The last two seasons have been atypical for the once unbeatable Lalang. Coming off an impressive 3000m/5000m double at NCAA Indoors last year, Lalang was building his case for the “greatest of all-time” argument. Then as the snow thawed and banked tracks became full 400m ovals, Lalang started to show cracks in his once impenetrable armor.
Despite coming off superb form, Lalang had to settle for third in the 5000m and eleventh in the 1500m at NCAA outdoors. Arizona’s coach James Li admitted that he was just tired. A little rest and reassessment and he’d be back to his winning ways?
A return to grass and hills of country boded well for Lalang. He had never lost a race in cross country and entered nationals as a heavy favorite. However, the always smiling force of Texas Tech’s Kennedy Kithuka strung out the Arizona duo of Lalang and Stephen Sambu en route to one of the fastest championship races of all-time.
Although he took third, Lalang was a shell of his former indomitable self. Initially, his competitors only thought that they could beat Lalang. Now, they knew that they could do it.
Since talent just doesn’t go away, something needed to be adjusted. This indoor season, coach Li had Lalang running shorter races to improve on his speed endurance. These races coupled with high intensity long runs (below) produced a near collegiate record in the mile (3:54.56) and the Arizona school record at 3000m (7:42.49).
Just ran (on my bike) with Lawi for 14 miles in 71:45!Average 5:07/mile. Never seen anything like it in practice!— James Li (@CoachLi) February 26, 2013
Both runs stood alone. If he could break either mark at NCAAs, we would have been impressed. But what would have convinced everyone that the king was back?
Run one of the most incredible doubles of all-time in under two hours.
Saturday night, Lalang added the mile (3:54.74) and 3000m (7:45.94) NCAA meet records to his collection that already included 5000m MR (13:25.11).
Two hours, two wins, two records.
Edit: Lalang also ran the semifinal of the mile (3:58.52)
Before this weekend, only five men in NCAA history have been able to accomplish this near impossible double. The last one to do it was Washington State’s Bernard Lagat, who ran 3:55.65 and 7:54.92 back at the 1999 indoor championships.
|Year||Name||Mile||2-mile / 3000m|
|1968||Jim Ryun, Kansas||4:06.8||8:38.9*|
|1971||Marty Liquori, Villanova||4:04.7||8:37.1*|
|1979||Suleiman Nyambui, UTEP||3:57.89||8:37.87|
|1980||Suleiman Nyambui, UTEP||4:05.26||8:36.82|
|1982||Suleiman Nyambui, UTEP||4:00.65||8:38.91|
|1988||Joe Falcon, Arkansas||3:59.78||7:55.80|
|1999||Bernard Lagat, WSU||3:55.65||7:54.92|
So where does Lalang’s double stack up against some of the legendary doubles in recent memory?
There may not be a double that compares, so let’s step it up a notch and compare it to a triple from not too long ago.
Back in 2009, Galen Rupp won the indoor triple crown of the 5000m, DMR, and 3000m for the Oregon Ducks. Try to imagine Rupp not as the American record holder and Olympic silver medalist, but a senior who had never won an NCAA track title or could barely break four minutes in the mile.
He was dominant from the start. In the 5000m, we saw Rupp destroy Liberty’s Sam Chelanga and Arkansas’ Shawn Forrest. Not just beat, but tactically dismantle that year’s top two collegiate distance runners.
Rupp’s final 800m (1:55.28) saw him put 3-seconds on Chelanga and Forrest to take his first title. Rupp eased off the pedal in the final meters as he was saving himself for more fun.
Full 5000m splits
Last 800m (splits)
Then about an hour-and-a-half later, Rupp came back to anchor Oregon’s DMR. Rupp, who was said to have no speed, anchored in 3:57.08 for the win. Even coach Vin Lananna was against the double, but Rupp sold it to his coach.
To think that this soon became that...
"... No one is going to beat [Galen] this year..." A.J. Acosta, the greatest hype man in track and field history.
Full DMR splits
For an encore performance, Rupp came back the next day a man possessed. Going into the men’s 3000m, he was the favorite on paper, but he was also coming off the tough double. With Cal’s Michael Coe, Stanford’s Elliot Heath and Chris Derrick (both freshmen at the time), and Minnesota’s Hassan Mead in the field, who would be the one to push Rupp?
Rupp didn’t even give anyone else the opportunity as he set off on a near suicidal pace. The soon-to-be winner of the indoor treble went through quick opening splits of 61.01(400m), 2:02.70 (800m), and 4:08.09 (1600m). One would think that this pace would be too hot for tiring Duck, but he maintained a consistent string of 31.x laps until the last 400m, where he dropped a 30.86 and 32.42.
He picked up the pace, knew he was clear of the field, and eased away for the win.
If you thought the front running from this past weekend was a sight to see, then you may have forgotten the results of this 3000m. Rupp’s winning time of 7:48.94 was a good 6-seconds clear of Coe’s second place finish of 7:54.42.
Full 3000m splits
No one went with him. Did his new reputation precede him? Did Lalang’s reputation also precede him this weekend when no one went with him in the mile?
This is where we can finally get into the juicy subjective debate. Which NCAA indoor performance is better: Lalang’s double or Rupp’s triple?
Originally, we only had two options in our poll (below), but Ryan Fenton brought up a good point: What about last year’s double?
In 2012, Lalang took home individual titles in both the 3000m (7:46.64) and 5000m (13:25.11) over arguably the greatest to never win an NCAA title, Stanford’s Chris Derrick.
Also consider that some athletes tried similar doubles this weekend.
Texas Tech’s Kennedy Kithuka won the 5000m, but was back in eighth in the 3000m (7:56.28). NC State's Ryan Hill narrowly took second to Lalang in the mile, but finished back in eleventh in the 3000m (8:00.44).
Then there's NAU's Diego Estrada, who had the highest cumulative finish out out of this group with a second in the 5000m (13:30.24) and fourth in the 3000m (7:49.53).
Lalang was not without meet records. His winning time in the 3000m just missed Adam Goucher’s meet record of 7:46.03 (which he broke this year) while his finish in the 5000m broke Leonard Korir’s (Iona) previous record of 13:26.01.
Is having to run against Derrick twice is more difficult than fending off NC State’s Ryan Hill and Northeastern’s Eric Jenkins?
We’ll argue that since Derrick pushed Lalang all the way to the line in both races, last year was tougher. Remember, Derrick took the lead in the 5000m and made Lalang earn the win. This year, Lalang ran smart, but he didn’t have any creeping fear that someone was going to beat him.
This was a return to form; there were no cracks in the armor.
You make the call. Is it Lalang’s two meet records, Rupp’s relentless triple, or Lalang’s competitive double from last year?
Updated on May 17, 2013, 3:51pm