2011 Prefontaine Classic Distance Races: Lagat, Verzbicas, Kaki And Sinclair Impress

By LetsRun.com
June 4, 2011

More Pre: 2011 Prefontaine Classic Results
*Day 1: Moses Mosop Smashes 30k World Record And Says He Can Run 2:02 In The Marathon
*2011 Prefontaine 5,000m And 10,000m: Americans Disappoint, Mo Farah Impresses, Vivian Cheruiyot Wins Again

While the unusually fast 100m times got a lot of attention at the 2011 Prefontaine Classic, LetsRun.com and the Pre Classic are known for one thing - distance running. We recap the distance races below and give you our insights and some athlete reaction.

Men's Two Mile: Lagat And Verzbicas Impress

The top distance event from the American perspective was definitely the men's 2 mile. Up front, Bernard Lagat showed his masterful tactical running and amazing finishing speed as he put away the field the final 200m to win in 8:13.62. Lagat definitely did not look like the oldest competitor in the field.

Lagat was not the only American to make headlines. Eight guys were in contention for the win at the bell off of the modest early pace. Sub-13:00 runner, Matt Tegenkamp, who missed much of 2010 and had been inconsistent in 2011 with 2 subpar 1,500m races (3:40 and 3:41), moved up with 500m to go to try to challenge for the lead at the bell. Lagat would go by with 200m to go on his way to battling 12:52 5,000m runner Edwin Soi for the win, but Tegenkamp looked much sharper than he has so far in 2011.

It was the American (we believe Lukas is an American citizen now; email us if we're wrong) that finished in last place who made the most headlines. He was Illinois high schooler Lukas Verzbicas and he finished in 8:29.46, smashing German Fernandez's high school record of 8:34.40. Before the race, the talk was of a 4:03 opening mile up front. However, the super-fast early pace never materialized (the leaders were at about 4:14 with 1,600 to go) and played perfectly into Verzbicas' hands, as he was at the back of the pack with 1,600m to go (4:16). When the racing started going up front with 3 laps to go, Lukas was dropped by the world class field, but he did have pacing assistance from Stephen Haas until the final lap, and the 2-time Foot Locker XC champ raced admirably over the final 1,000m to get the record and the sub-8:30 clocking. The soon-to-be Oregon Duck was pleased with his race afterwards and next week will take a crack at the sub-4 minute mile in a high school only race at the adidas Grand Prix. For a full article on Verzbicas' record run from the Chicago Tribune, click here.

Quick Thought: Verzbicas' 2011 season has been so outstanding (at the high school indoor nationals, he pulled of the mile, 2 mile, 5,000m triple) that his breaking of the 3-year old-record was almost anticlimatic. He's a man among boys at the high school ranks and the Eugene fans no doubt look forward to him racing in the Oregon colors next year.

Lagat was pleased to get the win, as he prepares for a stellar showdown next week in New York over 5,000m versus World XC champ and 2010 Diamond League 5,000m winner Imane Merga. Lagat's finishing speed is simply amazing. He's been so good, he wasn't sure what number Prefontaine win this was (we believe it was #5). Lagat now is running with a new training partner, former NAU runner David McNeill, and he said McNeill is really helping him.

Quick Thought #2: This run and Ryan Gregson's win in the International Mile made us think of German Fernandez, who went on to win NCAAs as a freshman in 2009, yet won't even be running next week's NCAA meet in Drake.

Bernard Lagat Makes Winning Look Easy

Lukas Verzbicas Makes History With 2 Mile HS Record


Matt Tegenkamp On Being Race Sharp Again

Will Leer On Having To Run 2 Miles Instead Of One (Next Week, He'll Run The 1,500 At adidas)

1
USA
8:13.62
2
KEN
8:14.10
3
KEN
8:14.16
4
ETH
8:15.40
5
USA
8:15.88
6
KEN
8:16.74
7
AUS
8:17.91
8
KEN
8:18.72
9
USA
8:19.11
10
USA
8:21.65
11
USA
8:29.46
 
USA
DNF
 
USA
DNF
 
CAN
DNF

Men's 2 Mile Video Coverage

Men's International Mile: Ryan Gregson Wins Again

Aussie 21-year-old sensation Ryan Gregson repeated as a winner of the "International" (aka "B") Mile at the Pre Classic. At the bell, Nicholas Kemboi, who was the only athlete to stay with the rabbit, had a 15-meter lead on the field. Kemboi has strong credentials, as he ran 3:31 last year and won the Zürich Weltklasse meet four years ago. Would he hold on?

