Monday, June 9, 2008

More from the Nike Prefontaine Classic...

Once again, Eugene proved why it’s the track and field capital of the United States, and why it deserves to host the Olympic Trials in 3 weeks, with a superb presentation of the Nike Prefontaine Classic at historic Hayward Field.

After catching up with old friends like Jack Pfeifer, Pat Tyson, and Nike legend Geoff Hollister Saturday night at a showing of the documentary film, “Fire on the Track”, the sun shined brightly on the old track stadium at the corner of 15th and Agate, as Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele (above/photo by Paul Merca) got the Prefontaine Classic started at 9:30 am with the fastest 10k ever run on American soil, a 26:25.97 effort, which obliterated Abraham Chebii of Kenya’s old US all-comers record of 27:04.20, set in 2001 at Stanford.

In fact, the top seven runners all shattered the existing Hayward Field record of 27:29.90, set in 1982 by the legendary Henry Rono of Kenya.

Among those in that group of seven was Abdi Abdirahman of Tuscon (#120 above/photo by Paul Merca), who ran the second fastest time in American history with his mark of 27:16.99.

In the press tent afterwards, Bekele, who ran solo after the pacers took him through 5000m around 13:10, said, “I did my best. About the 18th, 19th lap I’m getting tired. It’s tough. I can’t push more than this time.”

After his race, I turned around and saw Pre meet director Tom Jordan, who was beaming at Bekele’s effort, and the weather. “Great way to get the meet started”, he said.

Fellow countrywoman Meseret Defar, two days after losing her world 5000m record to Tirunesh Dibaba, ran 14.38.73, in what was also billed as a world record attempt. She was clearly bummed, telling reporters, ‘“I’m very disappointed because I’m in good shape, and my training is better than last year when I broke the world record.”

Lost in the shuffle, Kara Goucher of Portland, the bronze medalist at 10k in last year’s world championships, ran 14:58.10.

In the Olympic Trials qualifying races, held after the two world record attempts, several athletes with Washington connections competed, including Ryan Brown in the fast section of the 800, where he was a DNF. Former SPU runner Eddie Strickler ran 1:52.84 in section 3 of the 800.

Courtney Jaworski’s efforts to qualify for the Trials may be rapidly running out of time, as he ran 3:47.40 in the 1500. Jordan McNamara ran 3:47.83 in the same race, finishing one spot behind Jaworski in ninth.

Besides Brad Walker’s huge American record in the pole vault, fellow world champion, and former Washington State star Bernard Lagat won the men’s two mile run in a time of 8:12.45 to turn back Rashid Ramzi (BAH), who was second in 8:13.16 and Paul Koech (KEN), who was third in 8:13.31.

Afterwards, Lagat said, "Eugene is very special because the people know track and field. It's like you're in the track and field capitol. This race was very important, so I know now how it is going to feel in two weeks. I can only imagine how exciting it's going to be in two weeks. It's going to be wonderful."

Discus thrower Aretha Thurmond of Federal Way finished sixth with a toss of 200-2. Stephanie Trafton won the event with a throw of 208-04.

I can’t wait to come back here in three weeks!

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