Preview Of Friday Night's Distance Races At The 2011 Prefontaine Classic

By Tim Jeffreys and
June 3, 2011

If the legendary race in 1971 was called The Dream Mile, the 2011 Prefontaine Classic should be dubbed The Dream Meet. Most of the event will take place on Saturday, but three selected events will take place under the lights at legendary Hayward Field: mens 25,000/30,000 meters, women's 5,000 meters and the men's 10,000 meters.

Men's 10,000 Meters

The race of the night and possibly the meet will be the men's 10,000. The field is totally loaded. Up front, the race is a virtual "who's who" of distance running. Regarded by many as the best field ever assembled on American soil for the distance, this event includes 6 men with PRs under 27:00 and 4 men with personal bests under 26:50. With no major 10km in the world last year, and none on the imminent horizon, this event could have a huge impact on national team selection for Kenya and Ethiopia (16 Kenyans and 5 Ethiopians are on the start list). The race features three unanswered questions.

1) Who will win the overall race?

2) Who will be the top American - Galen Rupp or Chris Solinsky? Yes, we are totally discounting their chances for an overall victory.

3) Will Rupp or Solinsky get the AR?

Before we get to those questions, just take a look at how stacked the field is. The following people are expected to race:

12:58/28:03/27:25 road
13:42/60:38 half
12:58/26:44 WR 10k/41:13 15k WR 
Only XC results
10,000m Men
            ABDIRAHMAN          Abdi                  USA
            ABSHERO             Abayneh Ayele         ETH
            BETT                Josphat Kipkoech      KEN
            CHERUIYOT           John Kemboi           KEN
            COOLSAET            Reid                  CAN
            CRAGG               Alistair Ian          IRL
            EBUYA               Joseph                KEN
            FARAH               Mo                    GBR
            GASHU               Ibrahim Jeilan        ETH
            KIGEN               Mike Kipruto          KEN
            KIPKOECH            John                  KEN
            KIPSANG             Geoffrey              KEN
            KISORIO             Matthew Kipkoech      KEN
            KOMON               Leonard Patrick       KEN
            KUMA                Abera                 ETH
            MACHARINYANG        Hosea Mwok            KEN
            MAHBOOB             Hassan                BRN
            MASAI               Denis                 KEN
            MASAI               Moses Ndiema          KEN
            MEDHIN              Teklemariam           ERI
            MERGA               Imane                 ETH
            NEGERA              Abebe Dinkesa         ETH
pace        NELSON              Tim                   USA
pace        RONO                Aron                  KEN
            ROTICH              Lucas Kimeli          KEN
            RUPP                Galen                 USA
            SALEL               Daniel Lemashon       KEN
            SIHINE              Sileshi               ETH
            SOLINSKY            Chris                 USA
            TADESSE             Kidane                ERI
            TADESSE             Zersenay              ERI
2011 Best
63:12 half
59:42 half
28:08 road
60:49 half
27:56 road
27:26 road
60:38 half
60:03/1:12:13 25k
27:33 road
62:31 half
Only XC results
12:54 won Rome
63:10 half
13:11i AR, 60:30
Only XC results
58:30 half

Runners in red are sub-27 people.

Now let's start with the first question. 1) Who will win the overall race?

The race features six men with bests faster than 27 minutes, including American Chris Solinsky. That being said, an American won't win this race.

One of the following men will win the race. We start with the bio that was given to them by Pre Classic meet organizers and then add our own comments:

1) Zersenay Tadese, Eritrea. Two-time Olympic bronze medallist, 8th-fastest 10,000m runner of all time (26:37.25), silver medallist in the 2009 World Championships. Tadese has come to Eugene with the specific intent of lowering his personal best.

LRC's Take:
With Bekele out, Tadese is arguably the best long-distance runner on the planet. The last time Zersenay Tadese raced a 10km, he covered his last 5km in 13:09. Unfortunately for him, Kenenisa Bekele was also in the race and he ran 13:05 to take the victory away from Tadese. Tadese comes into Eugene in great form, as he blitzed a 58:30 half marathon in March. However, a 10,000 isn't a half marathon, so the question is can he kick with Merga?

