2017 Pre Classic Preview: Centro vs. Kiprop in a Bowerman Mile For The Ages; Mo Farah vs. 28 of the World’s Best Men in the 5K Including Geoffrey Kamworor Who Has Guaranteed Himself Victory
Kamworor: “If the conditions allow, in the shape that I am in, I will win the race.”
May 25, 2017
We know it’s a holiday weekend in the US this weekend but you need to clear your calendars and make sure you have 14 minutes to watch TV at 4:13 p.m. ET on Saturday and then four minutes free at 5:52 p.m. ET. You absolutely must watch the men’s 5000 and men’s mile at the 2017 Pre Classic as they are RIDICULOUSLY good.
Year after year, no U.S. track & field meet is as loaded as the Prefontaine Classic. But meet director Tom Jordan may have topped them all as the 2017 edition, to be held this weekend at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, may be the best ever and the men’s 5000 and men’s mile lead the way for us.
There’s a ton of great action. We already previewed Friday night’s events — this year known as Joan Benoit Samuelson Night — as well as most of Saturday’s action. If you missed either preview, catch up now:
But we’ve saved the best for last. This preview will cover just two events at the 2017 Prefontaine Classic, but they’re both totally loaded — the men’s 5,000 and the final event of the meet, the men’s Bowerman Mile.
What: 2017 Prefontaine Classic
Where: Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon
When: Friday, May 26 – Saturday, May 27, 2017
How to watch:
Friday, May 26
In the U.S.: Live on NBC Sports Network from 11:00 p.m. ET to midnight ET. If you want to watch it online, you need the NBC Sports Gold Track & Field Pass, which we explain how to get here. If you’re within driving distance of Eugene, we highly recommend you check it out in person as Friday’s events are free to attend.
Outside the U.S.: You can watch the event live through RunnerSpace +PLUS if you have a subscription.
Saturday, May 27
In the U.S.: Live on NBC from 4:00 p.m. ET to 6:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch it online, you need the NBC Sports Gold Track & Field Pass, which we explain how to get here.
In Canada: It’s live on CBC Sports from 4:00 p.m. ET to 6:00 p.m. ET.
In Europe: It’s on Eurosport (Eurosport 2 in the UK).
Men’s 5,000 (Saturday, 4:13 p.m. ET): Mo Farah tries to hold off a field full of studs
|Andrew Butchart||Great Britain||13:08.61|
|Mo Farah||Great Britain||12:53.11|
This could well be the greatest 5,000-meter field ever assembled on U.S. soil. And we can’t recall any international race in recent years that was as deep or talented as the one that will line up at Hayward Field on Saturday afternoon. Kudos to Nike and the Pre Classic for putting this field together.
There will be 29 — yes, 29 — men on the start line, and over a third of them have won a global medal at the senior level. Let’s run through those names quickly:
- Leonard Barsoton: 2017 World XC silver
- Paul Chelimo: 2016 Olympic 5k silver
- Mo Farah: Too many to list
- Hagos Gebrhiwet: 2013 World 5k silver, 2015 World 5k bronze, 2016 Olympic 5k bronze
- Ryan Hill: 2016 World Indoor 3k silver
- Ibrahim Jeilan: 2011 World 10k gold, 2013 World 10k silver
- Geoffrey Kamworor: 2014 World Half gold, 2015 World XC gold, 2015 World 10k silver, 2016 World Half gold, 2017 World XC gold
- Yomif Kejelcha: 2016 World Indoor 3k gold
- Isiah Koech: 2013 World 5k bronze
- Caleb Ndiku: 2014 World indoor 3k gold, 2015 World 5k silver
- Paul Tanui: 2013 World 10k bronze, 2015 World 10k bronze, 2016 Olympic 10k silver
That’s 11 guys — or 38% of the field — with a global medal. Plus Mo Ahmed (4th Olympic 5k), Joshua Cheptegei (who almost won World XC in March before his body shut down), red-hot Eric Jenkins, 16-year-old Ugandan phenom Jacob Kiplimo, who won the U20 race at World XC, U.S. Olympians Leonard Korir and Hassan Mead and NCAA XC champ Patrick Tiernan. You could finish 15th in this race and still be a total stud.
