Lopez Lomong en route to the US 10,000m title in Des Moines (© Kirby Lee)
The time, 27:30.06, won’t threaten any of the world’s top 10,000m runners. Lopez Lomong is merely 17th on the 2019 world list.
But considering he ran his closing 400 metres in 55.59 and has one of the biggest ranges in athletics history, the 34-year-old Lomong will be a threat ahead of the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.
Few have ever run 1:45 for 800m plus 27:30 for 10,000m, as Lomong has. The only other American to do so was Alan Webb. Lomong's other PBs include 3:32.20 for 1500m, 3:51.45 for a mile and 13:07.95 for 5000m.
“That’s amazing. I didn’t think about,” he said Thursday night after successfully defending his 10,000m title at the USA Championships at Des Moines, Iowa. “It’s something I celebrate about. I just put my head down.
“In the World Championships, we’ll see what I can do. I’ll go back to the drawing board and see how I can go back and be competitive.”
Lomong, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, immigrated to the United States at 16 and became a citizen in 2007. He made the US Olympic team in 2008 in the 1500m and carried the flag at the opening ceremony. He was 10th in the 5000m at the 2012 Olympics but had not made a US team since 2013 because of a series of injuries.
Lomong dropped his previous PB in the 10,000m by nearly 50 seconds from 28:21.37 at Stanford last year. It was his debut at the distance.
“It was terrible. I finished second, and I was like, ‘Forget it. I don’t want to do it any more," he said.
He reconsidered, and won the national title in 28:58.38. Shadrack Kipchirchir was not going to allow another tactical race such as that one.
Kipchirchir towed the field through 2000 metres in 5:30 and 5000m in about 13:45. He said his goal was to finish 27:30, even with a light rain and 82 percent humidity.
“I was like, ‘Whoever wins has to run. I just went and pushed it,” he said.
Kipchirchir, whose PB is 27:07.55, was within a second of Lomong after 24 laps. But the winner picked up 17 seconds on the final lap, in which Kipchirchir ran 72 seconds for a time of 27:47.71. It was the fourth successive runner-up finish for Kipchirchir at the national championships.
Leonard Korir was third in 28:01.43 to claim the third Doha spot. The top three all have met the World Championships standard.
Of the 16 runners ahead of Lomong on the world list, 13 came from the July 17 race at Hengelo, 10 of them Ethiopians. Lomong became No. 14 on the all-time U.S. list, just behind Craig Virgin, who prefaced his 27:29.16 in 1980 by winning the IAAF world cross country title.
Lomong called himself the “grandpa” of the Bowerman Track Club in Portland, Oregon, and said the “young energy” of teammates fuels him.
“I love running. I love to prepare and try to wear that USA on my chest and represent my nation the best I can,” he said. “That’s what motivates me, the people, the American people cheering me. That’s why I keep putting my shoes on and going for it.”
Fifth straight 10,000m title for Huddle
Another veteran, 34-year-old Molly Huddle, scored a fifth successive victory in the women’s 10,000m. She ran the last mile in 4:44 and second 5000 in 15:20 for a time of 31:58.47.
Huddle will attempt to reach the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the marathon but said she loves the track.
“Once you do a marathon, you really feel you can do anything,” she said. “I’m getting older in my career, and every World Championships team is a blessing. I never take them for granted.”
Emily Sisson was second in 32:02.19 and Kellyn Taylor third in 32:02.74. Marielle Hall was fifth in 32:14.41 but claimed the third Doha team spot because she has met the standard.
In first race since childbirth, Felix advances
In her first race in 13 months, Allyson Felix was fourth in a heat of the 400m in 52.20 and advanced to the semifinals. She gave birth to daughter Camryn in an emergency Caesarean section on November.
Winner of her heat, in 51.14, was Lynna Irby, 20. Irby was five years old when Felix won her first Olympic medal in 2004.
“I felt rusty, which was to be expected,” Felix said. “I’ve known for a while that I was going to run in the championships . . . it was always my goal. It was just a matter of what type of form I would be in, and it’s not up to my standard.
“I’ve been at this a long time, so it’s always nice to feel the support of the crowd.”
Felix turns 34 on 18 November. She is already the oldest Olympic women’s 400m medalist in history.
Defending champion Shakima Wimbley had the fastest time, 50.87.
Orji notches fourth straight triple jump title
Keturah Orji became the first women to win four successive US titles in the triple jump, leaping 14.56m in the first round. National record-holder Tori Franklin was second with 14.36m.
Sam Matthis also won with a first-round attempt, throwing the discus 66.69m. Brian Williams was second at 65.76m. Mason Finley, bronze medallist at the 2017 worlds, was seventh at 61.05m.
Ariana Ince climbed out of seventh place with a fifth-round javelin throw of 61.06m to upset Kara Winger, an eight-time US champion and national record-holder. Winger, second at 59.73m, has finished in the top three every year since 2008.
Justin Gatlin was second in his heat of the 100m in 10.16 (-0.8). He does not have to run in the semifinals because he has a bye for Doha as defending champion. “I don’t care how big of an athlete you are, you always have first-round jitters,” he said. World leader Christian Coleman coasted to victory in his heat in 10.29 (-1.6).
Two streaks were preserved. Michael Norman won his 15th straight race at 400, clocking 44.81 in the opening round. Bryce Hoppel is 21-0 in the 800m this year, taking his heat in 1:47.65.
In tribute, USA Track & Field honored Gabe Grunewald by leaving flowers in lane 1 at the start of 1500m heats. She died on 11 June from cancer.
Roy Jordan for the IAAF