Preview of 2015 Pre Classic Distance Night: Mo Farah Leads a Stacked Field in 10K; Galen Rupp Makes Season Debut in 5K

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By LetsRun.com
May 27, 2015

The 2015 Prefontaine Classic is just days away and once again it promises to be a spectacular meet. There are stars in every event, with a world record attempt in the women’s 5,000, a Sanya Richards-Ross – Allyson Felix showdown in the women’s 400 and appearances by Mutaz Essa Barshim (high jump), Renaud Lavillenie (pole vault) and Justin Gatlin (200). But before we get to all that on Saturday, there is Distance Night on Friday led by two world-class distance races on the schedule: the men’s 5,000, featuring Galen Rupp, Bernard LagatRyan HillLawi LalangEdwin SoiIsiah Koech and others; and the best 10,000 of the year outside of the World Championships. The latter race is led by defending World/Olympic champion Mo Farah and contains many of the men who will challenge him in Beijing in August, including 2013 World silver medalist Paul Tanui, World XC champ Geoffrey Kamworor, Kenyan champ Josphat BettCam LevinsDiego EstradaHassan Mead and Zane Robertson. In all, seven men in the field have broken 27:00.

There will also be an elite women’s 800 featuring Maggie Vessey and Phoebe Wright (the Diamond League women’s 800 is still on Saturday) and elite girls’ and boys’ high school miles on Friday, though the latter lost some star power after sub-4:00 Oregonian Matthew Maton withdrew due to injury. If you’re in the Eugene area, you should definitely stop by on Friday night as admittance is free.

Below, we preview the pro races on tap for Distance Night on Friday and give you the details on the meet.

What: 2015 Prefontaine Classic

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Where: Hayward Field, Eugene, Ore.

When: Friday, May 29 – Saturday, May 30

How to watch: Friday events are live starting a 11 pm ET. Saturday events are live starting at 3:30 pm ET. Detailed Pre Classic TV/Streaming info here.

*Schedule/Entries *Full Coverage of 2015 Pre Classic in LRC Special Section * 2014 LRC coverage

Men’s 5,000 (9 pm Pacific, 12:00 a.m. ET)

Men’s 5000 Meters Personal Best
Isiah Kiplangat Koech (Kenya) 12:48.64
Edwin Cheruiyot Soi (Kenya) 12:51.34
Albert Rop (Bahrain) 12:51.96
Bernard Lagat (USA) 12:53.60
Galen Rupp (USA) 12:58.90
Lawi Lalang (Kenya) 13:00.95
Ibrahim Jeilan (Ethiopia) 13:09.16
Collis Birmingham (Australia) 13:09.57
Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) 13:09.81
Ryan Hill (USA) 13:14.22
Birhan Nebebew (Ethiopia) 13:14.60
David McNeill (Australia) 13:18.60
Mohammed Ahmed (Canada) 13:18.88
Yomif Kejelcha (Ethiopia) 13:25.19

The Americans

On May 29, 1975, Steve Prefontaine ran his final race, winning a 5,000 at Hayward Field in 13:23.8. So it’s fitting that, 40 years to the day later, there will be a men’s 5,000 on the same track at the meet dedicated to his memory. This race should go significantly faster than the one Pre won 40 years ago as the IAAF World Championship standard of 13:23.00 will be considered a bare minimum for most of the men in this field.

For American fans, this race serves as the outdoor debut of another Oregon legend — Galen Rupp. Rupp intended to start his 2015 outdoor season at the Hoka One One Middle Distance Classic two weeks ago, but a freak thunderstorm wound up cancelling the meet before he could run in the 5,000. At Hoka, Rupp was the favorite, the only man in the field to have broken 13:00. It would have been a nice way for Rupp to ease into the season. That’s not the case at Pre as he will be tested immediately. Rupp’s 12:58.90 pb puts him just fifth on the seed list, over 10 seconds behind reigning World bronze medalist Isiah Koech of Kenya.