In fact, the insane amount of talent in this race got us thinking about what it would take for this race to go down as the deepest in history. Right now, that title belongs to the 2012 Paris Diamond League meet, which saw 11 guys break 13:00 (the most in history) and six break 12:50 (also the most in history). Here are the results from that day (courtesy All-Athletics):
|Pl.||Athlete / Team||Cnt.||Birth||Result||Score|
|1.||Dejen GEBREMESKEL||ETH||89||12:46.81||1258||WL, PB|
|3.||Isiah Kiplangat KOECH||KEN||93||12:48.64*||1252||PB|
|5.||Thomas Pkemei LONGOSIWA||KEN||82||12:49.04*||1250||PB|
|10.||Edwin Cheruiyot SOI||KEN||86||12:55.99*||1224||SB|
|11.||Moses Ndiema MASAI||KEN||86||12:59.21*||1212||SB|
|13.||Mark Kosgei KIPTOO||KEN||76||13:06.23*||1187||SB|
*All-time best mark for place
Okay, so that’s not happening again on Saturday. While the sun actually hadn’t set during that race in Paris, it was low in the sky and wasn’t a factor as the race was in a big, enclosed stadium (there was also almost zero wind). In Eugene, the sun will be almost directly overhead and the temperature will be 20 degrees warmer in an open stadium.
It drives us nuts that this race will be held on Saturday afternoon. Yes, there will be more fans watching, both in-person and on TV, but it’s a waste to put an incredible field like this together and have them run in the afternoon when temperatures are expected to exceed 80 degrees. If they put this race on Friday night after the women’s 5,000, it would be cooler, less windy (probably) and the sun would have set. Those conditions are far better for distance running.
Still, the fact that there are 29 guys in this field, most of them total studs, means that this thing is going to have to get going early — if the pace is slow, you’re going to have a huge pack and no one wants to be running 12.5 laps in lane two as each lap in lane two is an extra 6 + meters. And the very best guys are going to want to get out well as passing 20+ guys in a sub-13:00 race is difficult, not to mention a massive pain in the ass.
Okay, enough throat-clearing. Who’s gonna win this thing?
Well, Mo Farah is in the race and that means he has to be the favorite. Since he joined Alberto Salzar at the start of 2011, Farah is 21-1 in 5,000-meter races. Twenty-one and one. His only loss in the last 6+ years? The 2013 Pre Classic — a race that it was later revealed he had been sick for. Considering that run of dominance and the fact that he ran 3:34.19 for 1500 last week, Farah appears a good bet to win again on Saturday. Yes, he’s 34 years old, but until he shows signs of serious decline — and that 3:34.19 was actually faster than his 3:34.66 at Oxy back in 2012 — we’re going to keep picking him.
Behind Farah, there’s a long line of guys looking to take over the title of world’s greatest 5k runner, and almost all of them are in this race. Paul Chelimo, who gave Farah a run for his money in Rio, was second in the DL opener at 3,000 meters in Doha. The guy who beat him, Ronald Kwemoi, is running the mile at Pre, and the move up to 5k might help Chelimo. He’s probably the top contender to beat Farah, but it’s much harder to definitively say who the #2 guy in this field is than it is to say who’s #1.
If Chelimo isn’t the top contender to beat Farah, it may be Geoffrey Kamworor. The 24-year-old impressively ran 12:59 in the middle of the day here last year and his incredible endurance was on display at World XC in March where he won his second straight title. But to beat Farah, you need to be able to kick with him. Kamworor knows this, and he’s spent the spring working on his speed. On May 19, he ran 3:41.1 for 1500 at 8,000 feet in Eldoret. That time was the fastest of the day — Asbel Kiprop only managed 3:44.8 in his heat — and according to agent Michel Boeting, Kamworor ran the first lap of his race in 54.6.
