The Prefontaine Classic was everything a world class track meet is supposed to be. The Last Night’s Distance Carnival the prelude to today’s meet, produced some exciting and historic distance running. First Moses Kiprop (KEN) circled the track for 75 laps better than anyone else in world history as he set new WR’s for 25K (1:12:25.4) and 30K (1:26:47.4)!
The night finished with an exciting and deep 10000 meters. With Galen Rupp not starting the race due to allergy issues, and Chris Solinsky stepping off the track half way through to nurse a sore hamstring, it was left to Britain’s Mo Farah to duke it out with the African contingent made up primarily of runners from Kenya. Farah stayed with the lead pack then half way through the bell lap moved up on the shoulders of the leaders then went sailing down the track coming off the final turn. The result was a British and European Record run of 26:46.57 as he lead EIGHT others under 27 minutes! Calling this race deep is somewhat of an understatement as 15th place went in 27:28.20 and 19th broke 28 minutes at 27:51.92!
And this was only the pre-meet to the Pre meet.
Today’s affair was filled with lots of story lines and great competition, but four events stood out for me as the best of the day. First was the men’s 110 hurdles. The race featured two of the events all time best on the clock with Liu Xiang (CHN, 12.88, #2 all time) and David Oliver (USA, 12.89, #3 all time) going head to head for the second time this season. Their first race saw Liu take the victory 13.07 to 13.18 – at the time the best clocking in the world. Today they once again set established a world leader, this time Oliver winning the race in 12.94 over Liu’s 13.00. In Shanghai Liu reached the first hurdle ahead of Oliver and won. Today Oliver reached the first hurdle ahead of Liu and won. In both races these two titans ran even after hurdle #1 – and something tells me that the man who reaches hurdle #1 first in Daegu will take home gold – and that includes Cuba’s Dayron Robles. This just may be the hottest event in 2011, and I’m looking forward to seeing Robles on the track with either or both of these men. The hurdlers have it right – this sport is about head to head competition!
Oliver got to take his conqueror on head to head, Carmelita Jeter (USA) took to the track looking to reclaim the world lead from Jamaican rival Veronica Campbell Brown. And while Campbell Brown wasn’t in the race, the field was still loaded with several women with World Championship and Olympic credentials. Jeter lead the world at 10.86 until Campbell Brown blazed to a PR 10.76 in Ostrava just this past Thursday. Today however, Marshevet Myers (USA) ran to a 10.86 of her own, yet had a good view of Jeter’s back side as she roared to a 10.70 – #7 all time and the 3rd best time of her career. The race was hot with Kerron Stewart (JAM, 10.87) and Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce (JAM, 10.95) also under 11.00. Fraser Pryce is the defending World and Olympic champion and recently beat Campbell Brown over 200 meters. But today the fast starting Jamaican was out started by Jeter who lead the race from start to finish in what may have been the most complete race I’ve ever seen her run. If she can start like that in Daegu she’ll be trading in her two bronze medals for a gold one.
Another athlete who looked like a potential gold medalist was middle distance/distance runner Bernard Lagat (USA). I said middle and long distance because Lagat is just a competitor. At 36 years old he should be moving on up to something really LONG – like the marathon. After all, once you get under 10000 meters it’s speed that wins races – not simply outlasting the competition. But I think Lagat is confused about his age, and thinks he’s still 26, because once again the field went tactical with a nice pack of runners still in contention on the final lap. Bernard was one of them, and over the final lap eased himself into position until he shot through a gap coming off the final turn. Looking like a quarter miler, Lagat lifted his knees and pumped his arms and ran away from a group of men that included Edwin Soi (KEN), Isaiah Koech (KEN), Tariku Bekele (ETH) and Eliud Kipchoge (ETH) – all among the best the world has to offer! I keep waiting for Lagat to slow down – and apparently so do they – but his speed is as sharp as ever and he just may be the smartest man on the track when it comes to knowing exactly where he is and what he has to do! His 8:13.62 two mile time was solid, but it was the way he won that was spectacular. And he’s definitely a gold medal threat come Daegu.
One other race had strong Daegu implications – the men’s 100. Earlier in the day it was reported that Tyson Gay (USA) had taken the world lead with a 9.79 in Florida. On the same track that had yielded a 9.89 to Pre entrant Steve Mullings (JAM) earlier in the season – until today the world leader. Mullings had recently lost to Usain Bolt (JAM) – a race in which, in my opinion, he appeared to tighten in anticipation of Bolt’s expected closing rush. In Eugene Mullings faced another talented field with last year’s find Nesta Carter (9.78 in ‘10) next to him on the track. The field also included former World and Olympic champion Justin Gatlin (USA) on the comeback trail following a suspension; former Olympians Michael Frater (JAM), Richard Thompson (TRI), and Darvis Patton (USA); and Mike Rodgers (USA) who entered the race #4 on the clock for the season at 9.96. Everyone had a lot to prove and coming directly after the women’s race, the track had already been warmed up for this race. The race did not disappoint as after a false start – in which no one was dq’d following a conference among the officials – Mullings blasted away and did his imitation of Carmelita Jeter as he lead from start to finish in a sizzling 9.80 – a PR by .09! The parade behind him was nearly as deep as the men’s 10000 last night as Rodgers PR’d in second (9.86) and Carter (9.92), Patton (9.94), Frater (9.94, PR) and Gatlin (9.97) all got their first sub10’s of the season – for Gatlin it was his first sub 10 since June of 2006.
The race said much for both the US and Jamaican sprint teams heading into National championships at the end of the month. For Jamaica, Mullings is starting to look like a strong #2 to Bolt – and Carter and Frater getting under 10 seconds are certainly in the mix. For the US this was a big run for Rodgers who separated himself here from the others in the potential US field. And with Dix (200 winner here in 20.19) looking perhaps not as sharp as in previous years, could be stepping into the #2 slot in the 100 at Nationals. With Patton and Gatlin back under the 10 second barrier, both become relevant again – and potential contenders. The men’s and women’s 100 in Kingston and Eugene are going to be real barn burners.
There were a couple of strange/disappointing performances – both in the 400 meters. In the men’s race favorite Jeremy Wariner (USA) never mounted a serious challenge for the lead. He lacked his usual drive around the second turn and found himself chasing Angelo Taylor (USA) down the final stretch. The powerful Taylor never gave an inch and won easily in 45.15. The women’s race was supposed to be another Richards v Felix affair. But the race was called for a false start and it appeared that Felix may have been the culprit as she flinched, then didn’t get going at the gun as if she were expecting to be tossed. After another conference however, a la the men’s 100, no false start was called and the race went off with all ladies in tow. Felix never seemed in the flow of the race, however, as Amantle Montsho (BOT) controlled the race throughout and won easily in 50.59. No one else in the race broke 51.00 with Debbie Dunn (USA) second in 51.37 just ahead of Felix (51.41) and Richards (51.78). Both 400’s could be quite interesting in a couple of weeks.
Pre was expected to be an awesome meet and it was. The results were spectacular all the way around. Now I’m looking forward to the NCAA Championships next week and New York on Saturday!