Rupp’s only race so far this year, at the Armory Track Invitational on January 31, was a failure as he got his doors blown off by teammate Cam Levins in the 2-mile (Rupp wound up fourth in 8:17.24). The reason for that defeat came out after the fact — Rupp was battling a virus, which caused him to shutter the rest of his indoor season — and he hasn’t raced since. There’s no telling what kind of shape Rupp is in until we actually get to see him race, but, like Pre, Rupp has a history of success on his de facto home track, including an American record in the 10,000 at this meet a year ago.

Rupp's 10,000 AR was one of several stellar races in 2014

Rupp’s 10,000 AR was one of several stellar races in 2014

If Rupp is in shape, a top-three finish is certainly possible, though a win will prove difficult; no American man has ever won a Diamond League 3,000/5,000 (Editor’s note: The 5000 at Pre doesn’t count in the DL standings so it’s not technically a DL event). But Rupp made significant progress in the 12.5-lap event last summer, finishing 3rd, 4th, 4th and 3rd in his four DL appearances. Though he never quite had the closing speed to win a 5000 race over the final 200, he beat a lot of big names — basically everyone except Caleb Ndiku and Mo Farah — and consistently put himself in a position to battle for the win. If Rupp is to win a DL event this season, Pre is his best chance (though technically this is a non-DL event). There’s no Ndiku, Farah or Hagos Gebrhiwet and the meet is taking place in Rupp’s backyard, not some foreign stadium in Europe. His coach, Alberto Salazar, however, recognizes that as good as Rupp was last year, there’s still work to be done.

“We worked on strength so much, and he got a great result in the 10k [at Pre],” Salazar told The Oregonian‘s Ken Goe. “But we got off the speed stuff and the kick. He didn’t finish as fast as he had…

“[Instead of closing with 54-second final laps, Rupp] was running 57s or 58s. I think we’ve tweaked it back in a way to not lose the strength but to gain the speed.”

There is also the possibility that Rupp will not even finish as the top American. Rupp was the U.S.’s best at 5,000 last year, but we were denied a showdown between him and his longtime rival, Bernard Lagat at USAs — or at any other meet, for that matter. Rupp is 1-19 against Lagat in races that they both finish and though they didn’t meet outdoors in 2014, Lagat, at age 39, was 2-0 against Rupp last year with a pair of wins at 3,000 indoors. They’ll face off at Pre on Friday and there are a couple of reasons why the 40-year-old Lagat could notch win #20 over Rupp in his career:

1) We don’t know what kind of shape Rupp is in

2) We do know Lagat is in very good shape

Already in 2015, Lagat has run 3:54 for the mile, 7:37 for 3,000, 13:41 for 5k on the roads and 27:48 for 10k on the roads, the latter performance (a masters world record) coming at the Morrisons Great Manchester Run three weeks ago. Such a fast time (he tied the American record) at a distance heretofore untouched by Lagat came as a surprise and was a great sign for his prospects on the track this summer. Lagat was inconsistent in 5,000s last year (he ran 13:31 for 14th at Pre and 13:27 for 12th in Glasgow but also won his seventh U.S. title and ran 13:06 in Berlin) but his run in Manchester shows he has the ability to put together a good race right now. Watching him battle Rupp should once again be enthralling theater. If the 40-year old Lagat beats Rupp, it’s official – he totally owns him at 5000.

Don’t forget about Ryan Hill, either. The final member of Team USA at 5,000 in 2013 has looked very strong so far this year, winning his first U.S. title at 2 miles in February and winning the top heat of the 1500 at Payton Jordan (3:38.79). Can he get under 13:10 on Friday (his pb is 13:14)?

The Internationals

Mexico’s Juan Luis Barrios has the fastest sb of anyone in the field at 13:15.71, but, as is usually the case in the 5,000, the winner will likely be African. Kenyans Koech and Soi are always threats on the DL circuit and both ran okay in the DL opener in Doha on May 15, clocking 7:40 and 7:41 for sixth and seventh in a deep, tactical 5,000. Bahrain’s Albert Rop has the third best PB in the field, but he was only 11th in Doha. However, a tactical 3000 isn’t his strength as Rop is a guy who in the past has solo’d a 12:59. Rop also was beaten in the Arab Champs at 5000 this year by Ayanleh Souleiman. Former Arizona star Lawi Lalang has beaten Rupp before at 5000, was the winner at Carlsbad, but was only 5th in 3:40 in the 1500 at Stanford.

