2017 Prefontaine Classic Saturday Preview: What A Meet – Is This The Greatest Pre Classic Ever?
Stars Everywhere with Mondo Duplantis in PV, Loaded Women’s 200 & 1500 and the Youngest Sub-4:00 Miler Ever?
May 25, 2017
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, is going to be bananas. There are so many storylines that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Matthew Centrowitz vs. Asbel Kiprop in the Bowerman Mile in a battle of Olympic champions. Anyone who’s anyone is lined up in a huge men’s 5,000: 2016 Olympic medallists Mo Farah, Paul Chelimo, Hagos Gebrhiwet and Paul Tanui plus World XC champ Geoffrey Kamworor offer just a taste of that stacked field. All three Olympic medallists in the women’s 800. Genzebe Dibaba going for the world record in the women’s 5,000. Perhaps the greatest women’s 200 of all time. 17-year-old phenom Armand Duplantis taking on all three Olympic medallists in the men’s pole vault. And we haven’t even mentioned Andre De Grasse and Justin Gatlin in the 100, Christian Taylor in the triple jump or Omar McLeod in the 110 hurdles. This could very well be the greatest Prefontaine Classic ever.
There’s a ton of ground to cover, so we’ve got three previews for you. We already previewed Friday night’s events — this year known as Joan Benoit Samuelson Night – as there will only be women’s races on Friday. Read that preview here: LRC 2017 Pre Classic Friday Night Preview: Genzebe Dibaba Goes For The 5,000-Meter World Record.
This preview will cover Saturday’s events except for the men’s 5,000 and Bowerman Mile, which are so stacked that we gave them their own article: LRC M5k and Mile Previews: 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 Victory .
We’ll be in Eugene so keep coming back for more coverage.
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).
Saturday, May 27
3:40 p.m. ET Pole Vault Men Entries
3:44 Triple Jump Men Entries
3:53 200 Meters High School Men Entries
TV BROADCAST BEGINS
4:03 p.m. ET 400m Hurdles Women Entries
4:08 High Jump Women Entries
4:13 5000m Men Entries
4:33 100m Hurdles Women Entries
4:41 110 High Hurdles Men Entries
4:50 100 Meters Women Entries
4:56 Shot Put Men Entries
5:00 International Mile Men Entries
5:09 400m Men Entries
5:16 800m Women Entries
5:24 100m Men Entries
5:32 1500 Meters Women Entries
5:46 200m Women Entries
5:52 Bowerman Mile Men Entries
As we noted above, we will be covering Friday night’s events and the men’s 5,000 and Bowerman Mile in separate previews. But there are still a ton of great events on Saturday. Below we cover the remaining mid-d/distance races as well as the best sprint/field action.
Men’s Pole Vault (3:40 p.m. ET): 17-year-old phenom Mondo Duplantis battles the big boys
Normally we don’t pay that much attention to the men’s pole vault, but we have a rule here at LetsRun.com: whenever a 17-year-old high school junior from Louisiana (we think he was born there – if you know for sure, email us) has a chance to win a Diamond League pole vault on U.S. soil, we write about it. That would be Armand “Mondo” Duplantis, who represents Sweden internationally, but was raised in the U.S. and currently attends Lafayette High School. Surely by now you’ve heard of Duplantis, who has spent 2017 taking a sledgehammer to the high school record books and currently sits at No. 1 in the world thanks to his 5.90m (19-4.25) clearance at April’s Texas Relays — which also happens to be the world U20 record.
If he can replicate that performance in Eugene, he’ll have a shot at victory, but the Pre Classic will be the biggest test of his life by far. Duplantis did manage to beat Canada’s Shawn Barber, the reigning World champ, at the Texas Relays, but in Eugene he’ll face four of the top five from last year’s Olympics, including all three medallists: Thiago Braz of Brazil, Renaud Lavillenie of France and Sam Kendricks of the U.S. Lavillenie has dominated the Diamond League since its inception in 2010 — he’s the only man or woman to win the season-long Diamond Race all seven years — but he was hurt over the winter and finished second to Kendricks in first DL vault of the year in Shanghai two weeks ago. Lavillenie cleared 5.83 in that meet, with Kendricks going one bar higher to 5.88, so Duplantis will have to be at his best to have a chance.
But the fact that we’re even talking about a high school junior contending with the best in the world is absolutely bonkers. Whatever Duplantis does, the crowd should be behind him and with Kendricks and the other Rio medallists in the fold, this should be one of the most exciting vaults ever held in the United States.
LRC prediction: The smart money is probably on Kendricks. But it’s more fun to bet on Duplantis. Mondo FTW.
