Update: Gophers runner Hassan Mead fell after a collision with a couple of runners, including event favorite Mo Farah of Great Britain, in the final lap of the 5,000-meter run.
Mead said he would file an appeal. If successful, that would get him into the finals of the event. Fellow U.S. runner Bernard Lagat, who finished fifth, said he thinks Mead will have a good chance of winning the appeal.
Mead finished the race 13th in the 25-runner heat. His time was 13:34.27, which was 29th among the 51 runners in the two heats. Before the fall, the South High graduate was in a good position to qualify for the finals.
The heat was won by Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia in 13:24.65. Farah, the 10,000-meter champ, finished third in 13:25.25.
Mead had been running a strong race at the time of his fall. He ran in a pack with the top runners for most of the race and was third going into the final lap.
Farah, who won both the 5,000 and the 10,000 at the London Olympics in 2012, successfully defended his title at the longer distance in a dramatic final last Saturday when he recovered after tumbling to the track.
He had a slight trip after his stumble with Mead, but was quickly back into stride and ran comfortably with the leading pack to finish third.
"I've got such a long stride ... I always get tripped up or tangled up with someone," Farah said. "But I managed to stay on my feet. It's quite nerve wracking."
Farah was among those who consoled Mead after the race.
The top five finishers will automatically advance to the finals, along with the five fastest times among the other runners. The cutoff was 13:26.02 by Lagat.
Come back to startribune.com later for more on this story.
RIO DE JANEIRO – When Hassan Mead was a senior on the Minneapolis South cross-country team, he ran in the Roy Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota. On the golf course. In the mud.
“That’s why the golf people hate us,” joked Gophers track and cross-country coach Steve Plasencia. “We really muck up the course.”
Mead reached a valley near the end of race that had turned into a bog. Had this been Louisiana, that’s where the alligators would have hung out. “Hassan powered his way through there and I said, ‘Wow, this guy has got some strength,’ ” Plasencia said.
The Gophers’ recruiting process was not complicated. Mead had yet to earn the ACT scores required to allow him to take official recruiting visits. So he and his father walked from their house to the Gophers’ athletic offices and visited.
That was in 2007. Mead didn’t leave very often for the next four years. He’d hang around the athletic department even during holiday breaks.
The nine-time Big Ten champion will compete in the 5,000 meters heats at Olympic Stadium, starting at 8:05 a.m. Wednesday. On Tuesday, former Gopher Ben Blankenship advanced from his heat in the 1,500 meters. They are the first two Gophers runners to compete in the Olympics since Plasencia ran the 10,000 meters in 1992.
“Being at the University of Minnesota was a great experience,” Mead said. “I think I got all of the tools I needed to develop as a young runner, and an individual. It was nice to go into an environment where you were welcome.”
Mead was born in Somalia. His father sent the family to the United States, and Mead lived in California and Washington before moving to Minneapolis to finish high school.
A standout throughout his college career, Mead suffered an Achilles injury and a collapsed lung in 2010, costing him an entire year.
“I got to meet his family and spend some times with them,” Plasencia said. “When he had that collapsed lung, he spent 14 days in the hospital, and I remember his dad and I sitting in a hospital room over at Fairview Hospital.
“Like a lot of those African guys, Hassan has a pure soul. He’s a guy that everybody wants to do well, because of the kind of person he is and the way he cares for others. I just love him.
“He’s big on social media, too. He’s got a lot of friends.”
Mead didn’t advance at the 2008 Olympic trials. In 2012, he made the finals and finished 12th. This summer, he finished second, only 0.20 seconds behind Bernard Lagat. At 26, Mead’s arrow appears to be pointed up.
“I think my success right now has to be correlated with the University of Minnesota and the program and the way it is designed,” Mead said. “Coach Plasencia was the type of guy who wanted to really build up athletes so that they were able to show their best performances.
“I came in as a young buck. I just wanted to tag along with some of my great teammates.”
From Somalia to South, from Dinkytown to Rio, Mead has worked his way toward the front of the pack.