Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Long-range weather forecast for America’s premier two-day track and field meet: Not too bad, especially for Day 2.

That’s music to the ears of Tom Jordan, in his 33rd year as director of the Prefontaine Classic, Friday and Saturday at Eugene’s Hayward Field.

Good weather means two things. More fans will pack Hayward to the near or full capacity of almost 13,000 for Saturday’s matinee show. And record attempts — a couple of the “world” variety — will be more feasible.

The globe’s top track and field athletes will be featured in the 42nd running of the Pre Classic, the fourth of 14 meets on the IAAF Diamond League Circuit — and the only domestic meet on the calendar — leading up to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in August.

In each of the past four years, the Pre Classic has been ranked among the top three Diamond League meets in terms of quality of entrants and competitive results. This year’s entry list portends great things again.

“I’m very pleased with the field,” Jordan says. “You never know during an Olympic year, because some athletes don’t start their season until later, and others don’t want to travel.

“But we’ve established ourselves on the international circuit as a place you want to be. With Nike’s help, we’re fortunate to have a tremendous group of athletes coming in. It will be, if not the best, among the best fields we’ve ever had.”

There are Olympic medal hopes in nearly every “high-caliber” event — seven on Friday night, 18 on Saturday. There is no charge for Friday’s competition — “the greatest free show on earth,” as Jordan bills it. Plenty of tickets remain for Saturday’s slate.

Friday night’s show includes men’s competition in the shot put, hammer throw and 10,000 meters. Women’s events are the 800, 5,000, long jump and discus.FARAH

The men’s 10,000 features Portland’s Mo Farah, the Great Britain native who has won every major 5K and 10K since the 2012 Olympics. He’ll be just one of 30 world-class runners in the race — about a dozen from Ethiopia and eight from Kenya.

“These guys are not ham-and-eggers, they’re the top distance runners in the world,” Jordan says. “There are so few major 10K races in the world now. For countries like Ethiopia, which don’t have Olympic trials, a fast time at our meet can impress the selectors. Kenya does have an Olympic trials at the end of June, so (the Pre Classic) is used to prepare for that.”

Farah’s training partner, former Central Catholic High and Oregon standout Galen Rupp, hasn’t yet committed.

“Alberto (Salazar, Rupp’s coach) wants to see how his training goes,” Jordan says. “It could be a week-of-the-meet decision.”

Pre meet officials are setting up the women’s 5,000 for a world-record attempt at the request of the great Genzebe Dibaba. The 25-year-old Ethiopian, who won the 2015 Pre 10K in a personal- and meet-record 14:19.76, is Track & Field News’ reigning Woman of the Year after going undefeated for the second straight year. Portland fans saw Dibaba take gold in the 3,000 at the World Indoor Championships in March.

Dibaba, who owns the world record at 1,500, hopes to challenge the world 5,000 mark owned by her older sister, Tirunesh Dibaba, of 14:11.15 set in 2008. She’ll be tested by such as Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot, the gold medalist at 10,000 in the 2015 Beijing World Championships and the 2011 Track & Field News Woman of the Year; Ethiopia’s Delete Burka, who took silver at 10K at Beijing last year and has won four Pre titles at 1,500, and Kenya’s Hellen Obiri, who ran the 1,500 in 3:57.05 at the 2014 Pre Classic.

Among Saturday events:

• Last year, a record six runners bettered 3:50 in the featured Bowerman Mile. This year? “It’s our best field in history,” Jordan says.

The two leading contenders are Kenyans — Asbel Kiprop and Silas Kiplagat, both 26. They’ve raced 35 times, with Kiprop holding only an 18-17 edge. Kiprop has a bigger advantage in overall credentials. He won the 2008 Olympic 1,500 and has won three straight World titles at the distance. He is also a three-time Bowerman Mile champion and has run sub-3:50 at Pre five times.