Perhaps the most intriguing foreigners in this race are Ethiopian: 17-year-old World Junior champ Yomif Kejelcha and 2011 10,000 world champion Ibrahim Jeilan.

Kejelcha (on ground) was exhausted after winning World Juniors at Hayward last year

Kejelcha (on ground) was exhausted after winning World Juniors at Hayward last year

You may remember Kejelcha as the man who brazenly attacked Mo Farah over the final lap and a half in Doha. Though Kejelcha held the lead at the bell in that race, he could not sustain his move, fading to fifth place in 7:39.99 (almost two seconds behind winner Hagos Gebrhiwet). But his performance in Doha showed that Kejelcha is both fit and fearless, a dangerous combination. He should smash his 13:25.19 pb (set on this track last year en route to World Junior gold) and should contend for the win.

Jeilan will make his 2015 debut here and though his pedigree is superb (world 10,000 gold in 2011; world 10,000 silver in 2013), he generally only runs well at major championships. In 2012, he was injured and didn’t finish a single race and last year he was a DNF at the London Marathon before embarking on a brief, unsuccessful track season (9th and 8th in his two DL races). At his best, Jeilan is a top 10,000 talent, but given that this is a 5,000 in May, it’s probably best to temper expectations for the 25-year-old Ethiopian.

Discuss the men’s 5000 on our fan forum:

Men’s 10,000 (12:20 a.m. ET)

Men’s 10,000 Meters Personal Best
Mo Farah (Great Britain) 26:46.57
Josphat Kipkoech Bett (Kenya) 26:48.99
Paul Kipngetich Tanui (Kenya) 26:49.41
Emmanuel Kipkemei Bett (Kenya) 26:51.16
Kenneth Kiprop Kipkemoi (Kenya) 26:52.65
Geoffrey Kirui (Kenya) 26:55.73
Titus Kipjumba Mbishei (Kenya) 26:59.81
Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya) 27:06.35
Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) 27:16.69
Leonard Barsoton (Kenya) 27:20.74
William Malel Sitonik (Kenya) 27:25.56
Cameron Levins (Canada) 27:27.96
Nguse Amlosom (Eritrea) 27:28.10
Timothy Toroitich (Uganda) 27:31.07
Goitom Kifle (Eritrea) 27:32.00
Diego Estrada (USA) 27:32.90
El Hassan El Abbassi (Bahrain) 27:32.96
Suguru Osako (Japan) 27:38.31
Stephen Mokoka (South Africa) 27:40.73
Hassan Mead (USA) 27:49.43
Arne Gabius (Germany) 27:55.35
Joshua Cheptegei (Uganda) 27:56.26
Vincent Kipsegechi Yator (Kenya) None (27:34 road)
Mosinet Geremew (Ethiopia) None (27:36 road)
Othmane El Goumri (Morocco) None (28:44 road)
Zane Robertson (New Zealand) None (29:29 road)

Elite international 10,000-meter races are so infrequent that when they do come around, they bring plenty of intrigue. Even though last year’s 10,000 at the Pre Classic was basically a time trial set up for Galen Rupp to break the American record, it was still dramatic as he had to beat top-notch competition (Paul Tanui, Bedan Karoki) and close in 1:57 for his final 800 to do it. In years past, the Pre 10,000 has also produced races in which Mo Farah announced himself as a global medal contender for the first time and Kenenisa Bekele ran a solo 26:25, the fourth-fastest time in history. Even if Friday’s 10,000 follows a time-trial script, there has to be a winner. And if that winner’s name is not Mo Farah, it will only create more uncertainty — and excitement — heading into this summer’s World Championships.

