BY: ALEX ASHLOCK
Pre would be proud, and maybe a little pissed off. Last night at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, Galen Rupp broke Steve Prefontaine’s Olympic Trials record with an incredible sprint to the finish in the 5,000-meters. Rupp’s time was 13:22.67 seconds. Prefontaine’s record time, the oldest track and field Olympic trials record on the books was 13:22.8.
Rupp, like Prefontaine, went to the University of Oregon, so he was running on his home turf last night and he ran a blistering last lap of 52.54, nipping Bernard Lagat at the finish. Lagat, and Lopez Lomong, now an American citizen but once one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, was third to complete the American 5K team that will run in London in August. Rupp also won the 10,000-meters at the trials and he will be the first American distance runner to double in the 5k and 10K at the Olympic Games in 60 years. Coached by the legendary marathon runner Alberto Salazar,it looks like he’s ready. Maybe someone should bust out a “Stop Rupp” t-shirt like those old “Stop Pre” shirts.
Steve Prefontaine set his record on July 9, 1972 at the trials in Eugene, running as he said in front of “his people.” Pre was 21. His main challenger was 34-year-old George Young, a tough, experienced middle distance runner. Pre ran as he usually did, hard and fast and halfway through the race he started to break the field, all except for Young, who remained on his shoulder. Pre kept pounding and Young was finally broken. It was classic Pre. Gutsy and cocky. He took that cockiness to the Olympics in Munich where he boasted he would run world record pace and then pick it up even faster. He tried but he faded and finished 4th, just missing a medal. Steve Prefontaine never ran another Olympic race. He died in a car crash in 1975.
So it would be really special to see a fellow Oregon Duck named Galen Rupp pick up that medal that Pre never won. The Olympic final in the 5,000 is set for 7:30 pm London time on Saturday, August 11, the next to last day of the Olympics.