Men’s Shot Put (4:56 p.m. ET): Olympic & world champs Ryan Crouser & Joe Kovacs duke it out in front of the home fans
|Tom Walsh||New Zealand||22.21m||21.80m|
U.S. shot putting is in a great place right now. Ryan Crouser is the reigning Olympics champ. Joe Kovacs is the reigning world champ and just threw 22.57m (74-0.75) last week — a mark some view as the clean world record. Even the third U.S. Olympian, Darrell Hill, is #3 on the 2017 world list right now (behind Crouser and Kovacs, of course) thanks to his 21.91 PR in Los Angeles in April. Even if you don’t view Hill as the third-best shot putter in the world right now, the guy that most would acknowledge holds that title — World Indoor champ/Olympic bronze medallist Tom Walsh of New Zealand — is also in this field. This is going to be a great competition.
LRC prediction: Kovacs enters in the shape of his life, but Crouser has had his number recently (he’s won their last five matchups after losing their first four) and has a flair for the dramatic — remember, this is a guy that PR’d three times in the Olympic final, including an Olympic record on his fifth attempt. Still, Kovacs’ 22.57 was a monster toss, so we’ll pick him for the win. Whatever happens, this should be a terrific competition between two of the U.S.’s best athletes in any event right now.
Men’s International Mile (5:00 p.m. ET): Can Jakob Ingebrigtsen become the youngest sub-4:00 miler in history?
|Thiago do Rosario Andre||Brazil|
|Fouad El Kaam||Morocco||3:54.21|
|Jakub Holusa||Czech Republic||3:53.46|
|Chris O’Hare||Great Britain||3:52.91|
|Cristian Soratos (late add)||USA||3:54.23|
This may be the B heat, but the B heat at Pre is still better than the A heat at most U.S. meets, with seven guys who have run 3:53 or faster. There’s no overwhelming favorite here, though Brit Chris O’Hare looked very good in giving Matthew Centrowitz and Mo Farah a run for their money last week at Oxy, clocking a 1500 PR of 3:34.35. Johnny Gregorek ran a big PB of 3:53 indoors and is coming off an impressive 3:36 1500 win at Swarthmore. He can’t be discounted. Henrik Ingebrigtsen has the best PR in the field and was 5th at the 2012 Olympics. More recently, he took 3,000 silver at the Euro Indoor Championships, but he only ran 1:49.88 for 800 a couple of weeks ago at the Portland Twilight meet.
Plus you’ve got Pat Casey and Andrew Wheating, who both looked resurgent at Oxy. Casey, who was second at USAs in 2014, ran 3:38.86, his fastest time in two years. Wheating, 29, ran 3:37.75, his fastest time in four years. Wheating will likely never recapture his 3:30 form of 2010, but he’s shown in recent years that if he can stay healthy (a massive “if”), he’s still one of the best in the U.S. This will be a good test for him.
Perhaps the most intriguing storyline in this race, however, is whether Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Henrik’s younger brother, can become the youngest sub-4:00 miler in history. As far as we know, the youngest guy to ever break 4:00 was Jim Ryun, who was 17 years, 37 days old when he ran 3:59.0 in Compton, California, on June 5, 1964. Ingebrigtsen will be 16 years, 250 days old on Saturday, and per statistician Jon Mulkeen, the fastest mile by anyone under the age of 17 is 4:00.84 by Sudan’s Abdalla Abdelgadir, who ran 4:00.84 at 15 years, 337 days in 2003. So if Ingebrigtsen were to run under 4:00, he’d be the first 16-year-old to ever do it — and thus, the youngest ever.*
Can he do it? Absolutely. Ingebrigtsen’s 1500 PR is 3:42.44, which is worth right around 4:00. And on May 13, he ran 3:43.85 in Portland in a race that he won by almost two full seconds. Put him in a quality field like this and tell him to hang on to sub-4:00 pace and we are VERY confident he’ll get it.
American DJ Principe will also be looking to break 4:00 and if he can do it, he’ll be the 10th U.S. high schooler under the barrier (and the fifth in the last three years). Principe ran 4:00.97 indoors back on January 21 and 4:02.96 at Millrose on February 11 but hasn’t run a mile yet outdoors. His most recent result was a 1:54.7 800 at the Rhode Island Class A meet last weekend, though he also split a 4:09 on his school’s DMR at the Penn Relays.
*A poster on this messageboard thread points out that Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha ran 4:57.74 for 2,000 meters indoors at age 16 years, 211 days in 2014. Considering that is 3:59 mile pace, he had to have split sub-4:00 en route at some point.
LRC prediction: O’Hare wins it, Jakob Ingebrigtsen breaks 4:00 but Principe doesn’t.
More: MB: Anyone know who the youngest sub-4:00 miler in history is? 16 yo Jakob Ingebrigtsen is trying to do it at Pre
MB: Jakob Ingebrigtsen (16y) will run the International Mile at Pre. Under 4??