No. With 200m to go, the pack caught him and it was a dash for home. Gregson had just enough speed to come from behind and overtake David Torrence for the win.

Afterwards, David Torrence, sporting the Kevin Garnett backpack look, said, "The last 50 is always my weakness." He added he is in much better shape than this even though he set a PR. Last year, when he ran 3:54, he was all over the place tactically.

Even though he's a 3:31 guy, Gregson didn't mind opening his 2011 individual season in the "B" mile. He said, "There will be plenty of times to race these guys in Europe." Gregson ran the 1,200m leg for Australia at the Penn Relays in his return from a navicular stress fracture that sidelined him the second half of 2011. Gregson said he was able to come back so quickly from injury because he cross trains on the bike harder than he trains when he's running. Gregson has been in the States training in Mt. Laguna and tomorrow heads to his European base in London, where his first race will be a 3,000m.

Quick Thought: Gregson needs to be in the Bowerman Mile next time. Remember when Gregson and German Fernandez were considered equals? Gregson has definitely moved ahead in that battle.

Ryan Gregson Speaks On Winning, Trying In Mt. Laguna And His Non-Coaching Switch

David Torrence Talks About Getting 2nd To Ryan Gregson

 

1
AUS
3:53.86
WL
2
USA
3:54.01
PB
3
USA
3:54.10
4
KEN
3:55.18
5
USA
3:55.38
PB
6
QAT
3:56.19
7
USA
3:56.21
8
ETH
3:57.14
9
BRN
4:05.22
 
CAY
DNF
 
USA
DNF
 
KEN
DNS

Intermediate times:
400m Stanford, Travis (USA) 56.17
800m Stanford, Travis (USA) 1:54.14
1,200m Rankin, Jon Byron (CAY) 2:55.19
1,500m Torrence, David (USA) 3:39.29

Men's 800m: Abubaker Kaki Gets First 1:43 In Hayward Field History

With all the history of Hayward Field, it is hard to believe no one had run sub-1:44 before today, but that was the case. Abubaker Kaki was the only runner to stay with the rabbit and this race was Kaki versus the clock, then the field versus each other for second place.

Kaki was able to finish in a Hayward Field record 1:43.68 in his outdoor opener.

Much of the rest of the field was battling together with 200m to go for the bridesmaid's prize. 8-time US champ Khadevis Robinson (profile here), who had gone from last to first the last 250m last week to get the shock win in Rome, was moving up well the final 250m here as well. He hadn't been in last this time but was back in the pack. Coming around the turn, he ran into some traffic and Nick Symmonds and KD lost his momentum. As the field battled down the homestretch, KD was able to get his momentum going again and pulled ahead of 1:42 800m runner Boaz Lalang for second. The Oregon-based Americans had an off day, as Andrew Wheating was the best of the group in fifth in 1:45.95. 2008 Olympic Trials champ Nick Symmonds, who had seemingly replaced Robinson atop the US ranks, really struggled the final 100m after being in a good position coming off the turn, and finished in a distant 1:46.78. American Leo Manzano was a non-factor in last place throughout and dropped out of the race.

Afterwards, Robinson was pleased with his performance and ability to battle back and get second. He said, "When racing guys like this, you have to do everything perfectly to just compete. ... All in all, I'm happy. I ran 1:45 ... The only thing that counts is nationals ..."

When we reminded Robinson he told us last week that his come-from-behind strategy in Rome was not a new tactic, and asked him why he did it here he said, "I didn't do it on purpose" and pointed out he got out in 3rd but the field then passed him after 200m.

Quick Thought: Khadevis Robinson looked good again coming from behind despite running into contact with Nick Symmonds. He's definitely the favorite heading into nationals. Maybe he should make running from behind a habit.

2nd Quick Thought: Can the Oregon guys turn it around in only 3 weeks?

