2022 Pre Classic Preview: Star-Studded Matchups Everywhere You Look
By Jonathan Gault
May 27, 2022
One of the complaints about track & field is that the biggest stars don’t race each other enough. And while that is true for some events, the opposite scenario — a sport where the very best athletes race each other every single week — isn’t necessarily the solution, either. There is something to be said about building an air of mystery and anticipation.
Ideally, the best of the best would race each other roughly three times a season — early in the year to lay down a marker, Worlds/Olympics for the glory, and the Diamond League final as a season finale. This weekend’s Prefontaine Classic — seven weeks out from Worlds, and held on the same track — is the perfect time for that first encounter, and we’re going to get it in a number of events.
The Bowerman Mile, for example, will be the first time Olympic champ Jakob Ingebrigtsen and world champ Timothy Cheruiyot have squared off in 2022, and they’ll be joined by the red-hot Abel Kipsang, American stars Cole Hocker and Cooper Teare (making their Diamond League debuts) and 3:58 high school miler Colin Sahlman. We have a similarly stacked matchup in the women’s steeple with Olympic champ Peruth Chemutai facing Diamond League champ Norah Jeruto and American Olympic medalists Courtney Frerichs and Emma Coburn.
And there are a number of events where the Pre field is just one name away from a stacked deck. There’s no Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the women’s 100, but Elaine Thompson-Herah vs Sha’Carri Richardson is worth it, if only to see how the latter responds to another beating. The women’s 1500 has global medalists Faith Kipyegon, Laura Muir, Gudaf Tsegay, and Elle Purrier St. Pierre (but no Sifan Hassan, who emotionally was spent after the Olympics and then had a few setbacks once she got back into training but is training well now). And the men’s 100 (Trayvon Bromell, Christian Coleman, Fred Kerley, Noah Lyles, Andre De Grasse, Erriyon Knighton) is still one of the races of the day, even if Olympic champ Marcell Jacobs is out due to injury.
By Saturday evening, we’ll have a much better idea of where the race for gold at this year’s World Championships stands in a number of key events…but with enough time for things to change before the big show at Hayward Field in July. Just how it should be.
Now for the bad news. Have you seen the forecast for Saturday? Right now Weather.com is calling for high-50s and rain during the meet on Saturday afternoon, with winds of 8-10 mph and gusts potentially over 20 mph, coming out of the S or SW meaning the sprints will be run into a headwind (the finish stretch runs from the N to the S). Good thing we’ve got so many top matchups because the times are unlikely to be fast.
The weather for Friday’s US 10,000 champs and WR attempts looks amazing however so if you missed out preview of that catch up now: LRC Friday previews Your Guide to the World Record Attempts at the 2022 Pre Classic *2022 USA 10,000 Champs Preview: Can Grant Fisher & Elise Cranny Make It a Bowerman TC Sweep?
Below, a look at the top events to watch on Saturday at Pre.
Men’s 1500 (12:29 p.m. PT): Neil Gourley hopes to finally break 3:35
Entries: Colby Alexander, Robby Andrews, Vince Ciattei, Neil Gourley, Charlie Hunter, Hobbs Kessler, Caleb Lakeman, Luke McCann, Christian Noble, Sam Prakel, Jonas Raess, Thomas Ratcliffe, Marc Scott, Samuel Tanner
This is the race usually known as the International Mile (the B heat behind the Bowerman Mile), but it’s a 1500 this year because a bunch of these guys will be chasing the World Championship standard of 3:35.00. No one wants it more than Neil Gourley, who has been flying around the world this year trying to hit the standard and has so far managed 3:35.32 in Boston, 3:35.87 in Belgrade, and 3:35.43 at Mt. SAC. Even a slower time should be enough to put him in a strong position with his world ranking, but the 2019 British champ will want to get under the barrier once and for all so he can put all his energy into focusing on next month’s (very tough) British trials. The weather may make that more difficult, but Cooper Teare ran 3:34 on this track in similar conditions on May 6, so it can be done.
New Zealand’s Sam Tanner, who gave Gourley a good battle at Mt. SAC last weekend, and World Indoor 3k bronze medalist Marc Scott of Bowerman TC is also running. Americans Vincent Ciattei, Colby Alexander, Hobbs Kessler, Sam Prakel, and Christian Noble are all entered as well; only Alexander has the Worlds standard.
While Kessler hasn’t run as fast in 2022 as he did in 2021, he told us on Thursday he feels his training is ahead of where it was last year: MB: Hobbs Kessler: “Fitness wise, everything is coming together well. I’m slightly ahead of last year at this time” .