As the man who has swept the 5,000 and 10,000 at the most recent Olympics and World Championships, Farah is the headliner every time he steps on the track. His outdoor opener in Doha two weeks ago was a terrific race to watch and his defeat to Hagos Gebrhiwet — his first on the track since 2013 — showed that he is indeed mortal. That race was at 3,000 meters; Friday’s is at 10,000, a distance at which Farah has not lost since 2011. We have three questions about Friday’s race, all of which involve Farah. Let’s tackle them one at a time.

Does Mo Farah need a fast time to secure his legacy? And does he care?

Farah's last 10,000: gold at Euros last summer

Farah’s last 10,000: gold at Euros last summer

When we discussed what Farah had to do to put himself in the argument for Greatest of All Time back in February, one of the big knocks on him was that his PRs (12:53 and 26:46) aren’t in the same ballpark as Kenenisa Bekele (12:37/26:17) or Haile Gebrselassie (12:39/26:22). With three World Championship golds and double Olympic gold in 2012, Farah has clearly been the most dominant runner of the 2010s and if he keeps adding gold medals, he’s going to go down as one of the greatest runners in history. But just how great will likely be determined by whether he can approach Bekele/Gebrselassie’s times on the track.

To this point in his career, Farah hasn’t shown an interest in chasing times. His best PR is actually in the 1500, where his 3:28.81 PR ties him for seventh all-time. He’s still in great shape, as his 8:03.40 world record at 2 miles indoors attests, but at 32 years old, it seems unlikely Farah will be able to attack truly fast times — 12:40s or 26:20s — for much longer. In the 5,000, 16 men have broken 12:50 a total of 26 times. Only three of those 26 sub-12:50s were recorded by a man over the age of 26 and only once by a man over the age of 29 — Morocco’s Brahim Lahlafi, who was 32 when he did it in 2000. Likewise, of the 24 men in the sub-26:50 club (achieved 40 times), just one man over 29 has accomplished the feat: Gebrselassie, who ran 26:29 at age 30 and 26:41 at 31.

Of course, Farah has defied the odds before. After years of running as an afterthought on the world scene, Farah finally blossomed as a world-class talent in 2011, when he was 28 — a transformation virtually unprecedented in distance running. Still, common sense tells us that runners get slower, not faster as they age and if Farah is ever to take a run at a fast 10,000, now is the time.

The question is, does Farah care about a fast time? To run a fast 10k, you’ve either got to have some spectacular rabbits (like Rupp did last year when Stephen Sambu took him over 8,000 meters of the way and Rupp didn’t have to lead until the final 850 meters) or you’ve got to be willing to take a risk and really push the pace late in the race. Farah could well end up running something in the 26:40s merely as a result of guys like Geoffrey Kamworor and Paul Tanui pushing the pace. But to attack Bekele/Geb territory, he’ll need a dedicated rabbit to go through 5k in 13:10-13:20 plus the willingness to go with the rabbit before tackling a good chunk of the final 5k on his own. Either that, or hope that someone else in the field is in 26:30 shape and that they’ll help out with the pacing.

The point is, sub-26:40 10,000s don’t just happen. Someone has to be willing to attack a furious pace with the knowledge that they may blow up. And throughout his career, Farah has shown that he’s not that guy. Aside from his world record at 2 miles indoors (and 10k is a lot longer than 2 miles), his PRs aren’t the result of breaking the field and running alone; they’re the result of running fast because that’s what it took to win the race. If someone else tries to run 26:30, then we could see a truly fast time from Farah; if the rest of the field keys off the Brit, the chances of a time in the 26:20s or 26:30s decreases significantly.

What is Farah capable of running?

Since Farah has run several races already this year, we can project a ballpark time for him in the 10,000. It doesn’t make sense to pay much attention to his 7:38 3,000 in Doha two weeks ago because that was a tactical race; he obviously could have run faster if the race had gone out faster. So let’s plug in Farah’s two other performances this year — one longer than 10,000, one shorter — to see what he might be capable of on Friday.