“Kiprop is the best in the world,” Jordan says. “When he’s on, no one can beat him. Last year, he wasn’t on (at the World Championships); so far this year, he has looked untouchable. So he’s the odds-on favorite, but he and Kiplagat have a great rivalry going. If Kiprop doesn’t have it, there are runners who are incredibly talented and could beat him.”

Kiplagat, a two-time Diamond League winner, a three-time Bowerman Mile champion and twice ranked No. 1 in the world to end a year, is one. Also: Elijah Manangio of Kenya, silver medalist at Beijing last year who will be running his first race on U.S. soil; Ayanich Souleiman of Djibouti, 23, who won the Bowerman Mile in 2014 in a meet-record 3:47.32; Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, and Matthew Centrowitz, 26, the former NCAA champion from Oregon who earned silver and bronze at 2013 and ’11 World Championships. Centrowitz was second in last year’s Bowerman Mile.

• Four runners on the senior side of 30 lead the men’s 100 entry list: Justin Gatlin, 34, the 2004 Olympic champion who won gold at the World Championships and was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2015; Jamaican Asafa Powell, a two-time world No. 1 who has 100 sub-10 clockings in career; Tyson Gay, 33, the American record-holder (9.69 in 2009) who has run the fastest time under any conditions at Hayward Field (a wind-aided 9.68 at the 2008 Olympic trials) and holds the field record of 9.77 in 2008; and Mike Rodgers, 31, who has run 9.85.

“Gatlin is the top guy in the field, but Powell ran well this year indoors,” Jordan says.

• France’s Renaud Lavillenie is the world record-holder in the pole vault with an indoor best of 20-2 1/2. But Lavillenie, who has been ranked No. 1 in the world six straight years and won gold at the 2012 Olympics, had his best outdoor vault ever at 19-10 1/4 in winning his third straight Pre title.

“The guy is capable of doing 20 feet outdoors,” Jordan says.

• Jordan calls the women’s 400 “our best ever in terms of star power.”

He means from Americans Allyson Felix, who owns 20 major medals, including gold in the 200 at the 2012 Olympics and gold at 400 at the 2015 World Championships, and American record-holder Sanya Richards-Ross, the defending Olympic 400 champion.

“Allyson is one of the icons of the sport,” Jordan says, “and Sanya is a legend who will be running her final Pre Classic. She has competed in about 15 of them — that’s a lifetime as far as track and field goes. They make it a premier event, but it could be that neither one of them wins.”

• Five sub-4-minute racers will challenge the women’s 1,500 meet record of 3:57.05. The list includes Americans Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury, the latter a Portlander who broke the American record with a 3:56.29 clocking last year.

• Christian Taylor — the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Championships champion and American record-holder at 59-9, is worth the watch in the men’s triple jump. But he should be challenged, notably by Will Claye, who owns the Hayward record of 57-11 1/4 in winning the 2014 Pre.

• Seven of the world’s top nine men’s shot putters will compete at Pre, including American Joe Kovacs, the defending world champion, who has thrown 74-0 1/4.

• The men’s 800 “is one of the events I’ll most enjoy watching,” Jordan says. It’s a battle of youngsters.

Nijel Amos of Botswana, who earned silver at the 2012 London Olympics at age 18, set a Pre Classic record of 1:43.63 in 2014. American Boris Berian, 23, won the Worlds Outdoor Championships last year at 1:43.34 and the World Indoor Championships at Portland. Then there is Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia, 22, the 2013 Worlds champ and the defending Pre champ who lives in Eugene. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the race dips into the 1:43s,” Jordan said.

• If there’s an emerging star in the U.S., it’s Vashti Cunningham, 18, who won high jump gold at the World Indoor Championships in Portland had a world indoor-best of 6-6 1/4. The daughter of former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham is one of eight competitors with bests of 6-5 or better, including Spain’s Ruth Beitia, 37, old enough to be Cunningham’s mother.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @kerryeggers

Go to top
JSN Time 2 is designed by | powered by JSN Sun Framework