American track and road superstars Evan Jager and Galen Rupp decided to run the U.S. cross country championships this afternoon in Tallahassee for the first time ever, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Rupp had only run once cross country race (in 2011) since winning an NCAA title in 2008, while Jager hadn’t raced on grass since his senior year of high school in 2006. (The reason for their lengthy hiatuses makes perfect sense: as Jager’s coach said, “You don’t drive your Ferrari on the grass.”)
The rare matchup—they’ve only raced each other twice, and neither were a factor in those two races—lived up to the hype, as both mixed it up in the front pack and Rupp made the race’s defining move, 24 minutes in.
But U.S. Army athlete Leonard Korir tracked that move and followed Rupp up a hill for a minute. After the duo settled in for maybe a minute after that, Rupp tried to throw one more hard move in against Korir right before the 9K mark. Korir covered it easily and then crushed the Chicago Marathon champion and two-time Olympic medalist over the final half mile.
Korir covered the 10K course in 29:16, a second ahead of Rupp. Stanley Kebenei, who trains with Korir under coach Scott Simmons, finished third, picking off Jager by a tenth of a second.
It’s the second straight cross country national title for Korir, who is having a serious late-career resurgence. (Despite a commentator on today’s broadcast saying that Rupp is “getting up there in years” and Korir is “the new kid on the block,” both were born in 1986.) He started last year with a U.S. cross country title and a 20th-place finish at the world championships, and finished it with a 59:52 half marathon—one of the fastest performances in American history. He appears to be just as fit in 2018, and with no cross country or outdoor track world championships this year, it’s a good year to run fast as hell.