According to LRC stats guru John Kellogg‘s equivalency chart, Farah’s two results are worth almost exactly the same:

8:03.40 2 mile (indoors) on February 21 equivalent to 26:54.63

59:32 half marathon on March 22 equivalent to 26:54.37

Does that mean Farah is going to run 26:54 on Friday? Not necessarily. Equivalency charts are never perfect (JK has a 3:44.9 mile worth only 26:48 for 10,000 which seems a little off). But, more importantly, if Farah can produce two equivalent performances on opposite ends of his range, it suggests that he’s capable of something even better at an event in the middle of his range such as the 10,000. There are also a ton of variables at play (pacing, temperature, wind, etc.) that you have to factor in for a 6.2-mile race on the track.

However, even if you give Farah the benefit of the doubt in every scenario, it’s a long way from 26:54 to sub-26:30 territory, a place where only Bekele, Geb and Paul Tergat have visited before. Unless Farah can make a big jump on Friday, his ceiling is likely somewhere in the 26:30s. Weather, by the way, appears to be pretty good: it’s projected to be 53 degrees Friday night in Eugene (sunset is at 8:46 p.m. local time) with some wind (5 to 10 mph) but not a ton.

Who could beat Farah?

Though we’ve dedicated most of this preview to Farah so far, that doesn’t mean he’s a lock for victory. This field contains six other sub-27:00 guys plus World XC/World Half Marathon champ Geoffrey Kamworor. While there are a number of guys who could threaten Farah on the right day, the two biggest threats by far are Kamworor and countryman Paul Tanui.

On top of the world: Kamworor put on a show in Guiyang earlier this year

On top of the world: Kamworor put on a show in Guiyang earlier this year

Kamworor (also known as Geoffrey Kipsang) boasts a solid 27:06 pb but hasn’t raced a 10,000 on the track since winning the Kenyan Police Champs in May 2013. Since then, he’s run 59:07 to win the World Half Marathon Champs (his 58:54 pb is tied for 8th all-time) and won World XC in March in his only race of 2015. The way he won that race was important — he pushed from the front for almost all of the 12k race and still had a burst of speed when he needed it with 200 to go. That’s exactly the skill set he’ll need if he is to topple Farah on Friday — or at Worlds.

Indeed, after the race we proclaimed that Kamworor is going to be a star for a long time. He ran 27:06 at age 18, 58:54 at age 20 and is now World XC champ at 22. He’s clearly an aerobic monster. Nowadays, a guy with Kamworor’s engine would be focused solely on the roads at this point in his career, and marathon success has been Kamworor’s dream from day 1, but since Kamworor has yet to develop into a top-tier marathoner (his best in five attempts is 2:06:12), he decided to take on the track in 2015 to see if he could contend for a world title.

How Kamworor fares will be fascinating. One aspect of Farah’s reign in the 10,000 that is occasionally overlooked is that many guys who might have in the past run the 10,000 — Eliud Kipchoge, Wilson KipsangDennis Kimetto — are all in the marathon because running marathons is far more profitable than running 10,000s. Farah hasn’t faced many strength-based 10,000 runners like Kamworor so watching those two battle this year should be a treat. Kamworor’s best chance at victory is a fast race, and World XC proved that he’s not afraid to push it. If we were him, we’d treat Friday’s race as a dry run for the World Championships: push the pace and see if he can break Farah. If he can, then bingo: there’s his strategy for Worlds. If Farah holds on or Kamworor dies, Kamworor will have to reassess his plans. With his 59:32 half marathon pb, Farah obviously has strength, but it bears mentioning that the fastest of his six global 5,000/10,000 finals since 2011 — when he ran 27:14 in the 10,000 in 2011 — is also the only one he lost. Two weeks ago, Hagos Gebrhiwet showed that Farah can be outkicked. Can Kamworor show that he can be outlasted?

Tanui is another man whose strength must be respected. Though Farah is 3-0 vs. Tanui at 10,000 in their careers, Tanui’s 26:49 pb is very impressive and, like Kamworor, he enters in good form after running a solo 27:08 on the track in Japan two weeks ago. Tanui doesn’t have the upside of Kamworor but he cannot be ignored as he finished less than a second behind Farah at Worlds in 2013 and lost only to Galen Rupp in this meet last year.