“If conditions allow, in the shape that I am in, I will win the race,” Kamworor told the Daily Nation this week.
We could go on and on about all the other studs in this race — if Farah falters, there are a dozen guys who could realistically win. Of the guys we haven’t discussed, Ethiopians Yomif Kejelcha (World Indoor champ, 3rd in Doha) and Hagos Gebrhiwet (who has medalled at the last three global championships and beat Farah in Doha in 2015 at 3k) are the leading contenders.
The battle amongst the Americans should be worth watching as well. Five of the top six from last year’s Olympic Trials return, with only Bernard Lagat — who has retired from the track — missing. Though this race won’t resemble the U.S. final (which will be run exactly four weeks later) in that it should be a fast, rabbitted affair, this will be a good chance to see where everyone’s fitness is at. A bad race here isn’t the end of the world though — Chelimo was only 13th at Pre last year.
Of the eight Americans, Chelimo is the obvious pick to finish first. Jenkins has looked great at 1500 meters this year and we expect his form to carry over to the longer 5k. Remember, he ran 13:05 indoors to beat True and Hill in Boston back in February. Hassan Mead, who ran 3:37 at Oxy, can never be counted out either.
LRC prediction: Farah never loses at 5,000 meters so he’s our pick. We like Chelimo for second with Kamworor third. Jenkins is the next American after Chelimo, but with all the international talent in his one, he may not crack the top five. Really the only thing we’re relatively confident about is that Farah will win. You could take the next dozen guys and shake them in any order and we’d believe it.
If this race were being run at night, we’d be real confident in picking sub-13s for both Chelimo and Jenkins but are worried it won’t happen in the heat on Saturday. Of course with 29 guys in the race, it almost by definition has to be fast right?
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Men’s Bowerman Mile (Saturday, 5:52 p.m. ET): Asbel Kiprop goes for record 5th Bowerman Mile victory
|Charlie Grice||Great Britain||3:52.64|
|Andrew Rotich (pacer)||Kenya||4:10.14|
UPDATE: Centrowitz scratched from the race on Friday morning after picking up “an untimely virus.”
If you thought Matthew Centrowitz vs. Mo Farah at Oxy was good, that was only the appetizer; Saturday’s Bowerman Mile is the main course. The introductions alone should be amazing — can you imagine the applause Centrowitz will receive from the Hayward Field faithful when he introduced as the Olympic champion — America’s first in the middle distances in 44 years?
|Most recent Americans to
win the Bowerman Mile
2006: Bernard Lagat, 3:51.53
2004: Alan Webb, 3:50.85
1995: Steve Holman, 3:52.89
1994: Bob Kennedy, 3:56.21
1993: Bob Kennedy, 3:56.71
If Centro wants to win on Saturday, he’ll have to end another drought as no American has won the Bowerman Mile since Bernard Lagat in 2006. In fact, Centrowitz has never won a Diamond League 1500/mile, period, though his closest call came at the 2015 Bowerman Mile, where he finished just .10 behind Ayanleh Souleiman. After a sluggish start to his 2017 season, his run at Oxy last week was vintage Centrowitz as he powered away from Chris O’Hare and Mo Farah to win in 3:33.41 — his fastest 1500 opener ever. He looks ready to roll at Pre, but this is a stacked field (so stacked that O’Hare is in the B heat).
Centro has also said repeatedly that he’d like to throw down some fast times in 2017. For all his medals, he still doesn’t have an American record, something he’s looking to change this summer. Alan Webb‘s 3:46.91 U.S. mile record is out of reach for now — it’s been almost 10 years and no one in the world has run faster since — but Centro has a legitimate shot to become the seventh Amercian to break 3:50. He ran his PR of 3:50.53 here in 2014, and he’s definitely a better runner now than he was three years ago. If the pace gets going on Saturday, he has a great chance to run in the 3:40s. But that hasn’t happened the last two years as the winning time was 3:51 in 2015 and 2016.
