PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Galen Rupp's American record in the 10,000 meters is both the culmination of a successful year and a jumping off point for his bid for the London Olympics.
Rupp, considered one of America's best hopes for an Olympic medal in a distance that has been dominated for the past two decades by Ethiopians and Kenyans, set the American record in the 10,000 meters in 26 minutes, 48 seconds, at the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels last Friday.
He came in third behind Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, who ran a season-best 26:43.16. Bekele took the lead from Kenyan Lucas Rotich with a lap to go.
During the race, Rupp tried not to pay attention to the times.
"I really tried to put it out of my head. Toward the end, I think, with about 600 meters to go, I saw what the time was. At that point I was able to kind of figure out that I was on pace to do something special."
Rupp's time surpassed Chris Solinsky's American record set last year by a full 11 seconds.
Rupp, a Portland native who ran track at Oregon, has steadily improved since the Beijing Olympics. His new record is a full 22 seconds faster than his previous personal best, set last year.
He credits his training partner, Mo Farah of Great Britain, for his success this season. The two were brought together this past year under coach Alberto Salazar, three-time winner of the New York City Marathon. Salazar runs Nike's Oregon Project, a stable of elite runners.
Farah won the 5,000 meters and placed second in the 10,000 meters at the world championships this summer in Daegu, South Korea.
"I'm there at the end of races now. Two years ago it was hang on as long as you can. Now is the fun part where I'm going to be there at the end," Rupp said. "It's a matter of getting that last lap and last mile down. ... I'm close to making that big jump. I think I have the pieces in place to do something well."
Rupp was discovered by Salazar at Portland's Central Catholic High School in 2000. A soccer player, Rupp was persuaded by Salazar to give track a try.
He excelled from the start, breaking U.S. junior records in the 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
There was no surprise when Rupp decided to run for the Ducks. Salazar is an Oregon alum and Nike co-founder Phil Knight also ran track at Oregon and is one of the school's most prominent boosters.
Oregon was also the alma mater of Rupp's hero, Steve Prefontaine. Pre, as he was known, was a charismatic and talented runner for the Ducks who competed in the Munich Olympics before his tragic death in a car accident at age 24.
Rupp took time away from the Ducks in 2008 to train with Salazar for a shot at the Beijing Games. At the trials that summer at Oregon's Hayward Field, he earned a spot on the U.S. team with a second-place finish to Abdi Abdirahman in the 10,000 meters.
In Beijing, Rupp came in 13th as the top non-African finisher of the race.
Rupp returned to Eugene and won an unprecedented six national titles his senior season. He has since collected three straight U.S. championship titles in the 10,000 meters, his most recent coming at Oregon's historic Hayward Field.
Next year he'll be back in the city known as Track Town USA for the U.S. Olympic trials. A top-three finish would earn him a trip to London, where there's a good possibility he'll face his training partner and Bekele.
But before he starts working toward that goal, he's taking a break for a couple of weeks in his hometown.
"I've got high goals and high expectations for myself," he said. "We just try to get better every year and look at it like that. I don't really think you can look at things really long term and get caught up in that."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.