FARAH THRILLS CROWD WITH 10,000M VICTORY ON DAY ONE OF PREFONTAINE CLASSIC
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
EUGENE, Ore. (29-May) — On a crystal clear night perfect for racing, Great Britain’s double Olympic champion Mo Farah electrified the Hayward Field faithful, fighting tooth and nail to win the 10,000m here at the Prefontaine Classic’s opening day of competition. Farah, 32, prevailed in a time of 26:50.97, the fourth fastest 10,000m ever run at Hayward Field and the fastest time so far in the world this year.
“My aim was to definitely run faster,” Farah told members of the media, slightly frustrated with the final time. “It’s one of those things where you just might as well go for it while it’s still early on [in the season]. That was the aim, but you know, it was pretty difficult.”
From the opening kilometers, one could sense the 10,000m was going to be a barn-burner. At halfway, hit in approximately 13:21, Farah held a step lead on a group of five which included Paul Tanui, Geoffrey Kamworor, Geoffrey Kirui, and Emmanuel Bett, all from Kenya. Pressing on, Farah looked like a man on a mission, often trading the lead with Tanui. The pair had talked among one another early in the race, and agreed to share leading duties hoping to run a fast time.
With two miles remaining, the pack had dwindled down to three: Farah, Tanui, and Kamworor. Still, Farah and Tanui did a majority of the leading.
Antsy for a faster time, the Hayward Field faithful kept their traditional rhythmic clap going, amplified a notch when Farah surged to the lead with three laps to go. However, the fans weren’t just cheering for Farah — they were roaring for his Nike Oregon Project teammate Cam Levins, who’d moved up very well from well back at halfway to fourth position in the final kilometer.
For a moment it looked as if Farah was starting to fade up front, as Tanui fought his way into the pole position with 700 meters to go. But Farah –who hasn’t lost a 10,000m competition since 2011– wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
After taking the bell, Farah moved into the lead and went to his trademark finishing kick, opening up his stride hoping to get to the Bowerman Curve in front. That he did, using the standing ovation and roars from the crowd to power home through the line in 26:50.97. Tanui was second in 26:51.86, followed by Kamworor, the world cross country champion, in third (26:52.65).
“I was hoping to run a lot faster, I was hoping to run 26:30-something,” Farah again reiterated. “You try these things. That was today’s aim, and I’ve never run that fast. My aim is to give it a go.”
Down the stretch, Farah knew he could get the win in front of his adopted hometown fans.
“I was just thinking push all the way to the end,” Farah said. “I was quite pumped up at the start. It was good. I like Hayward Field and it is a good crowd and they love distance. There’s great history.”
Levins, 26, wound up finishing fourth, shattering Simon Bairu’s Canadian national record of 27:23.63. Levins’s time of 27:07.51 was a personal best by more than 20 seconds.
“Oh my gosh it was amazing,” said an exuberant Levins, talking fast with excitement. “It was a huge push. They kept me going, kept me going, and kept me strong. I was telling Simon [Bairu] before the race ‘Hey it’s going down.’ All he said was ‘I’m surprised you hadn’t got it already.’ It was kind of his push back on me, like ‘What took you so long.'”
With it being the 40th anniversary of Steve Prefontaine’s final race, many in attendance had hopes that an American –especially homegrown talent Galen Rupp– would cap off the anniversary in style with a victory. However, it simply wasn’t to be. The men’s 5000m looked more like an 800m, as nearly the entire field stayed bunched together until there was a mere two laps to go.
With 600m left, Rupp had had enough. Surging to the lead, the 29-year-old Olympic silver medalist took control, pushing the pace with a sudden change of pace.
Matching Rupp stride for stride was Kenya’s Albert Rop and Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha, the latter a 17-year-old who won the IAAF World Junior Championship 5000m title on this very track last year.
As the Hayward Field faithful’s cheers got louder for Rupp, the wheels on the father of twin girls began to slowly fade. Kejelcha came up on Rupp’s shoulder with 300 meters remaining and swiftly went by, completing what the public address announcer said was a 55.2-second lap from 4400 to 4800 meters. For the final half lap, the youthful Kejelcha was alone in front, breaking the tape in 13:10.54.
