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Vail works through crowd, places 6th

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: CLIFF VOLPE - Centennial High graduate Ryan Vail, a Brooks runner, battled harsh rains during Friday nightÄöÑ¥s 10K final at the Olympic Trials in Eugene. He finished sixth in the race, matching his spot at last yearÄöÑ¥s U.S. Nationals. EUGENE - There are 25 laps in the 10,000 meters, but it was the first one that troubled Ryan Vail. In a pack of 24 racers, the Centennial High alum was trapped in the back before the second lap. It took an exerted effort for Vail to climb positions, but he failed to qualify for the London Olympics in August.

The 26-year-old placed sixth with a time of 27:52.53, while Central Catholic grad Galen Rupp won the event, setting a new meet record of 27:25.33 at the U.S. Olympic Trials Friday at Hayward Field.

"I wish I would have put myself in a better position earlier," Vail said.

Vail climbed 16 spots over the course of the race, an exhausting task required only after dropping early toward the back of the field. After an assertive start from the group, Vail was pushed into the 22nd position by the third lap.

"I got out well right at the gun, and then people were coming in from the outside and moving in," Vail said. "I wasn't aggressive enough trying to hold my position. I kept letting myself get pushed back. It was just my own strategic fault."

Vail, who helped capture a NCAA and Big 12 championship while at Oklahoma State, wanted to stay with the lead pack, so when the field separated, he needed to make a move. Still with 15 laps to go, Vail was running hard, weaving through runners and finally reaching the tail of the front group.

"I was really hoping to be a little bit farther up form the start, but once you get that far back you don't want to make any surges," he said. "I don't want to run in lane two either. I want to make sure I remain as comfortable as possible on the rail for as long as possible. So that was kind of my goal through there.

"And then the pack started to break up, so I had to try to get on the back of the separate pack as it went along, try to get around people."

Vail, racing for Brooks, was only five seconds off the lead at the halfway mark. But heavy rains and low temperatures were making it difficult to determine how he was feeling and when to pass the other runners.

"I felt like I was pushing pretty good," Vail said. "It's hard for me to tell. I was still kind of numb and cold out there, so I wasn't quite sure when to put the hammer down. I was even a little bit conservative when I was hanging on to (Aaron Braun) and (Luke Puskedra), just wasn't quite sure when I should try to move. I think I did a good job gauging that in the end. I just think I should of put in a better effort in the beginning."

With Rupp, who Vail has raced since high school, in the lead and his laps only getting faster, Vail was falling out of contention for one of the top-three spots needed to qualify for London. He fell into the middle of the pack but was able to run away toward the end of the race and grab sixth place.

"Coming into this, the atmosphere was much more energetic for me, especially since I had higher expectations of myself," Vail said. "I kind of pulled some rookie moves out there. I had to pull myself back into the race, but other than that I was pleased. It's a good feeling to really keep myself in it and kind of dig for those last few spots."

This was a home-race for Vail, who lives in Portland, and a rare opportunity for his family to see him compete.

"It's a lot different for me because this is really the only race that I run that all my family comes down and my friends come down," he said. "The only chance they really ever get to see me race in person and it'll be the last time for quite a while. It's a little bit more personal in that regard."

Matt Tegenkamp, a member of the Oregon Track Club, and Dathan Ritzenhein, who finished second and third, will join Rupp on the U.S. 10K Olympic team.




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