Men’s 5,000 (1:10 p.m. PT): This is going to be good
Entries: Moh Ahmed, Berihu Aregawi, Selemon Barega, George Beamish, Bethwell Birgen, Paul Chelimo, Luis Grijalva, Jacob Kiplimo, Sam Parsons, Matthew Ramsden, Brett Robinson, Samuel Tefera, Getnet Wale
Of the top 10 runners in the world right now at 5,000 meters, at least eight of them are competing at Pre this weekend: Joshua Cheptegei, Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Jacob Kiplimo, Selemon Barega, Berihu Aregawi, Moh Ahmed, Paul Chelimo, and Grant Fisher. Cheptegei, Ingebrigtsen, and Fisher are all entered in separate events, but the rest of those names will be running in the loaded 5,000 on Saturday afternoon. Without Ingebrigtsen and Cheptegei in the field, the winner here can’t necessarily be called the World Championship favorite, but this is likely to be the most competitive 5,000 anywhere on Earth before Worlds, so a win is a nice feather in the cap.
Barega, coming off an Olympic title in the 10k and a World Indoor title in the 5k, is the best bet. The Ethiopian federation is reportedly picking its 5,000 team based on season’s best and in the past has been reluctant about allowing athletes to double. But here’s my proposal: if Barega wins this race, Ethiopia should put him on the 5,000 team right now. It’s a great shame he wasn’t allowed to double in Tokyo last year. If Barega proves fitness and wants to try the double, the Ethiopian federation needs to make it happen as he is their biggest male star right now.
Also, what is 2018 and 2022 World Indoor 1500 champ Samuel Tefera doing in this race? The fact that he’s here and not in the Bowerman Mile is puzzling, but it will be intriguing to see what he can do. He’s never run a 5000 but ran 7:37 in the lone indoor 3000 of his career earlier this year.
Women’s 100 (1:33 p.m. PT): Elaine Thompson-Herah & Sha’Carri Richardson return to Pre
Entries: Dina Asher-Smith, Teahna Daniels, Shericka Jackson, Mujinga Kambundji, Sha’Carri Richardson, Marie-Josee Ta Lou, Twanisha Terry, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Briana Williams
The last women’s 100 at Pre featured a heavily-anticipated showdown between Jamaican Olympic gold and silver medalists Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and American star Sha’Carri Richardson. The Jamaicans showed up, with ETH running a pb of 10.54 — a time many in the sport (including this writer) regard as the world record given the questions about FloJo’s 10.49. Richardson, racing for the first time since serving a one-month ban for cannabis, was a total nonfactor, finishing last in 11.14.
Thompson-Herah is back and in fine form once again, running 10.94 last week in Kingston into a 1.8 m/s headwind (worth 10.80 in still conditions). The only way she doesn’t win this race is if she decides she doesn’t want to run in cold, rainy conditions and scratches (which looked to be the case last week when she withdrew from the Birmingham DL only to race that same weekend in Kingston).
Richardson, meanwhile, will be looking to build on her start at last week’s Duval County Challenge, where she ran 11.37 into the wind in her first race of the year and 11.27 in her second. With Olympic bronze medalist, world 200 champ Dina Asher-Smith, and world indoor champ Mujinga Kambundji all entered, Richardson and Americans Teahna Daniels and TeeTee Terry will have their hands full.
Women’s 1500 (1:49 p.m. PT): Kipyegon, Muir, and Tsegay set to do battle
Entries: Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, Freweyni Hailu, Jessica Hull, Sinclaire Johnson, Tigist Ketema, Faith Kipyegon, Cory Ann McGee, Laura Muir, Winnie Nanyondo, Josette Norris, Shannon Osika, Elle Purrier St. Pierre, Gaia Sabbatini, Nozomi Tanaka, Gudaf Tsegay
This is the best women’s distance race at Pre, with a stellar international field and many of the top Americans all entered. Back-to-back Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon will be favored — she’s the greatest female miler of all time, and she’s coming off her best season ever. There are two women — Olympic silver medalist Laura Muir and World Indoor champ Gudaf Tsegay — that may be able to hang with her, then a gap to the likes of Freweyni Hailu and Gabriela DeBues-Stafford (both of whom have run 3:56).
This is also a big test for the Americans. The five women above are all stars and that list doesn’t include Sifan Hassan (though who knows what’s up with her considering she hasn’t raced in 2022 and just scratched the 2-mile at Pre). That’s a lot of talent standing between the US and a medal. Can anyone close the gap?
