Pre Classic Mile: REMATCH IN EUGENE
May 15, 2012
Eugene, Oregon – Nobody does it better when it comes to the Mile than the Prefontaine Classic, and this year’s 38th edition will add to that with a grudge match of the two best milers in the world.
The Pre Classic, a major stop on the road to the 2012 London Olympics, and part of the elite Samsung Diamong League of international meets, will be held June 1-2 at Eugene, Ore. The meet features not one, but two world-class competitions of the men’s Mile, an historic event with a following like none other. The more famous or the two races at Pre is the Bowerman Mile, since 2000 named after legendary Oregon coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman. The more recent is named the International Mile, begun in 2010 as a result of athlete demand. It featured 10 runners under 3:58 in its inaugural year, and 8 runners under 3:58 last year.
Seeding of the Bowerman and International fields will be finalized over the next two and a half weeks leading up to the events, but sure to be included in the Bowerman are the No. 1 and No. 2 milers in world, Kenyans Asbel Kiprop and Silas Kiplagat.
The two Kenyans are fierce competitive rivals. Both are 22 years old, and they have met 11 times throughout their young careers at either the mile or the 1500 meters. Kiplagat holds a 6-5 edge, but it’s not without controversy. Kiplagat’s latest win, at the May 11 Samsung Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar, came as Kiplagat – in some viewers’ eyes – fouled Kiprop with about 100 meters left. However, no foul was called. Kiplagat won the 1500-meter event in a world-leading 3:29.63, just 0.15 seconds ahead of Kiprop.
Kiprop, who won the gold medal at last year’s World Championships in Daegu as well as the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 1500 meters, has been ranked No.1 in the world the last three straight years by Track & Field News. Kiprop is familiar with Pre and Eugene – he has run sub-3:50 Miles at Pre the last three years, winning the 2010 and 2009 Bowerman Miles. His best ever is 3:48.50 from his 2009 victory.
Kiplagat, the closest to recently challenge Kiprop, was silver medalist at last year’s World Championships. Kiplagat, who even defeated Kiprop at last year’s Bowerman Mile, was ranked No. 2 in the world by T&FN. His best is 3:49.39 from last year.
American Matthew Centrowitz completes the sweep of last year’s World Championships 1500 medalists. He electrified American fans by earning a bronze medal in Daegu, but is at age 22 a relative newcomer to the international scene. His Mile best is “only” 3:53.92, a time he achieved winning this year’s venerable Wannamaker Mile at the Millrose Games in February.
But there are loads more fast Milers in this year’s Pre Classic, including the winner of last year’s Bowerman Mile, Haron Keitany of Kenya, who beat both Kiprop and Kiplagat as all three broke 3:50. Keitany, ranked No. 4 in the world last year by T&FN, has a best of 3:48.78 from 2009, when he was runner-up to Kiprop in the Bowerman Mile.
Centrowitz has an American teammate in the field, and perhaps the best veteran ever. Bernard Lagat has won five World Championships gold medals, but none of them the gold that he desires – the Olympic variety. Lagat, though 37, is still one of the best in the world – he proved so in Istanbul by winning the World Indoor Championships 3000 meters. He is a two-time winner of the Bowerman Mile with a PR in the Mile of 3:47.28.
The Kenyans and Americans will be surrounded by world-class competition, led by Mekonnen Gebremedhin of Ethiopia and Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco. Gebremedhin, ranked No. 6 in the world last year by T&FN, was third in the Bowerman Mile in 2010 and fourth last year, when he recorded his PR of 3:49.70. Iguider, a 2008 Olympic finalist at age 21, won the gold medal at this year’s World Indoor Championships in Istanbul. He hasn’t run the Mile distance since 2007, but his best 1500 time of 3:31.47 converts to a Mile time of 3:48.39.
It doesn’t stop there. The Bowerman Mile meet record is held by Daniel Kipchirchir Komen of Kenya, who ran 3:48.28 in 2007. Twice ranked No. 1 in the world by T&FN, he was sixth in loaded field last year at 3:50.29. New Zealand’s Nick Willis, silver medalist at the 2008 Olympics, is a two-time former runner-up in the Bowerman Mile whose 1500 best of 3:31.79 converts to a Mile time of 3:48.74. Amine Laalou of Morocco, a two-time Olympian in the 800 with a best of 1:43.25, is also quite fast in the Mile. Ranked No. 2 in the Mile in the world by T&FNin 2010, he has a best of 3:50.22 (as runner-up in the 2010 Bowerman Mile) and a 1500 PR of 3:29.53 that converts to a Mile of 3:46.30, which would make him the fastest in the field.
Several Americans are also aiming to run fast in Eugene, led by hometown favorite Andrew Wheating, on the comeback trail after being injured in 2011; American record holder Alan Webb (3:46.91 in 2007), fastest in the field but also seeking to bounce back after injury; and Russell Brown, who has thrown a first dart at the target of making the U.S. Olympic team by posting a PR 3:34.11 in the 1500 to become the fastest American thus far this year (that 1500 converts to a mile of 3:51.24). Among the other top Americans expected are Leonel Manzano (3:49.36 converted), David Torrence (3:51.39 converted), Lopez Lomong (3:49.18 converted), Will Leer (3:53.64 converted), Dorian Ulrey (3:52.45 converted), and Jeff See (3:55.47).
Bowerman and International Miles
Silas Kiplagat (Kenya)
Asbel Kiprop (Kenya)
Abdelaati Iguider (Morocco)
Mekonnen Gebremedhin (Ethiopia)
Haron Keitany (Kenya)
Nick Willis (New Zealand)
Collins Cheboi (Kenya)
Russell Brown (USA)
Amine Laalou (Morocco)
Daniel Kipchirchir Komen (Kenya)
Matthew Centrowitz (USA)
David Torrence (USA)
Leonel Manzano (USA)
Andrew Wheating (USA)
Aman Wote (Ethiopia)
Bethwell Birgen (Kenya)
Bernard Lagat (USA)
Dawit Wolde (Ethiopia)
Tesfaye Cheru (Ethiopia)
Lopez Lomong (USA)
Nicholas Kemboi (Qatar)
Will Leer (USA)
Dorian Ulrey (USA)
Jeff See (USA)
Alan Webb (USA)
Gideon Gathimba (Kenya)
Mohamed Al Garni (Qatar)
Remmy Limo Ndiwa (Kenya)
Mohammed Shaween (Kuwait)
With the addition of the Bowerman and International Miles to the to the previously announced seven events, 44 athletes in this year’s Prefontaine Classic have won a total of 114 Olympic or World Championships medals (44 gold, 37 silver, 33 bronze). The 44 medalists include 21 with at least one gold medal.
Tickets for the 38th annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held June 1-2 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 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.