Track and Field — Top US Men gun for Outdoor National Titles

EUGENE – Bernard Lagat, Nick Symmonds and Galen Rupp will headline the men’s middle and long distance running events at the 2009 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, June 25-28 at historic Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene.

The USA Championships will feature the nation’s finest professional track and field athletes competing for national honors and spots on the Team USA roster for the 2009 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Berlin, Germany. The World Championships will be held at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Stadium, where National Track & Field Hall of Famer and American icon Jesse Owens won gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump.

800m
At the 2008 Olympic Trials at Hayward Field, Nick Symmonds, Andrew Wheating, Christian Smith and Khadevis Robinson staged a race for the ages during the 800m final that created a roar whose echoes can still be heard in Eugene.

Recognized as one of the favorites to win the race, Symmonds, a Eugene-area resident, assumed command down the final straightaway of the last lap to win the race convincingly, with University of Oregon star Andrew Wheating finishing as the runner-up. Shortly thereafter they were joined on the Team USA roster for Beijing by fellow Eugene fan favorite and then Oregon Track Club member Christian Smith, who dove across the finish line just ahead of 2004 Olympian Khadevis Robinson for the third and final spot on the Team USA Olympic roster, which sent the sold-out partisan crowd into hysterics. Smith’s time of 1:45.47 bettered the Olympic A qualifying standard, which officially punched his ticket to Beijing.

Symmonds, Wheating, Smith and Robinson are all expected to meet again on the fabled Hayward Field track, with Robinson posting the fastest time by an American this outdoor season of 1 minute, 45.67 seconds in Kingston, Jamaica on May 2. Expected challengers include Duane Solomon, who finished sixth at the 2008 Olympic Trials, 2004 Olympian and NCAA champion Jonathan Johnson and Olympic Trials seventh-place finisher Jebreh Harris.

1500m
Reigning world 1,500m & 5,000m champion Bernard Lagat must compete in at least one event in Eugene in order to compete in both events at the World Outdoor Championships in Berlin. He is currently entered in the 800m and 5,000m.

If Lagat chooses to skip the 1,500m, his fellow 2008 Team USA Olympic teammate Leonel Manzano will assume the favorite’s role. The 2008 NCAA 1,500m champion and a competitor at the 2007 World Outdoor Championships in Osaka, Japan, Manzano posted the fastest 1,500m time by an American this outdoor season with his personal best time of 3:34.14 at the May 30 Reebok Grand Prix in New York City.

Other expected challengers include 2008 Olympic delegation flag bearer and 2008 Olympic Trials third-place finisher Lopez Lomong and U.S. record holder, three-time USA Outdoor champion and 2004 Olympian Alan Webb, who will be attempting to qualify for his third U.S. World Outdoor Championships team. Additional contenders include 2008 Olympic Trials finalists Jon Rankin, Said Ahmed, Andy McClary, Chris Lukezic and Rob Myers.

3,000m Steeplechase
In 2008, two-time World Outdoor Championships team member Anthony Famiglietti rode his aggressive style to a win at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, a place in the steeplechase finals in Beijing and his rightful place atop the annual U.S. rankings by Track & Field News.

Famiglietti will be challenged in Eugene by his Beijing Olympic teammates, Billy Nelson, the 2003 U.S. Junior 5,000m champion and former University of Colorado standout, who placed second at the Olympic Trials and ended the 2008 campaign ranked #2 in the U.S. Also keep an eye on Olympic Trials third place finisher Josh McAdams, who was the 2007 USA Outdoor champion, who later that summer won the gold medal at the Pan American Games.

Eugene fan favorite Ben Bruce of the Oregon Track Club, who posted the fastest time by an American this season of 8:26:08 in winning the Payton Jordan Classic on May 2 in Palo Alto, Calif., is considered a strong challenger, along with Jake Morse, who finished fourth at the 2008 Olympic Trials and is ranked #4 in the U.S. 2008 NCAA champion Kyle Alcorn, who began his collegiate career at Oregon and finished at Arizona State, could also challenge the favorites.

5,000m
Reigning world champion Bernard Lagat is entered in the 5,000 meters, and will be a heavy favorite to win if he chooses to compete. Lagat, who posted the fastest time by an American this outdoor season of 13 minutes 3.06 seconds at the Reebok Grand Prix last month in New York, is slated to go up against 2008 Olympic finalist Matt Tegenkamp, who placed fourth in the 5,000m final at the 2007 World Outdoor Championships in Osaka, Japan.

Others to watch include 2008 Olympian Ian Dobson, who finished third at the 2008 Olympic Trials, Bolota Asmerom, who placed fourth at the Trials and two-time NCAA Outdoor champion and Olympic Trials fifth-place finisher Chris Solinsky. Also look for 2008 Olympic Trials 3,000m steeplechase winner Anthony Famiglietti, who posted the second-fastest qualifying time in the field of 13:17.98 on April 17 in Walnut, Calif.

10,000m
Look for the men’s 10,000m to be a very competitive race with the favorites being the top three finishers from the 2008 Olympic Trials, Abdi Abdirahman, Galen Rupp and Jorge Torres.

A three-time Olympian and three-time national 10,000m champion, Abdi Abdirahman will attempt to make a U.S. World Outdoor Championships roster for the fourth time in his career. Abdirahman, who’s best finish at a Worlds was in 2007 when he placed seventh in Osaka, will do battle with Eugene fan favorite Galen Rupp, who recently ended his University of Oregon collegiate career by winning the 5,000m and 10,000m at the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.

Others to watch include 2008 Olympic marathoner Dathan Ritzenhein, who finished eighth in the 10,000m at the 2008 Olympic Trials. Additional contenders include 2008 Olympic Trials third-place finisher Jorge Torres, who won this event at the 2006 Championships in Indianapolis. Olympic Trials fourth-place finisher Ed Moran will be in the mix along with Josh Rohatinsky, who placed fifth in the 10,000m at the 2008 Olympic Trials and ninth at the Olympic Trials Marathon. 2000 Olympian Adam Goucher will attempt to make his fourth World Outdoor Championships team roster.

20 km Race Walk
Two-time Olympian Tim Seaman, who won his 36th career national race walk title earlier this year at the USA 10 km Championships in Albany, N.Y., will be in search of his sixth U.S. 20 km crown, and his first since 2005.

Seaman, who will be looking to qualify for his fifth U.S. World Outdoor Championships team, will face, among others, 2008 Olympic Trials third-place finisher Patrick Stroupe, 2004 Olympian John Nunn and Ben Shorey, who placed second at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials – 50 km Race Walk, and ended that year ranked #2 nationally in that event.

Source: USATF
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