Elle Purrier St. Pierre has the best chance to do it — and you can argue she belongs in the discussion above considering she beat GDS for silver at World Indoors in the 3k in March. However, Purrier St. Pierre hasn’t really mixed it up with the best in the world in the 1500 yet — her best races last year were domestic efforts, and she was hurt at the Olympics — so this is her opportunity to show she belongs. Josette Norris was 3rd in the DL final last year and 5th at World Indoors and shouldn’t be overlooked either.
Essentially, this race is a preview of USAs minus indoor champ Heather MacLean. Between Purrier St. Pierre, Norris, Cory McGee, Sinclaire Johnson, and Shannon Osika, basically all the major players are here. The results will tell us a lot about the current pecking order.
Women’s 800 (2:06 p.m. PT): With Mu out, will Britannia rule?
Entries: Natoya Goule, Keely Hodgkinson, Sage Hurta, Michaela Meyer, Halimah Nakaayi, Jemma Reekie, Raevyn Rogers, Ajee’ Wilson, Allie Wilson
This was supposed to be a matchup of two of the sport’s brightest young stars, Olympic champion Athing Mu of the US and Olympic silver medalist Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain. But Mu, who looked good in her last race (50.42 400 in Puerto Rico on May 12) withdrew from the meet earlier this week with no explanation and is instead at the NCAA West Regionals in Arkansas with the Texas A&M team. Mu’s agent Wes Felix did not respond to a request for comment from LetsRun.com; Pre Classic media chief Jeff Oliver said he had no details why Mu withdrew. Is it too much to ask that a rare American Olympic champion at least give a reason as to why she’s not running the biggest regular season meet of the year in the US?
Without Mu, Hodgkinson, who impressively won her outdoor opener in Birmingham last weekend, will be favored, but she won’t have it easy against a field featuring in-form Americans Raevyn Rogers (Olympic bronze medalist), Ajee’ Wilson (World Indoor champ), and Allie Wilson (world leader at 1:58.18). Reigning world champ Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda is entered as well.
Women’s steeplechase (2:14 p.m. PT): A huge test for the Americans
Entries:, Mekides Abebe, Peruth Chemutai, Jackline Chepkoech, Rosefline Chepngetich, Celliphine Chepteek Chespol, Emma Coburn, Courtney Frerichs, Workua Getachew, Norah Jeruto, Winfred Mutile Yavi, Katie Rainsberger, Zerfe Wondimagegn
Norah Jeruto — now (finally) representing Kazakhstan — picked up where she left off last year in her season opener by running 9:04 at 5,000+ feet to win in Nairobi earlier this month. She’s the smart pick to defend her Pre Classic title after running a pb of 8:53 (#3 all-time) here last August.
The question in Eugene is not just whether Americans Courtney Frerichs and Emma Coburn can challenge her, but which American? Coburn has dominated the pair’s rivalry for so long but had an awful Olympics and took a long time to return. She finally did last week at Mt. SAC, but didn’t look back to her old self yet, closing out her 4:09 1500 with a 67-second last lap. Frerichs, meanwhile, hasn’t raced since March but has PR’d in both races this year (14:48 5k indoors, 31:23 10k outdoors). Saturday’s result will be telling about where things stand between the two right now.
Men’s Bowerman Mile (2:39 p.m. PT): Ingebrigtsen goes for repeat as Hocker & Teare make DL debuts
Entries: Timothy Cheruiyot, Ignacio Fontes, Jake Heyward, Ollie Hoare, Cole Hocker, Filip Ingebrigtsen, Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Vincent Kibet Keter, Abel Kipsang, Clayton Murphy, Will Paulson, Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, Colin Sahlman, Cooper Teare
The Bowerman Mile may have been bumped from its traditional meet-ending spot this year, but the 2022 edition is as strong as ever with storylines up and down the field. Jakob Ingebrigtsen is the headliner in any field he enters and after a month of training in Flagstaff, should be ready to roll in this one. Contrast that to his top rival in this race, Kenya’s Abel Kipsang, who has been racking up the SkyMiles. Here’s what Kipsang has been up to over the last month:
|April 28||Nairobi||AK Championships||1st, 3:36.17|
|May 7||Nairobi||Kip Keino Classic||1st, 3:31.01|
|May 13||Doha||Doha DL||1st, 3:35.70|
|May 21||Birmingham||Birmingham DL||1st, 3:35.15|
Clearly the man is in sensational form, but you have to think all that travel will take its toll at some point. Who are you picking, the guy who’s running his fourth race in four weekends on four continents, or the guy who’s been holed up at altitude preparing for this race for the last three weeks?