Women’s 800 (5:16 p.m. ET): The Caster Semenya Show makes a stop in Eugene
|Caster Semenya||South Africa||1:55.28||1:56.61|
|Lynsey Sharp||Great Britain||1:57.69|
Here’s pretty much all you need to know for picking the women’s 800 since the start of the 2016 outdoor season: Caster Semenya > Francine Niyonsaba > Margaret Wambui > everyone else. Those three have always finished in that order in every race they’ve run. And even if one or more is absent, the logic still applies. Take, for example the DL opener in Doha, which featured Semenya and Wambui. Semenya won, and Wambui was second. Third place was not close — Eunice Sum was 1.73 seconds behind Wambui, a veritable chasm in an 800.
This will be the first time all three have raced together in 2017, and though we expect them to go 1-2-3, the field behind them is spectacular — in all, seven of the eight Olympic finalists are entered, with only Kate Grace (running the 1500 instead) absent. Canada’s Melissa Bishop wasn’t that far behind Wambui in Rio (just .13 behind in 4th) and ran 4:10 for 1500 last weekend to just miss her PR. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that she could break up the top three. Switzerland’s Selina Buchel also enjoyed a strong indoor season, winning Euro Indoors in 2:00.38. This will be her first outdoor 800 after running 1:28.81 for 600 two weeks ago. Habitam Alemu ran 1:58 in Doha but was well beaten by Semenya and Wambui.
But if Semenya, Niyonsaba and Wambui go 1-2-3 comfortably here, don’t expect anything to change for the rest of the summer unless the CAS decision on hyperandrogenism is somehow overturned. This is an Olympic final-quality field, and if a stud like Bishop can’t break them up, we don’t have much faith that anyone else will be able to.
LRC: We’re almost certain Semenya will win this race (the only way that doesn’t happen is if Niyonsaba, running on her de facto home track, has improved markedly from 2016) and expect Niyonsaba and Wambui to follow behind in that order. Bishop takes fourth in a replica of the final in Rio.
Men’s 100 (5:24 p.m. ET): Can Olympic medallists Andre De Grasse & Justin Gatlin turn things around?
|Andre De Grasse||Canada||9.91||10.10|
|Adam Gemili||Great Britain||9.97||10.08|
|Ben Youssef Meite||Ivory Coast||9.96||10.15|
|Chijindu Ujah||Great Britain||9.96||10.10|
With the Olympic silver and bronze medallists entered, you’d think this would be a great race, but Gatlin-De Grasse I in Doha was a flop as they finished 4th and 5th with neither man breaking 10.10 (for the record, Gatlin finished ahead of De Grasse, 10.14 to 10.21; there was a 1.2 m/s headwind). De Grasse improved to 10.10 in his next race in Guadeloupe on May 17 but lost to Michael Rodgers, while Gatlin won but only managed 10.28 in Japan on May 21 (again, with a 1.2 headwind). Still, this is the 100 and both those guys are big names, which makes this a race worth watching. De Grasse should be eager to win as he’s never beaten Gatlin in his career (0-4, all races at 100m).
We’re less worried about De Grasse (who was only 8th in this meet last year, but timed his peak perfectly in Rio) than Gatlin, who has traditionally run strong throughout the entire season. At 35, could this be the beginning of the end for the 2004 Olympic champ?
With neither De Grasse nor Gatlin in peak form, this is anyone’s race. Ronnie Baker has the top SB with his PB of 9.98 in Kingston last week, but he lost to both men in Doha, where he only managed 10.24. Rodgers beat De Grasse in Guadeloupe, but lost to Baker in Kingston and Bingtian Su in Shanghai on May 13.
This is true every year, but especially so in 2017: we wish Usain Bolt were running here. This is Bolt’s last year and that means he will retire having never raced at Hayward Field, the mecca of track in the United States. We blame the shoe companies. Bolt is sponsored by Puma and this is a Nike meet. If this were a Puma meet — or if Bolt were a Nike athlete — he would have run at Prefontaine half a dozen times in his career. Instead, zero.
LRC prediction: De Grasse did manage a 20.14 200 in Kingston last week, beating LaShawn Merritt in the process, and it’s always nice to bet on the most talented guy in the field so we’ll back him for the win. If he falters, we like Baker FTW.
Women’s 1500 (5:32 p.m. ET): America’s best get a huge test against Laura Muir & Olympic champ Faith Kipyegon
|Laura Muir||Great Britain||3:55.22|
|Laura Weightman||Great Britain||4:00.17|
We told you this meet was loaded. Just feast your eyes on this one, which should be a treat for U.S. and international fans alike. One year ago, Faith Kipyegon rolled into Eugene and left with a dominant win in 3:56.41, a Kenyan record. This year, she comes into the meet in similar fashion after a 3:59.22 win in Shanghai two weeks ago in which she decimated the field with a 58.44 final lap. That’s the sort of devastating speed that carried her to the Olympic title in Rio last summer, and if the pace dawdles in this one, it’s probably game over for the rest of the field.