2) Imane Merga, Ethiopia. Ranked No. 1 in the world last year at 5,000, winner of the World Cross-Country Championships in March (12k), Merga was also fourth at the 2009 World Championships at this distance. His 5,000m best indicates potential for a 10,000 much faster than his current PR (27:14.94).

LRC's Take:
Merga is the hottest runner in the world coming into this event. After winning the World Cross-Country Championships in Punta Umbria this March, Merga opened his track season with a 12:54 5km victory in Rome last week - a time that is 10 seconds faster than he's ever opened the season. The winner of the Diamond League 5km in 2010, many forget that Merga also finished fourth in the 2009 World Championships in the 10km, running a personal best of 27:15, a time which is sure to be beaten Friday night.
With a victory at Pre, he will have to be viewed as the #1 track distance man on the planet. If it's close at the end, look for Merga to get the win.

3) Sileshi Sihine, Ethiopia. The two-time Olympic and two-time World Championships silver medalist at 10,000, Sihine has won a total of six medals at 5,000 and 10,000, and carries a lifetime best of 26:39.69 into Eugene.

LRC's Take: Since "Mr. Silver" didn't finish a race in 2010, Sihine is sort of the forgotten man. However, he's only 28 years old and by no means is past his prime. Few seem to realize that he opened his track season last week in Rome in good form with a nice 12:57 5,000. He seems to be on the comeback trail and can't be discounted.

4) Leonard Komon, Kenya. Although his lifetime best on the track is 26:57.08, Komon has run 26:44 on the roads, which stands as the world best over the distance.

LRC's Take: Having Komon in this race is a dream come true for us here at, as it puts one of the best road runners back on the track. In May, he destroyed the field at Healthy Kidney 10k in Central Park. In that race, he beat American 27:24 man Bobby Curtis by 94 seconds. What does that mean for the track? We'll find out. We do think he'll probably have trouble kicking with the big boys at the end. If not, it just shows that a lot of guys are running the roads simply because it's way more lucrative. However, it's not like this guy is a slow, as he has a 12:58 5,000 PR.

LRC Prediction: Many pundits probably think 26:49 man Moses Masai - the bronze medallist at the World Champs 10,000 - has a chance, but he was just 7th in Hengelo last week in 13:13 (and 8th at the World's Best 10k), so we think his form isn't strong enough.

We'll go with Merga, as he won in Rome and he won World XC, so it's impossible to not pick him. But look for Sihine to challenge him. It will be interesting to see how the more road-focused guys Tadese and Sihine stack up.

1) Merga 2) Sihine (Mr. Silver) 3) Komon 4) Tadese. Other contenders include Lucas Rotich, who was 8th in the world in the 5km last year and has ran 59:44 in 2011, Matthew Kosorio, who finished 4th in the African Championships 10km in 2010 and was 4th at World XC in 2011, and Daniel Salel, who had a strong debut last year at Stanford running 27:07. Plus Brit Mo Farah.

Now moving on to the Americans focused questions.

2)Who will be the top American - Galen Rupp or Chris Solinsky?
3) Will Rupp or Solinsky get the AR?

We definitely think the AR is going down; otherwise, Rupp and Solinsky wouldn't be running. As a result, the question is who gets it?

Solinsky got the much-deserved hype last year for being the top American at Stanford and for becoming the first non-African under 27:00. But what people seem to forget is that in that race, Galen Rupp did much of the work after the rabbits fell off. In Eugene, Rupp won't be doing any of the work. Rupp has great endurance, as shown by his fine 60:30 showing at the NYC Half Marathon, and he also seems to be in great form this year, getting the indoor 5,000 AR of 13:11 in February. As a result, we think he might be able to break clear of Solinsky and get the AR.

Solinsky is the current American record holder and while he was beaten in Australia in March by Bernard Lagat and Ben St. Lawrence at 5,000, it should be pointed out that his time of 13:10 was very close to the 13:11 Rupp ran in February. Since then, however, Rupp has been focused on the longer stuff, whereas Solinsky was running 3:35 for 1,500 in April. As a result, we give the edge to Rupp, who has been working on his endurance.

However, if it's close, Solinsky does have the better finish. Would Solinsky possibly try to just follow Rupp around the track for 24 laps instead of focusing on the rest of the race? That might be his best bet for keeping his AR.

