WTW: Our Biggest Winners and Losers At Pre + Fast Times in Ostrava

The Week That Was in Running, May 23 – 31, 2022

By LetsRun.com
June 1, 2022

Each week, we try to make the sport more fun to follow by putting the prior week’s action in perspective for you. Past editions of our Week That Was weekly recap can be found here. Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us, or post in our forum.  Did you miss our extensive on-site coverage of the 2022 Prefontaine Classic from Eugene? Catch up now: Full 2022 Prefontaine Classic coverage.

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We start with our biggest winners and losers from the 2022 Prefontaine Classic. We’ll save our talk about NCAA Regionals to our NCAA previews next week.

If you’d rather listen to a podcast, we broke down Pre and the USATF 10,000m champs on this week’s LetsRun.com track Talk Podcast. Listen here in your favorite podcast app or in the player below.

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The Biggest Winners At 2022 Pre

Jakob Ingebrigtsen (1st Bowerman Mile, 3:49.76)

After years of dominance by Timothy Cheruiyot, the men’s 1500 may have simply traded one hegemon for another. Ingebrigtsen was sensational in repeating as Bowerman Mile champion on Saturday, opening up a gap early on the final lap and cruising to a commanding victory. The fact that Ingebrigtsen so handily defeated a loaded field featuring four of the top six from last year’s Olympic final shows there is a wide chasm between Ingebrigtsen and every other miler on the planet right now.

And he knows it. When asked after the race whether he was disappointed nobody followed him when he made his move, Ingebrigtsen responded with brutal honesty.

“You can’t be disappointed with people not being better,” Ingebrigtsen said.

Ingebrigtsen was beaten two months ago at World Indoors by Samuel Tefera, but Ingebrigtsen admitted after the race he did not feel like himself (when he tested positive for COVID the next day, everyone knew why). Otherwise, he’s won all of his races this year handily, and it would not be a surprise to see that trend continue.

Berihu Aregawi (1st 5000m, 12:50.05)

In the history of the world, no distance runner has opened up as quickly indoors and then out as Berihu Aregawi. Indoors, the 21-year-old Aregawi, who was 4th in the Olympic 10,000 last year, turned heads by giving Daniel Komen’s 7:24.90 WR a scare by running 7:26.20 in Karlsruhe on January 26. Now he’s opened up outdoors at 12:50.05, destroying a totally stacked field that included the Olympic 10,000 champ as well as 5,000 silver medallist by 16.81 seconds with a 12:50.05.

(If you are asking what Aregawi did between his indoor and outdoor openers, the answer is he presumably got injured as he only raced once, at World Indoors where he didn’t get out of the first round).

How dominant is a 16.81-second win in a Diamond League 5,000? Absurdly dominant.

We went back and tracked all 59 Diamond League 5,000s since the DL began in 2010, and Saturday’s race was just the fourth where the winning margin was greater than four seconds – and that’s counting Joshua Cheptegei’s 12:35 world record in 2020, which was only sort of a Diamond League since it was in the middle of the pandemic and many of the top guys didn’t show up.

Unsurprisingly, Aregawi’s run was the biggest winning margin in the 13-year history of the Diamond League. Here are the top five.

Athlete Race Winning margin Runner-up
Berihu Aregawi 2022 Pre 16.81 Samuel Tefera
Joshua Cheptegei 2020 Monaco 16.42 Nicholas Kimeli
Mo Farah 2016 London 15.56 Andrew Butchart
Hagos Gebrhiwet 2013 New York 5.48 Vincent Chepkok
Thomas Longosiwa 2015 Birmingham 3.96 Isiah Koech

(P.S. Do you remember who won the first-ever Diamond League 5,000 in Doha in 2010? Some guy by the name of Eliud Kipchoge.)

For the record, Kenenisa Bekele’s best season came at age 21 in 2004. And what a season it was. He opened at 7:30.77 (January 31) ran a 12:49.60 indoor world record three weeks later (February 20), then won two World XC titles a month later (March 20-21), before opening his outdoor season with a national title in the 5000 in Ethiopia (13:34.1, May 8). He then set 5000 (12:37.35, May 31) and 10,000 world records (26:20.31, June 8) in the span of nine days before winning Olympic gold (10,000) and silver in Athens (5,000).

On Athletics Club

Last weekend at Pre, OAC won its first US title on the track (Joe Klecker in the 10,000), put another athlete on the World Championship team (Alicia Monson in the 10,000), and had an athlete finish runner-up in the Bowerman Mile (Ollie Hoare). Not a bad meet for a team that didn’t even exist two years ago.

