2012 Pre Classic Men’s 5K: Kenenisa Bekele & Mo Farah To Duel Before London

Rupp, Ritz & Teg Will Lead The American Charge

Courtesy of the Pre Classic
April 30, 2012

             Eugene, Oregon—Steve Prefontaine would have loved this year’s men’s 5000 field at the meet named in his honor.  After all, the world’s best are competing in his trademark Olympic event and it includes an impressive group of fearless young talent, along with some Americans with extreme motivation.  Plus, the race will occur on Saturday, June 2nd at Hayward Field, the cathedral of quality distance running made famous by the likes of Pre.

          Shining the most light on the men’s 5K field are the reigning Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia and the reigning World Championships gold medalist in Mo Farah of Great Britain.  Both are very familiar with Hayward Field and plan to meet again in London at the Olympics.

            Bekele won the 2008 Pre 10K in 26:25.97, the 4th fastest time ever.  Later that summer we won double Olympic gold medals by sweeping the 5K and 10K in Beijing.  Four years earlier in Athens, he “only” won gold (10K) and silver (5K).  He is one of the all-time greats at the distances, collecting five gold medals in the World Championships (four at 5K, one at 10K).  His world record of 12:37.35 from 2004 still stands.

            In 2010, Farah won the 5K/10K double at the European Championships.  Soon after he moved to train in Portland, and 2011 brought an elevated set of medals: gold and silver from the World Championships in Daegu, with the gold coming in the 5K.  He recorded his 10K and 5K PRs of 26:46.57 (European Record set at Pre) and 12:53.11 last year.

            An impressive group of veterans and newcomers adds to a very fast field.

            Fastest among the group are the veterans, led by Ethiopian Tariku Bekele, Kenyan Edwin Cheruiyot Soi, Kenyan Thomas Pkemei Longosiwa, and Kenyan Jacob Cheshari.  Bekele (12:52.45) was ranked No. 2 in the world in 2010 by Track & Field News.  Soi (12:52.40) was the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist.  Longosiwa (12:51.95), a 2008 Olympic and 2011 World Championships finalist, ranked No. 7 in the world last year by T&FN.  Cheshari (12:59.72) was ranked No. 10 in the world last year by T&FN.

            The U.S. will be represented by three world-class runners with 2008 Olympic experience.  Galen Rupp (13:06.86), more accomplished at the 10K (finalist at 2008 Olympics and last three World Championships), is the only American in the field who competed in the 5K at the Daegu World Championships (doubled 5K/10K).  Matt Tegenkamp (12:58.56), 4th at the 2007 World Championships, was a finalist at the Beijing Olympics as well as the 2009 and 2011 World Championships.  Dathan Ritzenhein has range that reaches as far as the marathon, in which he was 9th at the Beijing Olympics, and set his 5K PR of 12:56.27 in 2009, which was an American record at the time.  Since finishing 4th at the 2012 U.S. Olympic marathon trials in January, he’s decided to attack the track again this summer.

            But there is also a stunning group of young guns, and one of them has impressive experience already.  Isaiah Kiplangat Koech of Kenya, at age 17, was just out of the medals at last year’s World Championships, finishing 4th and was ranked No. 4 in the world by T&FN.  His best of 12:53.29 is the indoor World Junior record.  At 17, he was 3rd in last year’s Pre 2-Mile (8:14.16).  He is now 18 and will turn 19 in December.
            Koech has company, some slightly older, some even younger.  Among the slightly older are a pair of Ethiopians with world-class times, 22-year-old Yenew Alamirew (13:00.46) and 21-year-old Abera Kuma (13:00.15).  Kuma was 5th in last year’s World Championships.

            The youngest runners in the field may provide the most intrigue.  Albert Rop, a 17-year-old from Kenya who doesn’t turn 18 until December, came out of nowhere to run 13:03.70 last year.  Tesfaye Cheru, a 19-year-old Ethiopian, will debut at this distance after bursting on the scene last year with a 2K world junior record.  William Malel, an 18-year-old Kenyan, won last year’s 3K World Youth Championships gold medal.  David Bett, a 19-year-old Kenyan, won the 2010 World Junior Championships gold medal at age 17 and has a best of 13:06.06.

            Also in the field are two-time Olympian Alistair Ian Cragg of Ireland (13:03.53), three-time Olympian Craig Mottram of Australia (12:55.76), 2008 Olympian Collis Birmingham of Australia (13:10.97), and 2010 European silver medalist Chris Thompson of Great Britain (13:11.51).
            With the addition of the men’s 5K to the previously announced women’s 10K, 7 athletes in this year’s Prefontaine Classic have won a total of 22 Olympic or World Championships medals (15 gold, 3 silver, 4 bronze).
Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia)
Mo Farah (Great Britain)
Isaiah Kiplangat Koech (Kenya)
Yenew Alamirew (Ethiopia)
Thomas Pkemei Longosiwa (Kenya)
Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia)
Edwin Cheruiyot Soi (Kenya)
Abera Kuma (Ethiopia)
Jacob Cheshari (Kenya)
Galen Rupp (USA)
Alistair Ian Cragg (Ireland)
Albert Rop (Kenya)
Craig Mottram (Australia)
Collis Birmingham (Australia)
Matt Tegenkamp (USA)
Tesfaye Cheru (Ethiopia)
Dathan Ritzenhein (USA)
Chris Thompson (Great Britain)
William Malel (Kenya)
David Bett (Kenya)
            Tickets for the 38th annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held June 2nd at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., are on sale now from www.preclassic.com and from 1-800-WEBFOOT.  Sponsored by NIKE continuously since 1984, the Prefontaine Classic will be shown live to an international audience and on NBC from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 2.

            The Prefontaine Classic is the longest-running outdoor invitational track and field meet in America and is part of the elite Samsung Diamond League of 14 meets held worldwide annually.  Last year’s Pre Classic results ranked highest among all of the 14 meets, according to All-Athletics.com, the official data Partnerof the Samsung Diamond League.

            Steve Prefontaine is a legend in the sport of track & field and is perhaps the most inspirational distance runner in American history.  He set a national high school 2-mile record while at Coos Bay High School that lasted nearly two decades.  While competing for the University of Oregon, he won national cross country championships (3) and outdoor track 3-mile/5000-meter championships (4) every time he competed, and never lost a collegiate track race at any distance.  As a collegiate junior, he made the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team and nearly won an Olympic medal, finishing 4th in the 5K at the 1972 Munich Olympics, at age 22.  After finishing college in 1973 and preparing for a return to the Olympics in 1976, he continued to improve, setting many American records.  His life ended tragically on May 30, 1975, the result of an auto accident, at age 24.  The Pre Classic began soon after and has been held every year since.


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