LRC Prediction: Galen Rupp gets the AR!!!

Note:' Wejo Disagrees, Wejo Says: "I Landed in Portland, am Headed to Eugene and I Think Solinsky Will Beat Rupp"

Women's 5,000 Meters

Like the men's 10,000, the women's 5,000 is very much loaded, as shown by the following table:

14:55 h
14:11 WR
14:44 AR
5,000m Women
            Areson              Jackiie               USA
            ANTENEH             Emebet                ETH
            AYALEW              Hiwot                 ETH
            AYALEW              Wude                  ETH
            CHEMTAI             Esther                KEN
            CHEPKURUI           Lineth                KEN
            CHERONO             Mercy                 KEN
            CHERUIYOT           Vivian Jepkemoi       KEN
            DIBABA              Tirunesh              ETH
            FLANAGAN            Shalane               USA
pace        HINDS               Korene                JAM
            KIBET               Sylvia Jebiwot        KEN
            KIPYEGO             Sally                 KEN
            KORIKWIANG          Pauline Chemning      KEN
            MALOY               Elizabeth             USA
            MASAI               Linet Chepkwemoi      KEN
            MURIUKI             Margaret Wangari      KEN
            SAMITOVA-GALKINA    Gulnara               RUS
            UTURA               Sule                  ETH
            WELLINGS            Eloise                AUS
            WRIGHT              Megan                 CAN
            YODER BEGLEY        AMY                   USA
pace        ZEFERJAHN           Tanya                 USA
2011 Best
Only XC results
31:24 10k
14:31/Gold World XC 
30:39 10k
30:38 10k
14:32/Silver World XC
Only XC results
31:41 10k

The women's 5km is shaping up to be an early preview of what's to come this summer. The first Diamond League meet held in Shanghai featured a thrilling finish - look for much of the same Friday night in Eugene.

The field is absolutely loaded, as it features the defending Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 champion Tirunesh Dibaba (who also won Pre last year), the reigning world champion at 5,000, Vivian Cheruiyot, who is coming off a victory in Shanghai, where she ran a world-leading 14:31 and defeated a strong field that included the reigning world 10,000 champion in Linet Masai. Masai is racing in Eugene, as is Sentayehu Ejigu (#4 in the world last year), who also was in Shanghai.

Cheruiyot is the veteran, having won the Diamond League 5km last year, and if we had to pick a favorite, it would be her. While Cheruiyot enters the race on a hot streak, it's hard to discount Tirunesh Dibaba even if she comes in surrounded by some doubt. Dibaba is the Olympic champ and world record holder in the event, but she has not been able to regain that form she had in that magical summer of 2008 when, along with getting the 5km world record in 14:11, she captured two gold medals in Beijing and set the Olympic record in the 10km by running 29:54, third fastest all-time.

It is tough to count out such a proven champion, but considering her infrequent racing since 2008, it's hard to know what to expect. Dibaba didn't try to defend her world title in 2009 and many viewed 2010 as a sub-par year for her by her lofty standards, as she didn't run faster than 14:34. That perception, though, may be wrong, as it needs to be pointed out that she didn't lose a single 5,000 last year - going a perfect 4 for 4.

Who will reign in 2011 and the years to come? Dibaba or Cheruiyot? We may start to know on Friday night.

The Race Within The Race - How Will Kipyego & Flanagan Do? Will Flanagan Get The AR?
Eugene-based Sally Kipyego of Kenya enters the race just like her demeanor, quiet and confident. Having just defeated top American Shalane Flanagan last month over 10km, running 30:38, it looks like Sally is ready to make a splash on the world scene. She looks to pick up right where she left off in the last year in the 5km, as her personal best came in Brussells in 14:38. Sally definitely has the strength, but the big question is will she have the speed to kick with the world's best? We don't think so.

Shalane Flanagan is currently the face of women's distance running in America. After her 2nd-place finish in her debut marathon in New York City last fall (beating wonder woman Mary Keitany), she followed it up with a bronze medal at World XC, becoming the first non-African in the top 3 in almost a decade. Outdoors, Flanagan has been running pretty well, as she opened up with a 1,500m victory at Mt. SAC in a comfortable 4:11, then ran 30:39 10km at the Payton Jordan two weeks later, finishing second to Sally Kipyego.