Where other shoe companies saw a risk in the summer of 2020, On saw an opportunity, investing a bunch of money on collegians who did not have an NCAA championships that winter or spring to prove themselves. On placed a big bet by building its team around Klecker, a guy who never won an NCAA title at the University of Colorado, with the hope that he could develop into a star. They gave Klecker uncommon power, allowing him to choose the team’s location (Boulder) and giving him final say on the team’s coach. Less than two years later, that bet has paid off: Klecker is a national champion (taking down American record holder Grant Fisher in the process) and OAC is thriving under coach Dathan Ritzenhein. Despite setting the American record at 5,000 meters, Ritzenhein never won a US title on the track, but now he has one as a coach.

Sha’Carri Richardson (2nd 100m, 10.92)

In case you were wondering how talented Sha’Carri Richardson is, the 22-year-old offered a reminder on Saturday. One week after looking off the pace and finishing fourth in a domestic field in her season opener at the Duval County Challenge, Richardson stepped up to Diamond League competition and ran 10.92 to finish second in a world-class field. Yes, Olympic champ Elaine Thompson-Herah still won handily in 10.79, but Richardson beat everyone else, including Olympic bronze medalist Shericka Jackson and World silver medalist Dina Asher-Smith (who won a week earlier in Birmingham). Richardson may have been MIA early in the year, but her run at Pre showed she should be a major factor at USAs and Worlds if she can stay on the right track.

Michael Norman (1st 400m, 43.60)

When a 20-year-old Norman ran 43.61 on a wet Eugene track to set the collegiate record at the 2018 NCAA Championships, everyone knew: this is the world’s next great 400-meter runner. And when he opened up the 2019 season with a 43.45 in April (#4 on the world all-time list), it seemed less a question of whether Norman would win a World or Olympic title, but how many?

Yet in the three years since that run, Norman has never run faster and has not even medalled, individually, let alone won a global title. It’s unfair to portray Norman as a failure – he was Diamond League champ in 2019 and US champ in 2021 – but something always seemed a little (or occasionally, a lot) off.

It didn’t look that way at Pre. Norman looked strong and in control en route to a Diamond League record of 43.60, and afterwards said he finally executed a race the way he wanted to.

“If you looked at me racing all last year, you could obviously see I was struggling to find my race rhythm again,” Norman said. “I kind of lost a sense of how to run the race. Coach [Quincy] Watts and I have been really working hard at practice and at meets to really run it the right way.”

If Norman can maintain this form, a showdown with Olympic champ Steven Gardiner (who hasn’t lost a 400 since 2017) at Worlds could be one of the races of the year.

Sinclaire Johnson (4th 1500m, 3:58.85)

Similar to Norman, Johnson made her talent very clear in her final collegiate race, scorching a 4:05.98 (#2 in collegiate history behind Jenny Simpson) to win NCAAs on a scorching Austin track in 2019, then going on to run 4:03.72 at USAs and miss a spot on the Worlds team by .17 of a second at the age of 21.

After a disappointing 2021 season (12th at the Olympic Trials), Johnson left coach Jerry Schumacher’s Bowerman Track Club for Pete Julian’s Union Athletics Club and is thriving once again. Whether it’s because the base she built under Schumacher is finally paying off or Julian’s training is a better fit with her 800/1500 background, Johnson is in the shape of her life and will enter USAs as one of the favorites to make the team – and perhaps win her first national title, given she took down reigning champ Elle Purrier St. Pierre at Pre.

The Biggest Losers at Pre

Paul Chelimo (DNF 5,000)

Historically, Chelimo has performed far better in championships than regular-season races, so we’re not counting him out from making another US team this summer in the 5,000 meters and contending for a medal in Eugene. But there is little to be excited about based on his 2022 form. Here’s what Chelimo has done so far this year:

February 12: DNF Agnes Tirop Cross Country Classic, Eldoret
March 20: 29:32 for 9th at Lille 10K (winning time: 26:57)
May 7: 3:41.50 for 10th in 1500 at Kip Keino Classic, Nairobi
May 28: DNF after one mile at Pre Classic 5,000

Chelimo told us after the race that “it’s all good,” but the fact that Chelimo couldn’t go more than a mile at 13:00 pace just four weeks out from USAs is not a good sign.