3rd Thought: The easiest way to see who is upset with their races is who doesn't want to talk to the media. Nick Symmonds and Leo Manzano breezed through the media area, which is sign #1 they weren't happy with their races. Nick Symmonds said he "hasn't done any speedwork, but that's no excuse. I still should have run better than that." Wheating, too, is coming off injury and short on speed work and unsure if he'll run the 800 or 1,500 at nationals. Manzano said he's got to put it all together. Props to Andrew Wheating for answering questions from the media despite his off day.

KD Talks About Getting 2nd One Week After Winning Rome

Andrew Wheating Answer Questions Like A Man

Nick Symmonds Says He Hasn't Done Any Speedwork

Leo Goes Quickly Through The Media Area

1
SUD
1:43.68
WL,MR
2
USA
1:45.40
3
KEN
1:45.49
4
KEN
1:45.82
SB
5
USA
1:45.95
6
AUS
1:46.11
7
USA
1:46.39
8
USA
1:46.78
 
USA
DNF
 
USA
DNF

Intermediate times:
400m Scherer, Matthew (USA) 49.60
600m Kaki Khamis, Abubaker (SUD) 1:16.19

Men's Steeple: Olympic Champ Ezekiel Kemboi Gets The Win

World and Olympic champ Ezekiel Kemboi and Olympic bronze medallist and 7:56 guy Paul Koech were the class of the field and battled on the final lap for the win. Kemboi got the win in a modest 8:08 opener. Afterwards, he said he had hoped to run faster, but was pleased to win. He'll now go back to Kenya for some training.

The Americans in the field had their own battle. Billy Nelson, with his win at Stanford, was the only American in the field with the World Championships standard (8:23.10). Dan Huling got the FAM (First American) prize in 8:25, as he was followed by Kyle Alcorn and Nelson. Huling said he's about 2 weeks behind where he was last year at this time of the season and just could not close in 63 like he usually does. Next week, he'll run at Reebok.

Kyle Alcorn had the interesting comment that he felt like they were too close to the Kenyans early on, so instead of thinking they were running fast, he figured the Kenyans were letting the pace go slow.

Billy Nelson, despite finishing third here, is rejuvenated in 2011 and glad to be back training under Mark Wetmore. This was his last race before nationals.

Ezekiel Kemboi Talks About His Win

Dan Huling Says He's A Couple Of Weeks Behind 2010

Kyle Alcorn On Being Closer To The Kenyans And What That Meant

Billy Nelson Talks About Pre And Being Back Under Wetmore

1
KEN
8:08.34
4
1
img
2
KEN
8:10.13
4
3
 
3
ETH
8:11.34
SB
1
4
 
4
RSA
8:24.95
 
 
 
5
USA
8:25.95
 
 
 
6
USA
8:26.88
 
 
 
7
USA
8:28.67
 
 
 
8
USA
8:37.27
 
 
 
9
USA
8:50.95
 
 
 
10
AUS
8:52.32
 
 
 
 
KEN
DNF
 
 
 
 
USA
DNF
 
 
 

Intermediate times:
1,000m Lagat, Haron (KEN) 2:45.57
2,000m Lagat, Haron (KEN) 5:33.92

Haron Keitany Wins Deep Bowerman Mile, Russell Brown PRs And Gives Some Good Advice

The Bowerman Mile is the traditional way to end the Prefontaine Classic and it did not disappoint this year once again. It also showed the depth of Kenyan miling.

At the bell, 7 guys were in contention (8 if you want to count the most talented miler in the world - Asbel Kiprop, who was in 8th place and had 7 studs in front of him with a slight gap between him and them). Kiprop's talent is amazing but his tactics are often atrocious and that was the case here. In third place here early on, he then fell back to second to last at 800m and had to try to work his way back to the front. Trying to make up 20 meters on the best milers in the world the final lap is an almost impossible task no matter one's talent. Battling around the final bend, 6 or 7 guys were in contention for the win. Silas Kiplagat, the feel good story of 2010 (he's the guy who ran 3:29 in his first European track race ever), was leading down the homestretch, but his lack of racing experience may have done him in, as he let Haron Keitany pass him on the inside and get the win in 3:49.09. Kiplagat held on for 2nd and Asbel Kiprop amazingly came up to finish 3rd, with five guys breaking 3:50.

Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis who had been back with Kiprop in the middle parts of the race, finished 10th in 3:51.95. American Russell Brown was one spot ahead of Willis in a huge PR of 3:51.45. Showing how far Russell has come in 2011, after the race he wasn't sure what to think of it. He followed his pre-race plan perfectly of staying back on the rail and running for time, but afterwards said, "I didn't expect to feel so unexcited by a super-huge PR like that. It was a good time, but as anyone who saw the race knows, I wasn't in the race ... My next race like this I know I'm going to do something big."

Quick Thought: Kiprop has talked of moving up to the 5,000m if he can't run sub-3:30 this year or win the World Championships. He should just hire a coach who will teach him racing tactics.

Quick Thought #2: Russell Brown in video #1 below gives some excellent training advice. He says one of the things he is doing better in 2011 is not treating each workout like it is the end-all be-all.  In video, #2 he talks about training with Andrew Wheating and how Andrew perhaps does not understand he is nearly unbeatable when he is on.

Quick Thought #3: Nick Willis in his interview puts the Kenyan depth in perspective. He points out that people don't realize how tough it is for the Kenyan runners and how hard it is to run 3:50 week in and week out and how oftentimes it is a different Kenyan guy up front in each race. This race showed this a little bit. Silas Kiplagat opened his season 2nd in Doha, then he was 4th in Shanghai and then only 9th in his last race in Hengelo before getting second here. Keitany started out only fifth in Doha, but then was second in Hengelo before winning here. Up next for Nick is the adidas GP in NYC. Nick said his legs were a bit flat from his bout of altitude training in Flagstaff.

1
KEN
3:49.09
WL
4
1
img
2
KEN
3:49.39
PB
2
4
 
3
KEN
3:49.55
3
3
 
4
ETH
3:49.70
PB
1
5
 
5
KEN
3:49.77
 
 
 
6
KEN
3:50.29
 
 
 
7
ETH
3:50.43
 
 
 
8
MAR
3:50.67
 
 
 
9
USA
3:51.45
PB
 
 
 
10
NZL
3:51.95
 
 
 
11
KEN
3:53.76
 
 
 
12
USA
3:53.85
 
 
 
 
KEN
DNF
 
 
 
 
USA
DNF
 
 
 

Intermediate times:
400m Wieczorek, Mark (USA) 55.62
800m Wieczorek, Mark (USA) 1:54.73
1,200m Kithii, Joshphat Mitunga (KEN) 2:52.11
1,500m Kiplagat, Silas (KEN) 3:34.46

Russell Brown On His 3:51 PR And With Some Great Workout Advice

Russell Brown Says He Needs To Help Andrew Wheating Get His Head On Right


Nick Willis On His Prefontaine Mile And The Kenyan Depth

Men's Mile Video

Women's 800m: Kenia Sinclair's World Leader Turns Back Semenya, Geena Gall Gets First Sub-2:00, What Has Happened To Jelimo?

Any time Caster Semenya races, she is going to get a ton of attention. Today was no different. Semenya, the 2009 World Champion who was caught up in a gender controversy, suffered her first defeat in seven 800m races in 2011, although she broke 2:00 for the first time this year.

Erica Moore rabbited through 400m in 57.1 with most of the field tightly bunched about a second back. Trailing that group was Semenya, and American Maggie Vessey, who is known for charging late. Then way behind both of them - about 30 meters back - was Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo, who would end up running 2:09.

Semenya left herself way too much ground to make up the final lap and although she would move up to get second, she was no match for Jamaica's Kenia Sinclair. Sinclair, who opened the season nearly anchoring Jamaica's sprint medley to a world record at Penn, pulled away from the tightly-grouped field over the final 100m to get the convincing win in a world-leading 1:58.29. Semenya was second and former World Champ Janeth Jepkosgei third. American Alysia (Johnson) Montano, who ran 1:57.34 last year in Europe, showed she is on track for nationals, as she finished her first 800 of 2011 in a respectable 1:59.40. Johnson, who went to Cal-Berkeley, used to battle Geena Gall of Michigan in college. Gall, the Oregon Track Club member, was perhaps the happiest runner in the field, as she got under the 2:00.00 barrier for the first time and also hit the World Championships qualifying standard.