Best of the rest

If we had to pick a winner, we’d feel confident taking Farah, Kamworor and Tanui against the field as those are the three best guys on paper. But there are a number of other names worth mentioning, so let’s take a quick run through the best of the rest.

  • Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia and Zane Robertson of New Zealand will both be looking to parlay successful half marathons into a fast time in their 10,000 debuts. Geremew won the always-deep RAK Half on February 13 in 60:05 (beating London Marathon champ Eliud Kipchoge in the process) and has a PR of 27:36 on the roads. Robertson broke through with a huge 59:47 at the Marugame Half Marathon on February 1 and with a 3:34.19 1500 pb — run just five months before his 59:47 — he appears perfectly suited for the 25-lap distance.
  • Josphat Bett ran 26:48 in this race four years ago and is a proven 10,000-meter man with a silver and bronze from the Commonwealth Games and African Champs last year.
  • After a strong start, Canada/NOP’s Cam Levins ended his indoor season with a disappointing 13:33 5,000 at the Millrose Games on February 14. He hasn’t raced since, but after taking bronze at the Commonwealth Games last summer, he has a shot at Simon Bairu‘s Canadian record of 27:23.63 from 2010. Teammate Suguru Osako (pb: 27:38.31) will likewise take aim at Toshinari Takaoka‘s 14-year-old Japanese record of 27:35.09.
  • South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka has been busy in 2015, running a solo 13:11/28:15 double to claim two victories at last month’s South African championships. Two weeks ago, he ran 27:38 on the roads in Manchester to beat Bernard Lagat, Wilson Kipsang and Leonard Komon (he was second overall, behind only Stephen Sambu).
  • Uganda’s 18-year-old Joshua Cheptegei won World Junior gold on this track last year and should take a hammer to his 27:56 10,000 PR from last year.
  • 20-year-old Leonard Barsoton was fifth at World XC in March. Fellow World XC vets Teklemariam Medhin (third in 2013), Timothy Toroitich (fifth in 2013) and Goitom Kifle (seventh in 2013) will also toe the line.

The Americans

Right now, just two Americans have the 27:45.00 standard for Beijing: Galen Rupp and Ben True. Chris Derrick would be a near-lock for Beijing in our minds but he’s not on the start list at Pre and the rumor is he’s dealing with an achilles issue (an email to Derrick asking about his status has yet to be returned). Derrick has been plagued by Achilles issues since at least 2010 so that’s a little worrisome.

Update: Derrick emailed us an update on his injury status: C. Derrick Has “Re-aggravated An Old Injury” That “Took Longer To Clear Up” Than Expected – Will Run at USAs

So the 10,000 spots behind Rupp are right there for the taking and two Americans will be looking to get the qualifier at Pre — Diego Estrada and Hassan Mead. Mead just missed the standard at Payton Jordan, running 27:49 after a slow first half. Estrada, who ran 13:17 to take third in the 5,000 at Payton Jordan, dominated the U.S. Half Marathon Champs in January with his 60:51 clocking and will run his first 10,000 as a pro here (he ran 27:32 as a junior at Northern Arizona in 2012).

The four other Americans who ran under 28:00 at Stanford — Jason Witt (27:54.25), Parker Stinson (27:54.98), Christo Landry (27:56.59) and Bobby Curtis (27:56.59) — aren’t running Pre. It’s probably just as well as unless they had their own rabbit, it would be very hard to run 27:45 on their own as the pace up front is likely to be much faster.

Discuss the 2015 Pre Classic 10k on our running fan forum at www.letsrun.com/forum/

MB: Geoffrey Kamworor Will drag Mo Farah
MB: Rupp to pace Pre 10K (gedanken experiment)
MB: Chris Derrick not in the Pre 10k
2010 ArchivesChris Derrick Achilles Tendonitis

 


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