EUGENE, Oregon - Former Colorado standout Dathan Ritzenhein qualified for his third trip to the Olympics here Friday night by finishing third in the 10,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Ritzenhein beat the Olympic "A" standard (27:45) with a time of 27:36.09 and punched his ticket to the London Olympics later this summer. The 10k men's race was the first final contested in the 2012 Trials, which began Thursday and conclude on Sunday, July 1.
"It has been a really emotional evening for me," Ritzenhein said. "The last couple years have been really difficult for me. It was in my best interest to train with Galen (Rupp, who also runs for Nike) and I owe him."
Running in a heavy downpour at historic Hayward Field before a crowd of 20,936, Ritzenhein led for much of the race before Rupp, the eventual winner, passed him in the 22nd lap. Rupp, a former Oregon star, won in a meet record 27:25.33 to secure his second Olympic berth.
"It was pouring rain, but it didn't matter," said Ritzenhein, whose running career was in jeopardy after undergoing a pair of surgeries to repair an Achilles' tendon injury last year. "I am ready for the next step after what I've been through. Hopefully there is more ahead but for now I am happy with this."
"Ritz" was unable to run for six months after the surgeries and spent more than a year between competitive races. But he bounced back strong Friday night. Second place went to Matt Tegenkamp, who passed Ritzenhein with one lap remaining and had a time of 27:33.94. Also competing in the 10k was former CU runner Brent Vaughn, who finished seventh in 27:55.44.
Vaughn and Ritzenhein, who are scheduled to run in Monday's 5,000 meter qualifying, are among a contingent of current and former CU athletes and two CU assistant track coaches competing here for spots on Team USA.
Current Buffs sprinter Joe Morris and former CU sprinter Jeremy Dodson are scheduled to run in the 100 meter qualifying event on Saturday afternoon. If they advance, the semifinals and finals are scheduled for Sunday.
Ritzenhein, who turned pro after competing in the 2004 Olympics and now lives in Portland, had looked to the Trials for redemption after a disappointing showing at the U.S. Olympic Trials-Marathon earlier this year in Houston.
He finished fourth in that race and in a recent blog wrote, "I am driven by a desire never to experience the emotional low I felt after I got fourth in the marathon trials. Although a miserable experience, the drive to make the Olympic team is even stronger now. I definitely wanted it bad back in January but biggest difference this time is that instead of three months of training, I have the biggest foundation of mileage I ever have had in one season.
"I remember my old college coach (Mark Wetmore) said once that you can't fake it in this sport when it gets really tough at the end. It is a hard business when you have to put yourself in that kind of pain, and if your heart and soul are not there, it is going show on the track. I am excited for June 22nd and the opportunity to toe the line and make the U.S. Olympic team."
After he had accomplished that goal Friday night, Ritzenhein said the January race "was heartbreaking for me, but I wasn't defeated because I gave it everything I could. Here, the last 100 meters I knew I was gonna make it; I knew I had it. That fourth place in the marathon made this so much better."
Ritzenhein finished ninth in the marathon in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Billy Mills, who won gold in 1964 in Tokyo, was the last American distance runner to medal at the Olympic Games.