Kipyegon is not unbeatable, however, and one of the leading candidates to pull the upset is Great Britain’s Laura Muir, who spent the winter crushing everyone, running European records of 2:31.93 (1k) and 8:26.41 (3k) and a British record of 14:49.12 (5k). She capped that season off with a pair of wins at the European Championships in Belgrade (1500 and 3k), her first two international medals at the senior level. Muir actually has a faster PR than Kipyegon — remember that ridiculous 3:55.22 in Paris last year? — and when she’s had success against Kipyegon in the past (she beat her in Oslo in 2015 as well as Paris last year), she’s done so by attacking from the front and opening a gap. If she can separate by the bell, she has the strength to hold everyone else off.
Kipyegon and Muir have had the most success on the DL circuit the last two years, but they’re not the only two women in this race. Jenny Simpson has proven time and again that she’s capable of beating anyone on the right day. Glimpsing Simpson on your shoulder with 100 meters to go has to be one of the scariest thoughts a 1500 runner can have because few women close as well as she does. Simpson ran well here in 2014 (3:58) and 2015 (when she won) and should be competitive again on Saturday. But she is also someone who traditionally peaks hard for major championships. Muir and Kipyegon will be a big test, but if she comes up short that doesn’t mean she can’t turn the tables in London.
Hellen Obiri is a total stud, the Olympic silver medallist at 5,000 meters who won here in 3:57 in 2014. She just destroyed the field in the Shanghai 5k, so her strength is great right now; this race will give us a chance to see where her speed is at.
For the other Americans, this is a measuring-stick race. Brenda Martinez has been killing it in the U.S. and was only .30 behind Simpson at Drake; can she better her 4:00.94 PR and become the seventh member of the U.S. sub-4:00 club? This will likewise be a big test for Kate Grace — who looked great indoors and was 3rd behind Simpson and Martinez at Drake — and Shelby Houlihan, who ran her PR of 4:03 here last year. American record holder Shannon Rowbury will also be hoping for a good one after Sheila Reid edged her out at Oxy, but even if she struggles, it’s still too early to panic. Remember, she was 10th here last year (fourth American) and went on to take 4th in Rio. Rowbury always hits indoors hard, and sometimes that means a slow start to the outdoor season.
LRC prediction: What a race. With Muir in the fold and likely pushing the pace, there should be PRs for the taking in this one. But Kipyegon is the Olympic champ for a reason. We’ll take Kipyegon FTW, Simpson as top American and Martinez to break 4:00 for the first time.
Women’s 200 (5:46 p.m. ET): One of the greatest women’s 200 fields ever
|Shaunae Miller-Uibo||The Bahamas||22.05|
|Dafne Schippers||The Netherlands||21.63||22.29|
|Marie-Josee Ta Lou||Ivory Coast||22.21||22.77|
We can say, without hyperbole, that this field is better than the one that lined up in Rio for last year’s Olympic final. Not only do the top four women from that race return — Elaine Thompson, Dafne Schippers, Tori Bowie and Marie-Josee Ta Lou — but they’re joined by 2012 Olympic champ Allyson Felix and 2016 Olympic 400 champ Shaunae Miller. This may be the best women’s 200 on U.S. soil since the 1984 Olympic final. Ato Boldon will be in heaven calling this one.
As far as who wins, Bowie and Thompson are the co-world leaders at 22.09 (Oregon’s Deajah Stevens has also run 22.09; we wish the NCAA West Prelims weren’t also this weekend so she could race here), but as great as Bowie is, Thompson rolled her in the 100 in Shanghai (10.78 to 11.04). In her current form, there are few women in history who could hope to beat Thompson, so she’s our pick for the win here.
More interesting: how fast can Thompson go? Hayward Field is a fast track (Stevens ran 22.09 here at Pac-12s) and the weather looks good for sprinting on Saturday afternoon. If Thompson can get a nice tailwind, we think she can go well under 22 seconds. Her 21.66 PB (#5 on the all-time list) will be a tough ask but the way she’s been running, we’re not ruling anything out.
This race will also be worth watching to see what Felix has left in the tank at 200 meters. Though she remains one of the world’s best at 400, she didn’t even make the U.S. team at 200 last year. Felix did miss a chunk of last spring with an ankle injury, which certainly didn’t help her chances. But this race will show whether, at age 31, she is still a global force at the half-lap distance.
LRC prediction: Thompson wins easily in sub-22, but Felix’s 21.69 Hayward Field record remains.
Talk about the meet on our messageboard and come back later for our preview of the men’s 5000 and mile: MB: Official 2017 Prefontaine Classic live discussion thread – Is this the best Pre meet ever?