Galen Rupp’s road to becoming an Olympic Silver medalist began on a crisp Oregon afternoon. An inauspicious exchange between a young high school harrier and long distance legend, Alberto Salazar; just one of the countless interactions the coach receives at any meet. But, this one turned out markedly different from the rest. The story is yet, still unfolding.
Showing talent even as a high school freshman, Rupp began running under the tutelage of Salazar for Central Catholic High School, wracking up the titles and records by the time he was a senior. He was the Oregon cross-country champion (2002 and 2003), runner-up at the Foot Locker Cross-Country National Championships (2003), Oregon State Track Champion for 1500m (2004) and 3000m (2003 and 2003). The records also fell: Oregon State HS Record for 1500m and mile, National High School Record for 3,000m, and capped off his 2004 season with a 13:37.91 for 5000m, effectually lowering the National High School Record for the event. One which had stood for 40 years, held previously by Gerry Lindgren.
Following in the footsteps of his coach and mentor, Rupp went on to run for the University of Oregon with the mission to bring the Ducks back to the running powerhouse they were during the time of Prefontaine, Chapa, and Salazar himself. Mission completed as Rupp became a 14-time All-American, 2008 NCAA Cross-Country Individual Champion and spearheading an NCAA Cross Country Championship Team title for both 2007 and 2008. Indoors, Rupp was the 2009 NCAA Indoor Champion for both the 3,000m and 5,000m, also running as a member of the distance medley relay; the culmination of which saw the Ducks claim their first NCAA Indoor Team Championship title. That same year he went on to win NCAA Outdoor Track titles for both the 5,000m and 10,000m events. Within that time, one clearly recognizes that 2008 was an Olympic year. For which, Rupp raced in front of a home crowd to second place for the 10,000m (27:43:11), thus earning his first berth on to the Olympics.
The Beijing Games, for which Rupp placed 13th, saw him set an American Olympic-record (27:36.99) and only whet his appetite for more; both he and Salazar professed much greater was in store. Upon graduating the University of Oregon in 2010, Rupp signed with Nike and continued his journey with Salazar. By this point the two were just as much athlete-coach, prodigy-mentor, and son-to-father.
Stepping out of the Duck uniform, UO once again a running power-house, Rupp’s focus turned to resurrecting the United States’ distance running on the International Circuit. The momentum built: fifth place at the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Champions for 3,000m precluded his second USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships win in the 10,000m (2009-2010). He followed up the same at the 2011 USA Outdoor Championships, later finishing 7th for 10,000m at the 2011 World Championships. By the end of summer he had claimed the American record for the event, 26:48.00, and etched his name on the list for the fastest 10k racer ever, with 16th. ”Getting there,” both Rupp and Salazar thought.
Focus turned to another Olympic year and Rupp stole the show with first place finishes in both the 5,000m and 10,000m at the USA Olympic Trials. Lining up for the London finals, Rupp and Salazar knew something special could happen, but what unfolded still came as a shock to the rest of the watching world. Closing in a jaw-dropping 53.8 final lap, Rupp earned a Silver Medal for the United States. It was a special night as Rupp stood atop the podium, as podium status in the 10k hadn’t transpired since Billy Mills’s Gold in 1964. Doubling back for the Olympic 5,000m, Rupp finished seventh, by then anything icing on the cake.
2013 is still under way, but at time of publication, Rupp took down the 3,000m US Indoor Record with 7:30.16.
None would have foretold that such a remarkable story began on one of the countless crisp Oregon afternoons. But still, their story is still unfolding.
In 2014 Galen shattered his own 10K American Record running 26:44.36 at the Prefontaine Classic.
800 – 1:50.00
1500m – 3:34.15
Mile – 3:50.92 (i)
3,000m – 7:30.16 (i)
5,000m – 12:58.90
10,000m – 26.44.36