Flanagan is incredibly good and in good form, but that being said, she has little chance of contending for the win in this race, as the world's best are just significantly better than she is at 5,000. The question is this: With all the momentum she has now, can she challenge Molly Huddle's American Record of 14:44.76 and reclaim the record that she had until Huddle barely squeaked by it by .04 last summer?

We think so.

One Other Person Worth Mentioning
20-year-old Mercy Cherono comes into this race after setting a personal best in Shanghai of 14:37 - some six seconds back of the win. The 2010 world junior champion in 3km and runner-up in 5km, Cherono has a bright future ahead of her. What she lacks in experience she makes up for in courage, as she was right up with her compatriots for the majority of the race in Shanghai.

LRC Prediction: We have no idea what to expect from Dibaba, as she hasn't raced this year. It seems weird to pick her third as that would be like picking Haile G third in a race.

1. Cheruiyot 2. Masai 3. Dibaba 4. Cherono ... AR for Flanagan.

Cheruyiot defeats Masai in an exciting finish. Flanagan gets the American Record with the help of the raucous crowd at Hayward Field.

Mens 25,000 And 30,000

Hayward Field will play host to an eclectic schedule of events at the 2011 Prefontaine Classic. One of those unique events will be the seldom run 30km. Abel Kirui and Moses Mosop aim to better the 25km and 30km world bests in the same race. Race officials say the plan is for Kirui to finish at 25km while Mosop continues on for another 12.5 laps, with the goal of breaking the current records held by Japan's Toshiko Seko.

Kirui, the reigning world champion in the marathon, owns a personal best in the marathon of 2:05:04 set in 2009, which he ran to get third in Rotterdam. His 25k split in that race? Just seconds slower than 1:13:55 he looks to run Friday night.

The bad news is since running 2:05:04 and then following that up with gold at the World Champs in 2:06:54, Kirui has not shown the same form. Last year, he was 5th in London 2:08:04 and 9th in New York in 2:13:01. This year, he's only raced once - a 1:02:08 half marathon last March. But given the fact that the 25km world record of 1:13:55 is little faster than his halfway split, it seems likely that Kirui will get the record. The record pace only takes one through the half marathon in 62:22. Can he do that and keep going for a bit more? We sure hope so. (When watching the race, realize that the record pace is 2:57.4 per km or 4:43.84 per 1,600m).

The 30km world record of 1:29:18 equates to a very similar pace, as it takes one through the half marathon in 1:02:48. If he was in peak form, Moses Mosop, the man who will be accompanying Kirui for the first 25km and then going hopefully for 5km more, would have no problem with getting the record. However, he is just six weeks removed from the fastest debut marathon of all time and the second fastest marathon in history at Boston, 2:03:06, and it’s hard to know how he'll be feeling. For comparison's sake, please realize that fellow Boston marathon runner Ryan Hall raced last week at the Bolder Boulder 10km and he didn't produce his marathon pace for 10km - although it should be pointed out that he was running at altitude.

In the end, however, we think Mosop - who also took home the bronze medal in the 2005 World Championships and has a 10,000 personal best of 26:49 - will get the record as well.

LRC Prediction: Look for both records to fall Friday night, as Kirui and Mosop set the tone for what is going to be a memorable weekend in Eugene.

PS: The current world records on the track are 1:13:55 for 25km and 1:29:18 for 30km. It needs to be pointed out, though, that those marks are totally gimmicky records, as they were set back in 1981 when the world record for the marathon was just 2:09:06.

The records only count track times. Many men have run faster on the roads, even in the midst of marathons.

25km - When Haile Gebrselassie set the current world record of 2:03:59 in 2008 in Berlin, he went through 25km in 1:13:40 (1:02:10 half marathon pace/2:56.8 km pace). On the aided Boston course this year, Geoffrey Mutai hit 25km in 1:13:16 (1:01:49.8 half marathon pace/2:55.84 per km). It's conceivable that Mosop and Kirui will break those times, but the there is basically zero chance they'll break the fastest 25km time in history. A 25km road race isn't very popular ,but Haile Gebrselassie did run one back in 2006 and he holds the road world record of 1:11:37 for 25km, which is 1:00.25 half marathon pace.