Two-time Bowerman Mile champ Timothy Cheruiyot is the only other guy with a realistic shot to topple Ingebrigtsen, though he’s less likely than Kipsang considering Kipsang has beaten Cheruiyot head-to-head twice in the last month. In fact, considering the traveling and racing Cheruiyot and Kipsang have done — and the fact that Ingebrigtsen had COVID at World Indoors and still finished ahead of Kipsang — it wouldn’t be a shock to see a repeat of last year’s Bowerman Mile where Ingebrigtsen crushed everyone.
From a US standpoint, what better place to see Cole Hocker and Cooper Teare make their Diamond League debuts than Hayward Field? Not only will they get a massive test against the likes of Ingebrigtsen, Kipsang, and Cheruiyot, but Hocker will also get the chance to end his personal drought against Teare — despite winning NCAA indoors, NCAA outdoors, USA outdoors, and USA indoors in the last 14 months, Hocker is 0-4 against his training partner in 1500/mile races. However, only 21% of Letsrun nation thinks that Hocker will beat Teare in a poll we ran on the homepage.
High schooler Colin Sahlman will also be a popular storyline at Pre as he looks to lower his 3:58.81 pb. Alan Webb‘s 3:53.43 high school record was already a tough ask and may be impossible if the weather is poor, but at the very least Sahlman will have an opportunity to wrest the high school lead away from LRC podcast guest Gary Martin, who ran 3:57.98 in Pennsylvania two weeks ago (though even that could be tough in these conditions). It’s a shame the weather isn’t better, because Sahlman has been in great form this year (1:48/3:39 already outdoors) and has the closing speed over the last lap where he might be able to make things interesting and mow down a couple fading pros over the final 100.
ICYMI: Matthew Centrowitz withdrew from this event earlier this week due to a knee injury, which turned out to be pretty serious: he underwent surgery on Thursday and will miss the entire track season.
Men’s 100 (2:52 p.m. PT): Who is the best in the US?
Entries: Kenny Bednarek, Trayvon Bromell, Christian Coleman, Andre De Grasse, Fred Kerley, Kyree King, Erriyon Knighton, Noah Lyles, Letsile Tebogo
Okay, so Olympic champ Marcell Jacobs is out due to injury. But this is still an incredible field pitting world champs Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles against 2021 US champ Trayvon Bromell and 2021 Olympic medalists Kenny Bednarek, Fred Kerley and Andre De Grasse. And as if that wasn’t enough, we’ve got not one, but two teen phenoms. You know all about Erriyon Knighton, but what about Botswana’s Letsile Tebogo? The reigning world U20 champ, the 18-year-old Tebogo ran 9.96 on April 30 to become the youngest man in history to break 10 seconds in the 100. That’s right. Youngest ever. That record may not last long — Knighton could break it or Saturday, or perhaps next weekend at the NYC Grand Prix, where there should be better weather — but Tebogo is a serious sprint talent in his own right. And if Knighton somehow wins this race…well, it’s all over for everyone else for the next decade. Fortunately for them, he hasn’t yet shown the same ability at 100 as 200.
Of the veterans, Bromell, Kerley, and Lyles all come into this race in great form, though Kerley and Lyles’ most impressive work has come at 200 this spring (Bromell ran 9.75 with a +2.1 wind back on April 30). Coleman ran a fairly ho-hum 10.09 in his 100 opener in Tokyo on May 8, but he did win the race. This, however, will be his first time taking on American rivals at 100 meters since the 2019 Worlds. Is he still the man, or has someone surpassed him?
The US is so deep that we already know at least one of the bold names in this race (Lyles, Bromell, Kerley, and Bednarek) won’t be on the 100-meter team this spring, and potentially more if Oregon’s Micah Williams continues on his current trajectory. So who’s number one? I’d rank them Bromell-Coleman-Kerley if you asked me right now, though that could completely flip within 48 hours. But whoever wins this will stake their claim as the biggest challenger to Jacobs in Eugene at Worlds this summer.
Come back to LRC for more Prefontaine coverage. At 5 p.m. ET on Friday, we’ll be doing a live show from Eugene telling you the inside scoop we learned from the second press conference.
More: Your Guide to the World Record Attempts at the 2022 Pre Classic *2022 USA 10,000 Champs Preview: Can Grant Fisher & Elise Cranny Make It a Bowerman TC Sweep?
*Live From Eugene – The Inside Scoop From Thursda’ys WR Press Conferences
*All LRC 2022 Pre Classic coverage*How to watch *Schedule/entries/results