We think Centro is more likely to crack 3:50 than he is to win the race. Two of Centrowitz’s greatest skills are his ability to navigate qualifying rounds and his positioning/tactics. The first one is totally irrelevant for Pre, while the second one is nullified in a fast, rabbitted race. There’s a reason why Centrowitz almost won in 2015: it was relatively slow (3:51.10) and Kiprop, who was clearly the top miler in the world that year, ran a poor tactical race. But if that race had played out in a fashion similar to the six Bowerman Miles that preceded it — all of which were won in under 3:50 — Centrowitz’s chances would have gone way down. If Kiprop decides to try to run 3:47 or 3:48 from the front this weekend, there’s a chance he flames out spectacularly. But if he holds on, he’s not losing to Centrowitz.
It should be pointed out, however, that Kiprop isn’t exactly a sure thing in this race. He hasn’t run any major track races this year (though he reportedly won a 1500 in Eldoret in 3:44.8 on May 19 and even ran a few laps of a steeple last week) and when we spoke to him at World XC he said he was taking things slow in his training this year in order to peak correctly for London. But that was two months ago; we imagine he’s put in some serious training since then. Kiprop is the defending champion, and his four Bowerman Mile wins are a meet record. Even though Centrowitz is the defending champ, Kiprop has to be the favorite in this one.
Elijah Manangoi, who ran a consistent #2 to Kiprop in 2016 before injury felled him in Rio, won the DL opener in Doha and ran a series of impressive 800’s at the Kenyan Police Champs last week, going 1:46:7-1:48.1-1:44.8 in the three rounds (all wins) in Nairobi. Plus his coach has predicted he’ll break the WR this year. Ronald Kwemoi, who looked brilliant in winning the 3k in Doha in 7:28, should also be right up there. A 3:28 1500 runner, Kwemoi is still only 21 years old. Morocco’s Abdelaati Iguider, a medallist at the 2012 Olympics and 2015 Worlds, is always a factor. Ayanleh Souleiman won this race in 2014 and 2015 but totally flopped with his 3:40 in Doha.
Speaking of Doha flops, U.S. Olympic finalist Ben Blankenship will be looking to put his ugly 3:42 from that race behind him. He bounced back by winning the TC Mile on the roads in his native Minnesota on May 11, and we expect him to run well here, though that could still mean 7th or 8th considering the competition. We’re also very excited to see how Clayton Murphy does in this one. He’s already proven that he can run with anyone in the world in the 800, but Murphy, whose PR is 3:54 from Millrose in February, has never faced this kind of field in a mile. His 1:43.60 800 back in April showed he’s in ridiculous shape, and he’s kept winning since then, so a healthy personal best from Murphy wouldn’t surprise us. He won’t win, but it will be fun to see what Murphy is capable of in a fast race.
LRC prediction: We think a Kenyan wins it — they went 1-2-3-4-5-6 in Doha without Kiprop or Kwemoi — and we’ll go with Kiprop as no one can touch him at his best. If the field goes with the rabbits, we think Centrowitz breaks 3:50 and Murphy runs 3:51. That being said, this field is so good we think Centrowitz has better odds of losing to Murphy than winning and aren’t sure Centro will even finish in the top 3.
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Talk about the meet in our fan forum: MB: Official 2017 Prefontaine Classic discussion thread – Is this the best Pre meet ever?
*MB: Kamworor talks smack to Farah: “If the conditions allow, in the shape that I am in, I will win the race.”
More: LRC 2017 Pre Classic Friday Night Preview: Genzebe Dibaba Goes for the 5,000-Meter World Record
LRC 2017 Prefontaine Classic Saturday Preview: What a Meet — Is This The Greatest Pre Classic Ever?