American steeplechasers

It’s certainly not time to panic, but the women’s steeplechase at Pre was a disappointing one for American fans as Emma Coburn (8th, 9:18.19) and Courtney Frerichs (9th, 9:20.96) finished well off the pace in a race that saw Norah Jeruto (8:57.97) and Winfred Yavi (8:58.71) both duck under the 9:00 barrier. But Frerichs isn’t typically a fast starter anyway: in 2017, she ran 9:19 at Pre and wound up earning silver at Worlds; in 2018, she ran 9:20 in her steeple opener in Oslo in June and ran 9:00 to break the American record a month later. Factor in that she has been battling an iron deficiency and learning how to manage Celiac disease this year and she has a lot of room for improvement.

Coburn’s 9:18 is more worrying, but 9:18 is still a time that any US steepler outside of Frerichs would be very happy with. She is in no danger of missing the team this year, but her 1500 at Mt. SAC and steeple at Pre demonstrate that she needs to improve on finishing races. We wouldn’t bet against her making those improvements in the six weeks between now and Worlds.

Laura Muir (11th 1500, 4:04.45)

Muir is one of the most consistent performers on the circuit and was just one week removed from a season-opening 4:02 win at the Birmingham Diamond League, which is what made Saturday’s performance so odd. With 300 meters remaining in the women’s 1500, Olympic champ Faith Kipyegon and World Indoor champ Gudaf Tsegay had separated from the field while Muir was in third place, leading the chase pack. But over the last 300, Muir would lose eight places and fade to 11th place, running her final 200 in a dismal 35 seconds. Losing to Kipyegon and Tsegay is one thing, but for Muir – who ran 3:54 last year to take Olympic silver in Tokyo – to get blasted by everyone else over the final 200 was a stunner. We know from her Birmingham run that Muir is in better shape than this, but Saturday’s race was one to forget.

Josette Norris (13th 1500, 4:06.13)

Last year, American Josette Norris had a breakout year. While she failed to make the Olympic team (8th in 5000), she lowered her 1500 pb from 4:10.82 to 3:59.72 and was third at Pre, Lausanne, and the DL final in Zurich. At Pre over the weekend, she was just 13th and only ran 4:06.13 — a big shocker considering she ran 4:20 in the mile indoors at Millrose.

The Mystique of “TrackTown USA” 

Let’s be honest: the attendance at Pre was disappointing. Finding reliable attendance numbers in our sport can be tricky but the official attendance numbers don’t paint a pretty picture for the Pre Classic. From 2010-18 – the first nine Pre Classics held at Hayward Field since joining the Diamond League in 2010, Pre reported an attendance of at least 12,188 every single year. In 2022, it was about half of that for Saturday’s DL events: 6,447.

And the reality is this is at least the third straight major meet in Eugene with subpar attendance numbers — Olympic Trials last year, Pre Classic last year and the Pre Classic this year. People can make excuses all they want – COVID uncertainty and fear last year, Memorial Day weekend this year, bad weather, etc. But the explanation for us is quite simple: there are way too many big track meets held in Eugene, Oregon, and there aren’t that many people that want to come.

Eugene is very hard and expensive to get to and there are limited lodging options if you do make it there. If you are a die-hard track fan flying in from out of state, do you really want to go to the same place year after year, heck maybe multiple times per year? 

No. But you might make an annual family vacation to USAs if it was in a cool city that rotated.

That doesn’t mean that Hayward Field isn’t amazing and that Eugene isn’t a great host. The new Hayward Field is spectacular. It’s easily the best place to attend a track meet in America, and we do believe there is a group of hardcore Eugene track fans. But that number is small – a few thousand – and dwindling each and every year.

But let’s assume the Hayward faithful are the “smartest fans in the world,” as is so often said. Well they likely thought, “Hey there are a lot of big meets this year that cost a lot of cash. I’m going to sit this early-season contest out, rent my place out and go camping, and come back for the playoffs (Worlds).”

Check out what a messageboard poster wrote about Eugene’s track fandom seven years ago on LRC.

(There was not a sellout in Eugene) for NCAAs. The final day it was not close to sold out and they didn’t have the temporary seats they did at Pre.

Yes, Eugene is better than most cities. But it’s only about 3-5,000 Eugene faithful that are track fans.

Tract Town is a nike/oregon recruiting myth. Football is #1 in Eugene.

We pretty much agree with that but would put the 3,000-5,000 number at 2,000-3,000. In the year 2022 people are into unique experiences. Check out the number of fans at last weekend’s Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon, a mountain race in northern Spain. That location requires a heck of a lot more effort to get to than Eugene, and you get to see the athletes for far less time, but that didn’t stop thousands of fans from scoping out their spots along the course.

