Eugene - The Prefontaine Classic got off to a rousing start Friday evening
at historic Hayward Field, with a handful of distance races and field
events featuring a host of Olympic champions and world-class athletes
The Prefontaine Classic, now in its 39th incarnation, is a stop on the
IAAF Diamond League circuit and annually brings the world's top track and
field athletes to Eugene. Eight events were contested Friday, with 17 more
on tap for Saturday.
Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, a three-time Olympic champion and 10,000
meter world record holder, broke away from a tight pack in the homestretch
to win the 10,000 in a world-leading time of 27:12.08. Countryman Imane
Merga was just .25 seconds behind at the tape.
The International Mile featured former UO standout Andrew Wheating, but
Wheating never seemed to find a comfortable rhythm in the race, finishing
fifth in 3:57.02. James Kiplagat Magut of Kenya won in 3:55.24. High
schooler Bernie Montoya just missed his try at breaking four minutes, as he
took eighth in 4:01.71.
Now healthy after struggling through injuries the past two years, Wheating
said that a lack of confidence is holding him back.
"I ran scared," Wheating said. "I'm finally healthy and success is
knocking at the door, and I'm too afraid to answer it because I don't want
to get hurt again. . . had I made my move when I should have and not been
afraid I could have won that race."
Also on Friday evening, Aleksandr Menkov of Russia took the world lead in
the long jump, winning the event on his fifth attempt at 27-6 ½. Christina
Obergfell of Germany set a meet record of 222-1 in the javelin, and Valerie
Adams of New Zealand continued her winning ways in the shot at 66-1 ½.
Earlier in the day, former UO star Galen Rupp said he was healthy and his
fitness level was "better" than it was last year, when he won a silver
medal in the 10,000 meters at the Olympic Games in London.
"My (training) mileage is up there, as high it has ever been," Rupp said."And my speed work has been going really well so I think I'm in great shape
for the summer."
As might be expected at the Pre Classic, Rupp faces a very strong field in
Saturday's 5000 meters, including Bernard Lagat, Isiah Kiplangat, and
training partner and Olympic double gold medalist Mo Farah.
Rupp said he didn't have any specific goals or times in mind for the
"Really just competing is the main emphasis here," Rupp said. "You don't
get too many opportunities to run against a great field with Olympic
medalists and guys who have finished high in the World Championships . . .
For me it's great practice to run against these guys and try to get ready
for races later in the summer like the World Championships."
Rupp, who has been coached by distance guru Alberto Salazar since he was a
high school student at Central Catholic, said staying healthy was a key to
"Staying healthy has always been a huge thing that my coaches have
stressed. I've been fortunate enough to stay healthy throughout my career.
This past year is no different. The aim is to continue to build on the
past, and, if you do things right, hopefully, you get better and better
Other headliners at the Saturday portion of the meet include a number of
London gold medalists: Sanya Richards-Ross in the 400 meters, Renaud
Lavillenie of France in the pole vault, Kirani James of Grenada in the 400,
Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia in the 5000, Ivan Ukhov of Russia in the high
jump, and Germany's Robert Harting in the discus.
|Nick Symmonds talking to his coach Mark Rowland
The meet lost a little of its luster, however, with late withdrawals due
to injuries by world record holders Aries Merritt and David Rudisha, as
well as U.S. sprint star Carmelita Jeter.
Besides Rupp, local standouts scheduled to compete include former McKay
High star Ryan Bailey in the 100, former Willamette star Nick Symmonds in
the 800, UO alum Matthew Centrowitz in the 1500, and OTC Elite's Jesse
Williams in the high jump.
Also entered is New York high school junior Mary Cain, who has been
decimating U.S. prep and junior records since the first of the year. Cain
will be running the 800 and taking aim at the 31 year-old high school and
American junior record of Kim Gallagher, who ran 2:00.77.
Cain will be facing a top-notch field that includes two Olympic champions,
Mariya Savinova and Pamela Jelimo, as well as top American Alysia Montano.