(Photo Credits: Michael Frazier)
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Marquette junior Noah Kauppila knew he would be tested Saturday at Kansas’ Rim Rock Classic. He probably didn’t think that challenge would come from his own team.
Kauppila has been considered one of the top Class 4 state contenders and tops the state’s rankings after winning at Forest Park to start the season. Marquette senior Adam Roderique is now firmly in the contender discussion after he surged past a strong field into second and then outkicked Kauppila in the final 200 meters to win at Rim Rock in 15.26.
“I knew I could finish strong because it’s flat and downhill; I knew if I felt good by then I could just kick,” said Roderique, who beat Kaupplia for the first time in his career.
No one pushed the pace through the first half of the race, and a solid bunch of nearly 20 runners were able to stay grouped together in a comfortable pace. That strategy turned out to be exactly what Roderique needed to produce the victory.
“I was sitting there staying comfortable, and I was looking at the lead and if they started to make a move go with them, but no one made a move, so I just stayed relaxed,” Roderique said.
Marquette coach Mike Ebert said the dynamic of the duo should not change because of this one meet.
“I don’t think it changes much of anything,” Ebert said. “They’ve been working together all season long and pushing each other. They trained together all summer, so I think they’re both grateful for the fact they have someone there that’s going to raise their level and make them better.”
Roderique credited that training relationship for being at ease in the final strides at Rim Rock.
“We push each other in practice to definitely make each other better,” Roderique said. “Usually in a race since we’re up next to each other, it just feels comfortable because that’s what we do every day in practice.”
Kauppila took second in 15:28. He said the lead pack ran a quick first 800 meters – in around 2:18 – and he suspected that most of the field could not sustain that pace. The pace had already started to slip by the mile mark, which the leaders cleared in around 5:00. It was then that Kauppila started to move up and he overtook the lead with about a mile remaining.
“We’ve been training forever, and he’s been wanting this for so long,” Kauppila said. “It’s good to be part of the best 1-2 in the state. It will definitely change the dynamic a bit; he can now know he can hang with me and beat me in races so we’ll see how the next month will go.”