You can watch video highlights of Zegama-Aizkorri, which was won by Spain’s Kilian Jornet (men) and the Netherlands’ Nienke Brinkman (women), below. Some of the views are quite stunning. (H/T to reader Luis Barraza for sharing).

MB: Why is the stadium at Pre Classic so empty?

MB: The sport of running is slowly dying :((

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In non-Pre Classic news…

Pre wasn’t the only place to see top performances since our last WTW was published as there were a few eye-popping results from Arkansas and the Czech Republic. Let’s hit them real quick.

20-year-old Micah Williams runs 9.86

Your 2022 US 100-meter leader is not Trayvon Bromell, Fred Kerley, Christian Coleman, or any of the guys who ran at Pre over the weekend. Instead, it’s a 20-year-old, 5-foot-8 Oregon sophomore known as the Quad God: Micah Williams.

On Friday, Williams ripped a 9.86 (+0.7 wind) at the NCAA West Regionals in Fayetteville to move into a tie for second on the all-time NCAA list (Coleman holds the collegiate record at 9.82). As fast as Williams’ run was, it hardly came out of nowhere. As a true freshman at Oregon in 2021, he won the NCAA 60m title and was 5th at the Olympic Trials in the 100, in the process becoming just the fourth teenager in history to break 10 seconds. 

This year, he ran even faster indoors (6.48) but false-started at NCAAs. And outdoors, he’s been on a roll. Williams opened up with a 10.26 into a 1.5 headwind in San Diego on March 26, then ran an impressive 9.83 at Mt. SAC with an illegal 2.5 tailwind. He then won Pac-12s handily in 9.93 before dropping that 9.86 at regionals.

Williams may have the fastest time on paper, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the best sprinter in the US right now – so much of a 100-meter time is dependent on temperature and wind. But he’s in a great spot to make Worlds this year as the US gets four spots in the 100 thanks to Coleman’s bye as defending champ.

Ethiopia gets its first sub-8

21-year-old Ethiopian steeplechaser Lamecha Girma is used to making history. In 2019, he became the first Ethiopian man to medal in the steeplechase at Worlds, nabbing silver. At the 2020 Olympics, he became the first Ethiopian man to take silver in the steeple (and just second to ever medal in the event). Yesterday in Ostrava, he became the first Ethiopian man to break 8:00 in the steeple, running 7:58.68 for the win.

Year of the Teenage 800 Runner, Part II?

2021 was the year of the teenager in the women’s 800 as 19-year-olds Athing Mu and Keely Hodgkinson went 1-2 in the Olympic final in Tokyo. 2022 could be the year of the teenager on the men’s side as there are a number of guys born in the mid-2000s who have been impressing of late. It started with Kenyan Noah Kibet, who took silver at World Indoors in March as a 17-year-old and won the Diamond League opener in Doha last month (he turned 18 on April 12).

They’ve kept it going outdoors. On May 22, Ermias Girma of Ethiopia – who turned 17 in January – ran 1:44.36 at the Flanders Cup in Lokeren, Belgium. And Kenya’s Emmanuel Wanyonyi, who won the World U20 title last year a few weeks after turning 17 (birthday: August 1, 2004) is undefeated so far in 2022, collecting wins over strong fields at the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi on May 7 (1:45.01) and Ostrava on May 31 (1:44.15). The Ostrava race was pretty loaded as it included Nijel Amos, Amel Tuka, and Patryk Dobek.

Whenever there are this many athletes running this fast this young, there is bound to be some skepticism about whether their ages are correct. But with how good these guys are running, they’re going to be factors not just at the World U20 champs this year in Colombia, but at another meet where their age is irrelevant: senior Worlds in Eugene.

Femke Bol smashes 300mh WR

Also in Ostrava on Tuesday, Femke Bol, the 400m Olympic bronze medallist, destroyed Zuzana Hejnova’s world’s best of 38.16 in the 300 hurdles as Bol ran 36.86. Ukrainians Viktoriya Tkachuk and Anna Ryzhykova almost dipped under the old record as well as they ran 38.24 and 38.36 for 2nd and third.

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Recommended Watch

One of the favorite interviews that Robert Johnson did in Eugene was one of the least-watched. Alison dos Santos is really younger, charismatic and wants to take down Karsten Warholm. See it now.

For our favorite reads from other weeks, go here.

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Quotes Of The Day And Last Week’s Home Pages

To see the quotes of the day from last week or last week’s home page or any home page, go to our archive page.

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Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us or post in our forum.

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