EUGENE - The 36th edition of the Nike Prefontaine Classic will take place at a sold-out Hayward Field in Eugene July 3 with perhaps the strongest field of athletes ever assembled for this prestigious meet. The Pre Classic is now part of the new 14-meet IAAF Samsung Diamond League series, which features the world’s top track and field athletes in meets on three continents.
According to Pre Classic director Tom Jordan, the Diamond League affiliation means added revenue through international television rights, which allows him to bring in more elite athletes and to increase the prize money offered. Jordan said event winners will earn $10,000 at the meet, double what it was last year.
The 18 events being contested are loaded with Olympic and World Championship medalists. Local favorites Nick Symmonds and Ryan Bailey will compete in the 1,000 meters and 200 meters, respectively. Former UO runners Andrew Wheating and Galen Rupp will run in separate one mile races.
The men’s 1,000 meters will feature a world record attempt by the Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki, who recently ran 1:42.23 in the 800 at the Bislet Games in Oslo, Norway, missing the world record in that event by just over a second. Kaki will go after the mark of 2:11.96, set in 1999 by Noah Ngeny, and will get help from two pacesetters in the attempt.
Symmonds, the former Willamette standout who was tenth-ranked in the world last year, won his third consecutive U.S. championship in the 800 last week in Des Moines, but could suffer from having less than a week to recover from running two grueling prelims and the finals in hot, humid conditions. Olympic and world medalist Alfred Yego of Kenya is also in the field.
| Shannon Rowbury
The Nike Men’s Bowerman Mile, always a highlight event at the Pre Classic, will feature seven of 2009’s top ten 1,500 runners, including 2007 World champion Bernard Lagat of the U.S., 2008 Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya, and 2009 World gold medalist Youssef Kamel of Bahrain. NCAA double champion Andrew Wheating will also be in the race, looking for a personal record and wearing his UO singlet for the final time.
“How cool will it be to wear my Oregon uniform one more time, and go up against one of the strongest mile fields ever created,” said Wheating on Friday. “I feel absolutely blessed to be that guy.”
“(Wheating’s presence) fulfills one of my dreams for the Pre Classic, which is to have a hometown hero competing against the very best in the world at Hayward Field,” Jordan said.
Bailey, the former McKay High School star, is also up against a top-notch field in the 200 meters. Led by U.S. record holder Tyson Gay, who says he is “85 to 90%” as he returns to action after nursing a strained hamstring, the field also includes Olympic medalists Shawn Crawford and Walter Dix of the U.S., Richard Thompson of Trinidad, and Alonso Edwards of Panama.
The women’s sprint highlights include the 100 meters with all three medalists from last year’s World Championships: Jamaicans Shelly-Ann Fraser (gold) and Kerron Stewart (silver), and Carmelita Jeter of the U.S.
Former UO national champion Rachel Yurkovich will compete in the javelin against world record-holder Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic and new American record-holder Kara Patterson.
A group of 20 runners, including Americans Chris Solinsky and Matt Tegenkamp, who train in Portland, will take aim at running the first
sub-13 minute 5,000 meters ever on U.S. soil.