(Reuters) - Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp comfortably won his sixth consecutive national 10,000 meters title at the U.S. championships on Thursday.
America's top distance athlete surged past runner-up Chris Derrick with around 500 meters remaining and finished in a time of 28 minutes, 12.07 seconds - more than a minute off his month-old U.S. record - at Sacramento, California.
"I was just trying to run as easy as possible. I didn't want to make it any harder than it needed to be," Rupp told reporters. "My plan all along was just to sit back and then go hard with a lap to go."
Derrick wound up six seconds adrift with Ryan Vail third.
Olympian Kim Conley pleased the hometown crowd by taking the women's 10,000 in 32:02.07 as she surged past runner-up Jordan Hasay.
"Coming off that final turn, I had so many friends and family here that I had to finish it," Conley said.
Most of the day was devoted to qualifying with world champion LaShawn Merritt easing through his 400m heat in 45.19 seconds, second fastest of the session.
Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano also went through, pacing 1,500 meters qualifiers in 3:42.01.
But with no world championship or Olympic berth at stake this year, a number of top U.S. athletes are skipping the competition.
Veteran Mike Rodgers led a 100 meters field lacking world silver medalist Justin Gatlin with a best qualifying time of 10.11 seconds.
Head winds slowed the women with English Gardner (11.30 seconds) and outdoor surprise Tori Bowie (11.33) the top qualifiers.
London Olympic 200 meters champion Allyson Felix barely qualified in the shorter race, running a sluggish 11.53.
"The speed is not there yet," said Felix, who is coming back from a 2013 hamstring injury. "I know it's going to take some time."
The championships, at the site of the 2000 and 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials, continue through Sunday.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by John O'Brien)