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Songok's kick humbles Rupp.

Byline: Curtis Anderson The Register-Guard

SACRAMENTO - Galen Rupp said all the right things.

Moments after losing a mad dash to the finish line in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hornet Stadium on Thursday, placing second for the second time in his record-setting career, the UO junior put on a smile and stepped up to face the media.

He gave his opponent credit.

After all, it was Shadrack Songok who led the majority of the race, and it was Songok's blistering kick with about 110 meters left that reeled in Rupp. The junior from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi went on to open up a narrow lead, and sped to the upset victory in a time of 28 minutes, 55.83 seconds.

Rupp, who was heavily favored after setting the U.S. collegiate 10K record in April, finished a couple of strides back at 28:56.19.

He insisted he wasn't disappointed.

He talked about how much fun it was to compete on this stage.

And he offered up the notion that, perhaps, losing this race might be a blessing in disguise as he prepares to take on even bigger targets two weeks down the road at the USA Outdoor National Track & Field Championships in Indianapolis.

`I did the best I could today,' said Rupp, the UO record-holder at 27:33.48, which ranks seventh on the all-time U.S. list.

`Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me. But it was a good opportunity to compete again, and it was fun. That's the great thing about track and field. If you can't have fun and get excited about stuff like this, then you're in it for the wrong reasons. You can't win everything.'

The first half of the race unfolded at a plodding pace as the pack of 26 runners came through the 5,000-meter mark at 14:45.

Rupp's plan was simple: Sit back on the rail and not worry about anything until three laps to go.

`That's when I wanted to take the lead and really try to press,' he said.

At first, the strategy seemed to be working, but even though he moved to the front, Rupp could never shake Songok or Liberty's Josh McDougal. Those three staged a stirring three-way battle over the final three laps, with Songok blowing past McDougal with 150 to go, before setting his sights on Rupp.

`I've been building my kick all the time,' Songok said. `I felt like I had it with less than 100 to go.'

Rupp did his best to fight off Songok's charge, but once his challenger got past him on the last turn, and then moved back to the inside, he couldn't respond.

`I definitely tied up a little bit the last 100,' Rupp said. `But give him credit, he ran an incredible race. He did it the hard way ... who knows, this might be the best thing to happen to me. I've been on a roll, and this is definitely humbling, it makes you more aware of just how capable everyone is.'

Rupp also finished second in the 10,000 meters as a freshman at this meet.

The other Duck in the race, sophomore Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott, ran with the leaders for most of the race, and settled for a ninth-place finish at 29:13.43.

Elsewhere, in the 4x400 relay, the Ducks' unprecedented run of three consecutive berths in the final came to an end.

But they didn't go down without a fight.

With junior Marcus Dillon clocking an unofficial split of 45.4 seconds on the anchor leg, Oregon shaved a full 1 1/2 seconds off its season-best with a fifth-place time of 3:07.24 in the second of three semifinal heats.

The UO relay team, which consists of four newcomers, stood fifth after junior Phil Alexander's lead-off leg, and it held that position after successive legs from freshmen Ashton Eaton and Chad Barlow. Dillon was about 40 meters back when he got the baton, and he made a big early move to try and put the Ducks back in the race, but the deficit was too much to overcome.

`When you're in the back and you get the stick,' Dillon said. `You have to sell out, at least in the first 50 meters or so, to get yourself in the mix. I kicked early this time. We were so far back I had to do something.'

Dillon quickly moved into fourth, but the early burst took its toll and the transfer from Lane Community College got outleaned at the tape by UTEP's Elias Koech.

However, he heads into today's semifinals of the 400 with plenty of confidence.

`It's exciting to be here,' said Dillon, whose gold chain popped off his neck early in the race, and he somehow managed to snag it in midair without breaking his stride.

`Just because every school is down here, and this is my first time at the Division I level, and I know can run here. All my training comes down to now, by performing, it lets me know that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing in the past.'

Oregon didn't fare well in the 1,500 semifinals.

Junior Mike McGrath and freshman A.J. Acosta failed to reach the final as they placed eighth and ninth, respectively, in the opening heat. McGrath, a fifth-place finisher at West Regional, clocked 3:46.18, and Acosta finished at 3:46.83.

UO has two athletes in action today as senior Tommy Skipper takes aim at his third outdoor crown in the pole vault, and senior Ryan Brandel competes in the javelin finals.
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Title Annotation:Sports; Oregon junior settles for second in 10,000 when Texas A&M-Corpus Christi junior pulls all the right moves in strategic final
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 8, 2007
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