Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It's Nike Prefontaine Classic week!

The eyes of the track and field world will be focused on Eugene for the next two weekends, beginning with this weekend's Nike Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field, followed by the NCAA track & field championships beginning Wednesday June 5th, and concluding three days later.

The Nike Prefontaine Classic, which is the second US stop on the IAAF Diamond League tour (the adidas Grand Prix was last week in New York), actually gets underway Friday night with three Diamond League events--the women's shot put, the men's long jump, and the women's javelin.

The women's shot put features world and Olympic champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand, while the women's javelin features 2011 world champion Mariya Abakumova of Russia.  Curiously enough, the field for the men's long jump has not been set (as of 8 pm, Wednesday).

Friday night's session has been dubbed "Distance Night in Eugene", with a men's 1500, a women's 800, a men's International Mile, and the men's 10000 capping off the evening.

The men's 10000 was originally billed as Ethiopia's world championship trials race, but that has been scuttled after some behind-the-scenes wrangling involving adidas, the Ethiopian federation's equipment sponsor, and the meet.  

Nonetheless, there are several top Ethiopians involved in the race, including double Olympic 10000m champ and world record holder Keninisa Bekele, and brother Tariku.  They'll run against reigning Olympic champ Mo Farah (above/photo by Paul Merca).

According to meet director Tom Jordan, Bekele has requested a 13:18 pace for the first 5000, roughly 63.7 per lap or or close to 4:15 per 1600, give or take a few steps.  That equates to 26:36, just slightly over the 26:25.97 time he ran at the 2008 Pre Classic.

Athletes competing in Friday's session with Washington ties include Auburn-Riverside alum Jordan McNamara in the national 1500 and University of Washington alum Katie Mackey in the national 800.

As always in an IAAF Diamond League meet, and especially at the Nike Prefontaine Classic, every event is stacked with world and Olympic medalists, although the majority of them are naturally Nike-sponsored athletes, as most of them have clauses in their contracts that require an appearance at the Pre Classic if invited.

Washington State alum and 2012 Olympic 4th place finisher Bernard Lagat is entered in the men's 5000, where he'll run in a field that includes Olympic 10000 silver medalist and Oregon alum Galen Rupp; Thomas Longosiwa of Kenya, who nosed out Lagat for the bronze in London; teenager Isiah Koech, last year's #3 ranked runner in the world at this distance; and another Kenyan in the form of Edwin Soi, the bronze medalist at this distance in the 2008 Olympics.

Altogether, there are nine men in the field with personal bests under 13 minutes.

In the men's pole vault, Washington alum and two-time US Olympian Brad Walker returns to the venue where he set the American record of 19-9 3/4 (6.04m) way back in 2008.

Walker, who is the lone American in the field, faces all three London Olympic medalists, led by Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France; silver medalist Bjorn Otto of Germany, along with countryman and bronze medalist Raphael Holzdeppe.

Walker and Otto are currently tied for the 2013 world lead at 19-1 1/2 (5.83m).

Tacoma resident Matt Scherer will again pace the 800 for Olympic champion and world record holder David Rudisha of Kenya, while McNamara returns to the track to pace the Bowerman Mile for a field that includes all three London Olympic medalists--Takoufik Makhloufi of Algeria; Leo Manzano of the USA; and Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco, along with 2008 Olympic and 2011 world champ Asbel Kiprop of Kenya.


NBC Sports will provide live coverage of Saturday's Nike Prefontaine Classic.  Additionally, Friday night's races will be webcast via PreClassic.com.

paulmerca.blogspot.com will be in Eugene to cover the Nike Prefontaine Classic.

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