Quick Thought #1: In her first year of 800m running, Jelimo ran 1:54.01 in 2008. That is nearly 1.5 seconds better than Semenya has ever run. The problem for Jelimo is since 2008, she's never come within 5 seconds of that time. Just as great as her rise was, her fall is even greater, as she hasn't broken 2:00 in 2 years. We'd love to hear you theories on this, so feel free to email us.

Quick Thought #2: Congrats to Geena Gall for going sub-2:00

1
JAM
1:58.29
WL
4
1
img
2
RSA
1:58.88
SB
2
3
 
3
KEN
1:59.15
1
5
 
4
USA
1:59.40
 
 
 
5
RUS
1:59.59
SB
 
 
 
6
USA
1:59.76
PB
 
 
 
7
USA
2:00.05
 
 
 
8
USA
2:00.19
 
 
 
9
USA
2:00.39
 
 
 
10
GBR
2:00.68
 
 
 
11
KEN
2:09.12
 
 
 
 
USA
DNF
 
 
 

Intermediate times:
400m Moore, Erica (USA) 57.14
600m Moore, Erica (USA) 1:27.53

Kenia Sinclair Wants To Run Faster And Run Well Later In The Season

Semenya Says She's Fine Talking With The Media


Geena Gall On Her First Sub-2:00

Women's 800 Video:

Women' Mile: Gelete Burka Upsets Maryam Jamal, Nancy Langat Disappoints

This field featured 2-time World Champion Maryam Jamal, who had returned to form in 2011 with 2 impressive early season wins, 2008 Olympic Champion Nancy Langat, who dominated the 2010 season, and former world indoor champion Gelete Burka. Despite the credentialed field, rabbit Sara Vaughn had a big gap on the field despite slowing to 2:11 at 800m (2:08 is 4:00 pace).

American Christin Wurth-Thomas led at the bell and was leading into the final 200m when Jamal and Burka came by. There was some contact with Wurth-Thomas and she was pushed into the infield losing all of her momentum. She would finish the race in 10th in 4:08 but was rightfully disappointed with the contact afterwards.

Up front Jamal and Burka were battling for the crown and it was no contest. Burka turned the tables on Jamal, who beat her in Rome, winning here by nearly a full second. Jamal was second and sub-2:00 800m runner American Morgan Uceny was third in 4:06.32.

Uceny had opened her outdoor season a month ago with a disappointing 4:10 6th-place performance at Stanford and decided to quit racing and go back to training until this race. She was pleased with the result. Katie Follett, the former University of Washington Husky, who was the surprise winner of Stanford and then ran 4:07 to win 2 weeks ago at Occidental, finished in 13th in her first real professional race. Afterwards, she said she would have liked to run better, but really enjoyed the experience.

Quick Thought #1: The Olympic champion Nancy Langat has raced twice in 2011 and finished 5th both times. In all of 2010, she only lost at 1,500 twice the entire year. Last year, she was known for one thing - winning (and not breaking 4). This year, she appears to be imitating her more inconsistent 2009 form.

Quick Thought #2: Sara Hall, Ryan's wife, said she will likely run the steeplechase at nationals, which is a good plan for her since she has the Worlds qualifier in the steeple.

1
ETH
4:04.63
2
BRN
4:05.44
3
USA
4:06.32
SB
4
ESP
4:06.66
5
KEN
4:07.04
6
NZL
4:07.14
SB
7
USA
4:07.57
SB
8
ETH
4:08.25
9
MAR
4:08.33
10
USA
4:08.55
11
AUS
4:09.82
12
RUS
4:10.34
SB
13
USA
4:10.52
14
USA
4:15.58
 
USA
DNF

Intermediate times:
400m Vaughn, Sara (USA) 1:04.12
800m Vaughn, Sara (USA)2:11.84
1,200m Wurth-Thomas, Christin (USA) 3:20.07

Morgan Uceny Talks About Her Improved Performance

A Ticked Off Christin Wurth-Thomas


Katie Follett Talks About Running Her First Truly Pro Meet

More Pre: 2011 Prefontaine Classic Results
*Day 1: Moses Mosop Smashes 30k World Record And Says He Can Run 2:02 In The Marathon
*2011 Prefontaine 5,000m And 10,000m: Americans Disappoint, Mo Farah Impresses, Vivian Cheruiyot Wins Again

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