Well, they sold it as an American record attempt at 10,000 meters. Just top-billed the wrong guy. In a stunning debut in track’s longest event, former University of Wisconsin All-American Chris Solinsky shocked the field, the fans, and even himself with a sensational 26:59.60 win at the Payton Jordan Invitational 10,000, ripping 14 seconds off Meb Keflezighi’s 27:13.98 record set on the same track in 2001.
Galen Rupp, the Alberto Salazar-trained Nike star who the record attempt had been built around, ended up doing much of the second half pace work. And though he achieved his goal of dipping under Meb’s old record, his 27:10.74 clocking could only garner him fourth place as a slew of records fell in the wake of Solinksky’s shocker.
”It hasn’t sunk in yet what I ran,” a surprisingly fresh Solinsky told the gathered media that surrounded him after his historic run. “We came in hearing about Galen Rupp trying to break the record. This was a glorified tempo run. This was just an indication race to see where I was, because we are going to Oslo for a 5K (June 4th). This was my debut. No one expected it. I didn’t expect it!”
The Payton Jordan meet was selected at the last-minute by Salazar and Rupp after the weather outlook at the previous night’s Oregon Relays didn’t produce the best opportunity for a record attempt. Salazar had called around for a month hunting for pacers able to run through 7K at sub-27:13 tempo. But pacing became problematic from the gun.
Kenyan Simon Ndirangu took the pack through an uneven first mile in 4:24, but got back on pace, whirring through a 4:17 third mile, passing 5K in 13:34. After Ndirangu fell off at 4K, fellow Kenyan Matthew Kisorio, 20, towed Rupp, Kenyans Sam Chelanga and Daniel Salel, and Solinsky for two more kilometers. When Kisorio gave way, it was left to Rupp to muster the effort. Coach Salazar, himself a 27:25 man in his own heyday, encouraged his prized pupil on each lap. Rupp’s former NCAA rival Sam Chelanga, 19 year-old Daniel Sale, Canada’s Simon Bairu, and Solinsky remained in the lead group.
Mile four fell in 4:22 as Solinsky suffered through a painful stitch riding the tail of the Rupp’s string. But with a series of deep breathing exercises Solinsky managed to stave off the cramp and regather his power.
“With six laps to go the cramp went away, and adrenalin shot through my body,” explained the exhuberant Solinsky. “And it carried me the rest of the way.”
As the small crowd rose to the record assault, Solinsky took his first steps in front at the top of the stretch with 900 meters to go. Quickly he opened his advantage. He blitzed the final 800 in 1:56, his last lap fell in sixty seconds. His time makes the 25 year-old Stevens Point, Wisconsin native the fastest non-African ever over 10,000 meters, and the first non-African to break 27 minutes. Notwithstanding, he still fancies himself a 5000 meter man, and has no intention of moving up in distance.
“Everything we’ve been doing is muscle memory training with Simon (Bairu 5th in 27:23.63) and Tim (Nelson 7th in 27:31.56) who are going to New York (City Marathon) this fall. My mission all year was the American record at 5000. Prefontaine (Meet) is the apex of our season. We’ll run Oslo to get the kinks out, then go to Pre and try to run sub-13 on American soil. That’s been the goal since finding out Pre was having a 5K.”
Behind the chesty Solinsky, another debutant, Daniel Salel of Kenya, finished second in 27:07.85. Sam Chelanga broke his own collegiate record in 27:08.39 in third, with a conflicted Rupp achieving his goal of breaking the old American record in 27:10.74, but not in the manner he had hoped. But Solinsky was well aware of Rupp’s contribution.
“If not for Galen and his rabbits this wouldn’t have happened.”
Solinsky’s Oregon Track Club teammate Simon Bairu broke the Canadian record in 27:23.63 in fifth. England’s Chris Thompson, OTC, ran the third fastest 10,000m in British history in 27:29.61. Next came Tim Nelson, another of the Solinsky/Bairu teammates trained by Wisconsin transplant Jerry Schumacher. Nelson clocked in at 27:31.56.
With all eyes and expectations on Galen Rupp, Solinsky may have entered the race without any pressure, but knew he was ready for something.
“We did an 8-miler on a hilly course averaging 4:40 pace recently. That’s when Jerry (coach Jerry Schumacher) decided to have me try the 10,000. But I never chase times. I try to win races, and let the times come.”
As he rambled on to the knot of media on a cool Oregon evening, Solinsky looked fresh and refreshingly agog at his achievement as other runners in the race came over to congratulate the new record holder. Often overshadowed by his Wisconsin teammate Matt Tegenkamp, Chris Solinsky has now stepped out into his own spotlight, and the American distance revolution continues to muster its growing army. (END Runnerville story)
Galen Rupp finally achieved his 10,000m American record goal in
Brussels in 2011 when he posted a 26:48.00. He then lowered that mark in 2014 at his hometown Prefontaine Classic in Eugene to the still standing 26:44.36 clocking.
But Chris Solinsky, still just 31, had reached the peak of his career in 2010. In 2011 Chris began to be plagued by a string of setbacks following a hamstring injury. He had hoped to mount a comeback in time to compete in this year’s Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, but distance running is a cruel taskmaster, a build-upon sport that takes years to reach the heights.
Chris Solinsky knows those heights, and now can carry that knowledge forward to help the next generation discover it as well as coach at William & Mary College.
Funny how fast this sport roars through time, taking no prisoners in its relentless march. All part of what compels our attention, I’d say. Thanks for the memories, Chris!