Saturday, June 4, 2011

Eugene Diary: Part 5, Prefontaine Classic

Sammy Wanjiru & Pre Tribute
The day was finally here, the Prefontaine Classic was upon us live at historic Hayward Field. The weather was great for the spectators; maybe a little warm for the athletes with a good dose of pollen in air. Nonetheless, the crowd was treated to great performances from start to finish.

I started the day off with a cup of Stumptown Coffee from Market of Choice and bumped into Mr. Track Town himself, Vin Lananna, in the parking lot. Said hello and headed over to Eugene resident and Track Focus co-founder Jim McDannald's house for some pancakes before heading over to Hayward with Doug Binder. Got a spot one level below last night and the day of Track & Field began.

My view from press row
The International Mile started off the track events for the day with Aussie Ryan Gregson outkicking David Torrence and Ben Blankenship for the win in 3:53.86. Next was the Men's steeplechase. The Americans had a tough time, finishing outside the Olympic A-Standard, but put on an excellent display regardless. The Men's 800 was kind of a let down as Abubaker Kaki got out to a big lead and ran away with it in 1:43.68 (Hayward Record), but Khadevis Robinson ran another strong race for a runner up finish. The women's 1500 was up next and Geleta Burka nudged Christin Wurth-Thomas out of the way with 150m to go and kicked hard for the win in 4:04.63 with Morgan Uceny finishing as the top American in 4:06.32.

The Men's 110m hurdles was certainly one of the top billed events as an epic rematch with David Oliver and Liu Xiang. Xiang got the better of Oliver in Shanghai, but Oliver ran better today, crushing the first few hurdles on the way to a 12.94 world leading time (with Xiang in 13.00). The Men's 400m was a little slow with Angelo Taylor upsetting Jeremy Wariner in 45.16 before another big event for the day, the Men's (and boy's) 2-Mile.

Lukas signing autographs
What was billed as an attack on the American Record (8:07.07) and the American High School Record (8:34), ended up being about half of that as the Men's race went out pretty slow after a quick first lap and the whole group, high schooler Lukas Verzbicas included, ran together for the first 2k or so. As the men's race began to heat up, Verzbicas kept a strong and steady pace himself (after going through the mile in 4:13). The men's pack stayed together through the last 200m when ageless Bernard Lagat showed his well-honed race tactics and kicked for the win in 8:13.62 with Verzbicas kicking home alone about 150m back in a new high school record of 8:29.46. Word is he's pretty confident he can go sub-4 next week at the Jim Ryan Dream Mile in New York.

Gatlin Trending
The Women's 100m athletes benefitted a 2.0 maximum allowed legal wind with Carmelita Jeter finishing  in a world lead of 10.7. Then the men had their turn with Steve Mullings ripping a world leading 9.80 with Michael Rodgers PR'ing in 9.85. A big Twitter-trending story was Justin Gatlin breaking 10 for the first time in 4 years with a 9.97.

Next up, the women's 800m was a tight bunch at the finish with Kenia Sinclair taking the win in 1:58 with 5 Americans at 2:00.xx or better, led by Alysia Montano (nee Johnson). Walter Dix kicked hard in the last 50 to take the 200 in 20.19 before Amantle Montsho surprised the field in the women's 400 in 50.59.

Lagat signing
The last event on the track was the Bowerman Mile, a tribute to past Oregon Coach Bill Bowerman (played by Lee Ermey and Donald Sutherland on film). This is always the highlight of the meet and today was no exception. Haron Keitany led 5 men under 3:50, winning in 3:49.09 with Russell Brown passing Olympic Silver Medalist Nick Willis in the final steps to finish in an American leading 3:51.45. Full results are here

All in all, an excellent day at the track. Perfect weather. Awesome crowd and lots of great races. Hope to make it back next year!

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