Behind, Rupp and Soi battled for second, with the Kenyan prevailing in 13:11.97 to Rupp’s 13:12.36. Forty year-old Bernard Lagat was fourth in 13:14.97, smashing the masters (40+) world record.
The day belonged to Kejelcha, however, whose previous personal best was a mediocre 13:25.19. Entering the mixed zone with a very big smile and sporting a new Nike shirt, Kejelcha stopped in front of a throng of reporters. All he could say in between smiles was “No English! No English! No English” before scampering off to the athlete recovery area without further comment.
Rupp did stop and speak with reporters after Farah’s win, pleased with his season opening performance.
“It was pretty tactical, so I knew that I had to try to make a longer run with a lot of the guys having good kicks,” said Rupp. “I did my best to do what I thought I needed to do to win. I just got to make the right adjustments in training and go from there.”
He continued: “I really wanted to see how I stacked up against these guys. It’s been a while since I’ve raced that hard and I’m happy with how it went… I know my strength is good right now so it’s good practice for the big meets coming up which are probably going to be tactical too. I was really pleased with the way it turned out and I know where I’m at now.”
In the USATF High Performance Women’s 800m, Maggie Vessey claimed the win in a season best 2:00.07. Vessey created a five meter gap out front after the pacer stepped off and never let go, keeping her foot on the gas pedal all the way through the tape.
Vessey told reporters she is very confident with how training has gone, and did not taper coming into this meet. She will taper for the USA Championships here later next month.
“The strength is there, the speed is there,” she said. “I feel fantastic. It’s just a matter of being relaxed when I go to the starting line, getting out of my own way, saddling up and going for the ride and seeing what happens.”
Phoebe Wright was second in 2:00.79, while last year’s IAAF World Junior Champion Margaret Nyairera Wambui of Kenya was third in 2:01.32.
Throughout last indoor season, North Carolina’s Ryen Frazier dominated the high school mile scene, winning invitationals across the country. Here, she’d have to rely on a hard sprint for the line to take home the crown, winning the girls’ high school mile by a mere four-one hundredths of a second.
The entire 10-girl field was bunched at the bell, when Frazier and Danielle Jones of Arizona separated from the pack. Neck and neck down the homestretch, the pair went stride for stride all the way to the line before Frazier gained a step. Unsure of who won, both Frazier and Jones embraced shortly after the finish. The scoreboard revealed that Frazier had indeed taken first, 4:39.84 to 4:39.88.
“I don’t like to celebrate, especially when it’s that close!” said Frazier, reflecting on the moments after her win. “I was glad I could get a step. I thought I had a step and I’m glad I did.”
Minutes later, another close race played out in the Boys’ High School Mile. Mikey Brannigan of Northport, N.Y., led coming down the homestretch, out in front by five meters. As it looked like Brannigan, who has Autism, was going to win and complete his dream of finishing first at Hayward Field, Arizona’s Carlos Villareal appeared out of nowhere in lane four, sprinting hard for the line.
Making up ground with ease, Villareal raised his arm in celebration as he crossed the line, 4:05.25 on the clock. Brannigan was second in 4:05.78.
“He surprised me!” said Brannigan. “I know he was really fast, but he came out of lane four!”
“I was trying to stay in striking range the whole race,” said Villareal. “I narrowed it down to ten or fifteen [meters] in the last 100 meters and from there I said ‘I need to go.’ I gave everything I had and it worked out well.”
Brannigan said he will next focus on the adidas Grand Prix Dream Mile in New York City, where he hopes to come even closer to 4:00. After the season ends, Brannigan will compete for the New York Athletic Club while attending Suffolk County Community College.
On Saturday, action continues with a majority of disciplines being contested. Among the distance races to be held include the men’s 800m, Bowerman Mile, 3000m steeplechase, as well as the women’s 800m, 1500m, and 5000m.