EUGENE - Upsets were the norm at the 40th Prefontaine Classic at Historic
Hayward Field on Saturday. The list of headliners who went down to defeat
was as long as it was star-studded: David Rudisha in the 800, Allyson Felix
and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the 200, Asbel Kiprop in the Bowerman Mile,
and Amantle Montsho and Sanya Richards-Ross in the 400, to name a few.
The sun-drenched crowd of more than 13,000 didn’t seem to mind, however,
as the action on the track and in the field was fast-paced and
high-quality. Nearly half of the events contested resulted in a
world-leading mark, and there were also two American records set.
The first American record came in dramatic fashion in the men’s 10,000 at
the conclusion of the Friday night session, which featured three field
events and four races. Galen Rupp made a successful bid to take down his
own American record, helped in that quest by a deafening roar from the
crowd of approximately 7,000 over the last two laps.
After running comfortably in the lead pack for most of the race, Rupp took
off with two laps remaining and covered the last 800 in 1:57.9. Rupp’s
impressive finish left his competitors behind and brought him to the tape
in 26:44.36, a nearly four-second improvement over his previous record time
of 26:48.00. It was also the fastest time in the world in 2014.
After the race the former Oregon star and 2012 Olympic silver medalist
said winning the race was his top priority, and he was unaware of his time
until he started the last lap.
“I was just elated,” Rupp said. “I was looking at this as a great
opportunity to run a 10K and work on my tactics. We didn’t want to look at
this as just a place to run a good time. It was more about what is going to
help me next year and what is going to help me in 2016. That honestly was
my biggest focus coming in, just worrying about competing and how I was
going to finish. To get the record on top of that was just a nice bonus . .
. I was really happy to be able to set the record here, on my home track,
in my home state.”
Rupp also revealed that he and his wife, Keara, are expecting twins – a
boy and a girl – in just over a month.
“It was honestly the best news I have ever received,” he added.
The incomparable Rudisha, who has broken the world record in the 800 three
times and lost just two races in the past four years, was making his
comeback after a year away from the track due to a knee injury. At the 600
meter mark of the race, Rudisha made a strong move to take the lead, but he
could not hold it. He was passed by 20-year upset winner Nigel Amos of
Botswana, and then by five other runners, as he slipped to seventh down the
On Friday Rudisha said that the race would tell him exactly where he was
in terms of fitness, and after the race said that he was happy to be back,
even if he still has a lot of work to do to get back to where he was.
“I’m happy with that for a start,” Rudisha said. “After being out for more
than a year it was good. The body needs competition to build that speed.”
Rudisha now plans to train for 10 days in Germany before continuing his
comeback in New York in two weeks.
Justin Gatlin was one favorite who avoided the upset bug on Saturday,
winning the 100 meters at Pre for the third consecutive year. His time of
9.76 is a world-leader but was wind-aided. Gatlin is undefeated so far in
this young outdoor season and is brimming with confidence as he looks
forward to competing against Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake – his biggest
Jamaican rivals - in Europe over the summer.
“I think if I put down some good times it is going to put me out there in
the forefront,” Gatlin said. “My whole motto this year is just go . . .
I’ve got Rome in a couple of days and I want to even faster there.”
Gatlin added that he was at Hayward on Friday night to watch Galen Rupp in
the 10,000, and said Rupp’s performance inspired him to come out and run
fast on Saturday.
The second American record set at the meet came in the women’s two mile.
Shannon Rowbury finished fourth behind winner Mercy Cherono of Kenya, but
her time of 9:20.25 eclipsed Amy Rudolph’s 1998 time by more than a second.
Rowbury moved to Portland this year to train under Alberto Salazar, and
she said the move has been very good for her. Rowbury’s training partner is
Jordan Hasay, and Hasay was also in the two mile race. The pair ran
together most of the race, but the former UO All-American was unable to
stay with Rowbury over the last two laps and finished ninth in a personal
best of 9:35.05.
Hasay said she was a little disappointed in her performance, but she knows
it is part of the process she has to go through and needs to be patient.
“My training has been going incredibly well,” Hasay said. “Now I just need
to start translating that into my races.”
The 2013 Oregon grad said she gains confidence from the fact that she
stays right with Rowbury in training runs, and says, “My time is going to
The mile run is always a staple of the Pre Classic and this meet was no
different. Early in the meet, Leo Manzano of the U.S. held off
fast-charging former UO standout Jordan McNamara in the International Mile,
winning in a time of 3:52.41. 12 runners in the race broke four minutes.
Later in the day, the Bowerman Mile made those results look almost
pedestrian, as all 14 runners finished the race in under 3:57, and four
different national records were set. Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti pulled
off a mild upset, defeating favorites Asbel Kiprop and Silas Kiplagat, to
win in a time of 3:47.32, reportedly the fastest-ever mile time on U.S.
soil. Local favorite Matthew Centrowitz finished eighth in the
record-breaking race in a personal best 3:50.53.
The women’s 1500 meters was, like the men’s mile, a fast race that led to
a world-leading time and slew of personal bests. 2011 world champion Jenny
Simpson pushed the pace throughout the race, but was out-kicked by Hellen
Obiri of Kenya, who won in 3:57.05, and Abeba Aregawi of Sweden. Simpson
finished fourth in a personal best 3:58.28, making her the third-fastest
American ever at this distance.
Ashton Eaton, who wears the world’s greatest athlete title after setting
the world record and winning the Olympic title in the decathlon, ran the
110 hurdles on Saturday and acquitted himself admirably. In a field of the
top hurdlers in the world, Eaton placed sixth in a personal best 13.35,
just .22 seconds behind winner Pascal Martinot-Lagarde of France.
The tightest finish of the day was between Kirani James of Grenada and
Lashawn Merritt of the U.S., the world’s two best 400 meter runners, who
finished in a virtual dead heat at 43.97. James got the nod as the winner.
Notes . . . UO recruit Blake Haney, a high schooler from Bakersfield,
California, finished 13th in the International Mile in 4:10.41 . . .
Russia’s Anna Chicherova won a scintillating high jump competition at 6-7 .
. . Tori Bowie of the U.S. was the upset winner in the women’s 200 meters
in 22.18. Favorites Allyson Felix placed third and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce