpers. They all cleared 7-05.75 feet, but Williams was dropped to fourth because he missed more times.

Tora Harris of Asics won after clearing 7-07 feet. He was the only one to do so. Andra Manson of Nike placed second, followed by Keith Moffatt.

Three Oregon runners competed in the 1,500-meter finals. Oregon TC Elite members Stephen Pifer and William Leer placed fourth and fifth, respectively, and Oregon Duck Jordan McNamara placed tenth with a time of 3:46.08.

One more Oregonian made the USA team. Nick Symmonds, last year’s 800-meter champion, defended his crown with a time of 1:45.86. He beat out second-place finisher Khadevis Robinson, who ran a 1:45.97. Ryan Brown of Asics finished third in 1:46.

The 200 meters wrapped up the festivities. Shawn Crawford, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist and 2008 silver medalist, broke his personal best with a 19.73 time. Charles Clark finished in second in 20 seconds flat, and Wallace Spearmon came in third in 20.03 seconds.

“I feel like I’m blessed,” Crawford said. “I still wake up every morning and go to practice. For me to still be able to come out here to these championships and run around with these younger guys, I just feel blessed. At my age, I know a lot of people that I came into the sport with are gone; they’re not in it any more. So I just feel blessed to still be able to beat some younger guys.”

Next up for the athletes of the newly formed USA team is a long summer of training to get ready for the IAAF World Championships in Berlin starting on Aug. 15.

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