Canada’s Ben Flanagan, who’s in grad school at the University of Michigan, won the men’s 10,000m final in a stunning upset at the NCAA yesterday, blazing past the University of Alabama’s Vincent Kiprop and winning in 28:34.53. Flanagan had almost half a second on Kiprop at the finish line and crushed his own PB by 43 seconds.

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Kiprop made his move in the final 300m, but Flanagan held on, forcing a duel in the last 60m. 

That he was not expected to win is putting it mildly. Kiprop’s PB was 35 seconds faster going into the race, and Flanagan’s performances at this meet have not stood out in the past. But Flanagan says the lack of expectation definitely worked to his advantage. “Going into a race of this calibre, I really did believe I had a shot at winning,” says Flanagan, “and it was helpful and motivating to go into it with this nothing-to-lose-attitude.”

Flanagan says he and his coach (middle-distance runner and three-time Olympian Kevin Sullivan, who also holds four NCAA titles) definitely put an emphasis on speedwork leading up to this meet, working on 200m and 400m repeats and his closing speed on the bell lap, but that otherwise his training has been “pretty textbook.”

Flanagan’s first words after his final race for the Wolverines were “Where’s my mom?” 

Ben comes from a family of runners in Kitchener, Ont. He and marathoner 2017 New York City Marathon winner Shalane Flanagan are not related, but he loved her tweet. “I’m a huge fan,” he says. “Any recognition from her is legendary.”

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So what’s next for Flanagan? He’ll be in Ann Arbor for a while yet, since he is pursuing a dual master’s degree in social work and in information science. But he’d definitely like to continue running, and would love to represent Canada again, something he hasn’t done in a while.

And yes, he did find his mom after the race. “She was so pumped,” he says. “I love when she comes out and watches. She gets so nervous, but it was so awesome to deliver on the day. It was a pretty special day for her.” 

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