Galen Rupp and Mo Farah approach the line in the 10,000 meters in London.
In London last month, runner Galen Rupp crossed the finish line less than half a second behind the winner, taking home an Olympic silver medal in the men’s 10,000 meters. He was the first American man to medal in the 10K since Billy Mills won gold in 1964.
It all began more than a decade ago with CYO track and field at All Saints School.
Rupp, who went on to Central Catholic with the help of an honors scholarship, ran CYO track and was a soccer player. A Central Catholic soccer coach mentioned the fleet-footed and stamina-filled boy to the school's cross-country coaches, who convinced Rupp to share time in both sports. One of the running coaches, famed marathoner Alberto Salazar, took Rupp under his wing and was even the boy's confirmation sponsor.
In 2001 as a Central Catholic sophomore now devoted to running, Rupp took sixth at state, despite being ill a few days before. As a junior, he broke the 15 minute barrier and won the state cross country title. He repeated as a senior and everyone knew he was something special. That spring, he broke the state's record in the 1,500 meters coming in at 3:49 and then set a national high school record in the 3,000 meters.
Salazar tried to give his student some perspective.
“I tell him to shoot for them but just remember that it’s in God’s hands," Salazar told the Catholic Sentinel in 2003. "That’s the whole thing about faith. Sometimes things are not meant to be.”
So far, Rupp has not had to swallow too much disappointment, though he did learn that being the best in the U.S. has not counted for much on the world stage.
In 2008, Rupp made it to the Beijing Olympics, having been a standout at the University of Oregon and having won the NCAA cross country individual title. In the 10,000 meters, he set an American record but came in 13th, a sign of the dominance of African distance runners.
He kept getting better, setting a new U.S. record in the 10,000 meters in 2011. Then, in Eugene earlier this year, he won the 10,000 in U.S. Olympic Trials and was set to go to London. There, he surpassed all of his African opponents save one, his training partner Mo Farah, a Somalian who competes for Great Britain.