Stanford, May 01—Chris Solinsky came into his first track 10,000 at the Payton Jordan/Cardinal Invitational with the idea it would be “a glorified tempo run” to “jump start” his seasonal 5K mission of running “under 13:00 on U.S. soil” at the Pre meet in July.
As it turned out, he broke the American Record with a 26:59.60 run that was the first sub-27:00 race by a runner not born in Africa.
Solinsky slid under Meb Keflezighi’s old AR—27:13.98 set in this same meet in ’01—by more than 14 seconds.
It was the largest lowering of the AR since Billy Mills ran 28:24.4 at the ’64 Olympics to lower Max Truex’s mark by 25.8 seconds.
Solinsky seemed as stunned as anyone by his accomplishment in a race billed from the start as an AR attempt by fellow Nike Oregon Project star Galen Rupp.
Rupp, too, outpaced the old AR, clocking 27:10.74 in 4th behind Solinsky, little known Kenyan 10K debutante Daniel Salel (27:07.85) and Liberty junior Sam Chelanga, whose 27:08.39 time destroyed the Collegiate Record he set just over a year ago [Ed: In 2020 Chelanga published a memoir about his life journey so far].
In a race full of surprises, Solinsky was among the more flabbergasted.
“We’re going to go to Oslo and do a 5K in June and we wanted to see where we were,” he said. “It’s an indication I’m in pretty good shape, I guess.”
Solinsky took the lead with 900m to go, laid down a 60-flat circuit on lap 24 and closed in 56.1 for a 1:56.1 last 800 and a 13:24.1 second half.
With the final choice of Stanford over Eugene for Rupp’s American Record shot made just 36 hours before the 9:45 p.m. start, Rupp’s coach, Alberto Salazar, had arranged for two Kenyan rabbits to knock out an evenly paced first half of 13:37.
Even-pace racing at that tempo can be easier said than done, and it wasn’t until lap 11, covered by Rupp in 63.9, that the racers locked into AR schedule.
Rupp’s 13:34.7 halfway split—if he could duplicate it coming home—promised to slice more than 4 seconds from Keflezighi’s mark. But with rabbit Simon Ndirangu toiling in front of him, Rupp still had four runners lined up in tow: Chelanga, Salel, Solinsky and Oregon Project Canadian Simon Bairu.
Solinsky was yet uncertain about how his debut would end. Before the race, he revealed afterwards, “I said kind of jokingly to [coach Jerry Schumacher], ‘I think I can anywhere from 26:55 to 28:00.
“We came through 5K and I think I was like 13:35. I was like, ‘Omigod.’ And I got a stitch between 3 and 4 miles.
“I thought, ‘I can drop out. This is my debut.’ But then every lap it was, ‘OK, one more lap, one more lap,’ and it totally went away. Once it went away I got a huge shot of adrenaline and that carried me the rest of the way.”
After 16 laps, with the pace now teetering just slightly ahead of record speed, Rupp surged past Ndirangu.
Rupp covered laps 17–19 in 64.2, 64.7 and 65.9 before the first slight inkling arose that he might not win this thing. Lap 20, to 2K to run, went in 66.0, and by the time Rupp finished lap 22 in 66.8, a finish under Keflezighi’s AR was again in doubt. Only Bairu had dropped from contact with the lead group.
On the next backstretch, Solinsky, now certain he would finish the race, looked to Schumacher standing at trackside.
“He gave me the signal to go,” Solinsky said, “and when he did that I felt good enough that I said, ‘All right, I’m going to take it and see what I can do.’ As soon as I went I was like, ‘OK, let’s see if we can get 27-minutes.’”
Striding open a gap on the next homestretch, the imposing Wisconsin native suddenly looked like a sprinter—a sprinter running solo at that. The impression was only heightened as he split 27.4 and 12.1 for his last 200 and 100, despite having no one to outkick.
“My teammates said if I run under 27:20 I’m a 10K guy,” he said afterwards, “but nope, I’m still a 5K guy; I’m just dabbling.”
Cardinal’s other highlight, the women’s 5K, also featured a runner moving up in distance and winning with a kick.
Miler Shannon Rowbury trailed 5K AR holder Shalane Flanagan by 6.5 seconds with two laps to, but then Rowbury hit the gas. Running her last lap in 67.2 and final 200 in 32.7, she passed Flanagan in the final turn and shot down the homestretch to win by 20m in 15:00.51, a new PR and right on Rowbury’s aim of averaging “72s” for each lap.