30km - When he set the marathon world record in 2008, Haile G went through 30km in 1:28:25 (1:02:10 half marathon pace/2:56.8 km pace - equal to his pace at the 25k split), which is almost exactly what Geoffrey Mutai hit for 30k this year at Boston - 1:28:24. In 2009, when Haile Gebrselassie didn't get the record in Berlin, he went through 30km even faster, as he hit it in 1:27:49, which is actually faster than the 30km road record of 1:28:00. The 1:27:49 time is 1:01:44 half marathon pace (2:55.6 per km). It'll beinteresting to see if Mosop and Kirui get going at this pace.

For more info on the 25,000 and 30,000 records, see the email below that we received from visitor David Graham.

Hey Guys,

Like you, I'm excited to find out how the 10,000 at Eugene's Prefontaine Classic will turn out tonight. However, there is a part of me that actually has more interest in the men's 30,000 meter race, which I hope will get good news coverage. Chances are good that the oldest records in track and field are going to fall tonight as Toshihiko Seko's 30 year old records are ripe for picking (and given the talent level in today's world could be beaten by probably 50 or 60 world class runners).

(Here's a quick reference for dates of all the current official distance world records: Seko's is the oldest at March 22, 1981. No other official distance running record dates back to the 1980s and even in the field events, the closest is 1986, for the discuss and hammer throw records (though the old javelin design record was set in 1984).

In "non-official" distances, the men's 4 x mile WR dates to 1985 There was also a hand-timed 150 meter world best by Petro Mennea run in 1983, a 500 meter world best run by Donato Sabia in 1984, and a 600 meter world best run by Johnny Gray in 1986. Seko's records are older than all these as well.

You have to go to the ultradistances before you find a track mark older than Seko's 25K/30K WR's: Jeff Norman's 50,000 meters in 1980, Don Ritchie's 100K from 1978, Jim Alder's 2 hour run in 1964, and then two grandaddy races by Don Styron in 1960 and Martin Lauer in 1959 in the 200 meter hurdles. See: Though this list was compiled in 2007 and is not completely up to date, I doubt any of these older marks have changed in the last four years.

I'm surprised no one has taken a shot at these 25k/30k world records for so long - the distinction of breaking a world record is one most runners never get...and with the standard track distances having marks that are within the potential reach of only a handful of runners, I would have thought that some Kenyan, Ethiopian, or even one of the few American marathon elites would have taken a shot at the official IAAF approved 25K/30K standards somewhere along the way in the past 30 years ... who wouldn't want to have "WR" next to one's name? It's what Bill Rodgers did in 1979 when he went back to the track and broke the WR for 25,000 meters ... and he'll always be able to say that he was a world record holder. His WR is long gone ... but not the fact that he was once a WR holder: like an Olympic medal, that status is permanent (unless found to be drug aided, like Ben Johnson's 100m marks).

I'm also surprised (and disappointed) that Haile Gebrselassie never took a shot at these marks: they would easily have been within his reach. And as someone who claimed he wanted to get 30 world records on his resume before he retired - and who is currently three short of 30 - it seems odd that he never tried to break the 25,000 and 30,000 meter track records, especially since he did go after (and break) the 20,000 and one hour track records. Surely Jos Hermans could have arranged for Geb to go after this at some track meet? Surely Hermans could have interested a Golden League meet or even a low key meet in Australia in January or February in seeing a world record set on their track? No, the $$ pay for Geb wouldn't be much, but the world records would be his. (In fact, he could even have pulled a Sergey Bubka/Yelena Isinbayeva by breaking both records by a little bit, then do it again and again, thus ending up with 25K and 30K track records on numerous occasions ... and more $$ WR bonuses each time.)

(Geb also could easily have broken the world road record for 8K, but never gave that a shot either ...)

Tonight's 30K race at Eugene will probably produce a WR in both 25K and 30K races. In fact, I expect both world records to be shattered. And the times might be so good that even if he were interested in trying to break them, at 38 years of age Geb might not have a good shot at doing so.

Missed opportunities ... oh well.

More: Nice Eugene Register Guard Article on Men's 10,000m


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