2024 Pre Classic Preview: Gudaf Tsegay Goes For History, Sha’Carri v Elaine, Kenyan 10K Trials, & More

With just four weeks to go until the Olympic Trials, America and the world's best will descend on Eugene this weekend

The Prefontaine Classic is one of those meets you can count on to deliver great racing, year after year. Pre has a few advantages that give it a leg up on most Diamond Leagues when assembling its fields — it’s the only DL held in the world’s most dominant track country, and its ties to Nike mean meet organizers can compel athletes to compete who might otherwise be inclined to skip the trip to Eugene. The timing is also a big plus: deep enough into the season that we can start to draw conclusions from the results, but not so far along that we know who is going to win every event. The stars are here, but there is still room for a breakout or two.

Speaking of stars, 2024 Prefontaine is full of them. Sha’Carri Richardson. Grant Holloway. Elle St. Pierre. Rai Benjamin. And those are just the big-name individuals. Could we interest you in Erriyon KnightonLetsile Tebogo in the 200? How about Keely HodgkinsonMary Moraa in the 800? (Athing Mu was meant to be in there too but has scratched with hamstring soreness). The Bowerman Mile is so packed with stars and storylines (Jakob IngebrigtsenJosh KerrJake WightmanYared Nuguse…) that we have pumped out a separate Olympic-sized preview for just that race.

Oh, and if that’s not enough, Kenya will also be holding its Olympic 10,000m trials at Pre this year.

It’s the biggest meet of the outdoor season thus far, and with just four weeks until the US Olympic Trials and nine weeks until the Olympics in Paris, Prefontaine could have major implications on both. Here’s what you need to know about the biggest races of the weekend.

What: 2024 Prefontaine Classic
Where: Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon
When: Saturday, May 25. USATF.TV+ broadcast begins at 1:40 p.m. ET, DL track events begin at 4:00 p.m. ET.

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How to watch: This meet will be shown live in the United States on NBC 4-6 p.m. ET on Saturday. For full TV/streaming details, see below.

Full Pre Classic schedule/entries/results * TV/streaming information

Preview/reaction shows: We’ll have boots-on-the-ground coverage beginning on Thursday and will have a pre-meet preview show live on YouTube at 4:00 p.m. ET on Friday. As you watch the meet, be sure to share your thoughts on the LetsRun.com messageboard, then catch our live instant reaction show at 6:30 p.m. ET – 30 minutes after the meet wraps on Saturday.

Women’s 10,000 (1:50 p.m. ET): Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay Goes For Sub-29:00 In The Kenyan Olympic Trials

Tsegay broke the 5,000 WR in her last appearance at Pre

Initially this was billed as a world record attempt from Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay, who set the 5,000 world record in her last appearance at Pre in September. Now it is doubling as the Kenyan Olympic trials for the 10,000 meters. Kenya has done this before — Prefontaine also hosted the Kenyan men’s trials in 2012 — and it makes sense to hold a trials race at sea level. But the rollout process has not gone as smoothly as 12 years ago. Back in 2012, Pre announced it would host the Kenyan trials back on March 15. This time, it did not make the announcement until May 19 — six days before the race.

The delay is not down to Prefontaine (which had been ready and willing to host the trials), but Athletics Kenya. AK had informed athletes and coaches of the possibility of a Eugene trials a couple of months ago but did not confirm the decision until roughly two weeks ago — which has led to some last-minute scrambling for visas by athletes and their managers.

Tsegay will be chasing Letesenbet Gidey‘s world record of 29:01.03, and it’s a good bet the record goes down in this race. It sounds strange to call 29:01 “soft,” but the pacing lights make it easier to chase distance records and we have already seen lesser talents run under 29:00 on the roads this year (though the roads may also be faster than the track now given the limitations on stack height for track races). Remember, Tsegay ran 14:00 last year in Eugene on a sunny 70-degree day. Conditions on Saturday morning will be much better for running (mid-50s, overcast). We also know Tsegay is in good shape (she ran 3:50 for 1500 on April 20) and she has the endurance chops to run a fast 10,000 — when she won last year’s World Championship final, she beat the last two 10,000 WR holders in Gidey and Sifan Hassan.

One big question is whether any of the Kenyans dare to go with Tsegay or if they back off and focus on battling each other. (Another is how will Kenya pick its team — previously it has picked the top two finishers plus a discretionary spot, but its specific policy for this race has not been announced. At one point on Wednesday when it looked like some top runners wouldn’t be competing as they didn’t get a Visa, AK said only the top 2 would be guaranteed a spot but now they all have gotten visas but we don’t know if they will take the top 3 across the line). Here are the main Kenyan players to watch for:

  • Beatrice Chebet: Chebet has not run a 10,000 on the track since 2020, but she is the clear favorite here after running 14:05 last summer and winning her second straight World XC title in March.
  • Agnes Ngetich: Was 6th at Worlds last year and ran a world record of 28:46 on the roads in January, but was beaten by four Kenyans at World XC in March.
  • Lilian Rengeruk: Has never run a 10,000 on the track but has made three Kenyan teams in the 5,000 and took silver at World XC this year.
  • Margaret Kipkemboi: 2022 Worlds bronze medalist was also the bronze medalist at World XC in March.
  • Emmaculate Anyango: Ran 28:57 on the roads in January but has been trending down since then. 4th at World XC (but 4th Kenyan) and beaten convincingly by Rengeruk in Bengaluru 10K on April 28.
  • Grace Nawowuna: Ran 29:47 on the track last year and was 9th at Worlds, but just got smoked in the Doha 5,000 on May 10.

Americans Ednah Kurgat (31:12 pb, 2024 debut) and Rachel Smith (31:04 at The TEN) are also in this race. The 30:40 Olympic standard is a big ask from them, but a strong race could help bump their world rankings significantly as they chase Olympic qualification.

Will the world record (29:01.03) go down in the women's 10,000 at Pre?

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Men’s 10,000 (3:05 p.m. ET): Will everyone make it to the start line?

The chief hurdle to holding the Kenyan trials in Eugene is ensuring all of the athletes can secure an American visa in time. At the 2022 Worlds, Kenyan 100m star Ferdinand Omanyala only arrived in Eugene three hours before his race because of visa delays. Kenyan 10,000 runner Sheila Chepkirui did not make it at all. Now we could be in for a repeat.

Will Ebenyo make it to Pre in time for Saturday’s race? (Kevin Morris photo)

On Tuesday, Kenyan journalist Michelle Katami reported that several athletes were facing visa issues, including two of Kenya’s best 10,000 runners: 2023 Worlds silver medalist Daniel Ebenyo and World XC bronze medalist Benson Kiplangat. It would be a real shame if visa processing times winds up playing a role in determining the Kenyan Olympic team, but the good news is Katami said on Wednesday that Ebenyo and Kiplangat were eventually granted visas and both men should be in Eugene (Kiplangat’s agent Valentijn Trouw told us on Wednesday that Kiplangat is “almost starting his journey to Eugene”).

Unlike the women’s race, the men’s race is a Kenyan-only affair. Assuming everyone on the entry list makes it to the start line, it should be a terrific race: Ebenyo, Kiplangat, Nicholas Kipkorir (4th World XC), Samwel Chebolei (5th World XC), Kibiwott Kandie (57:32 half pb), Stanley Mburu (2022 Worlds silver), and Edwin Kurgat (26:57 pb).

One wrinkle: some major contenders (including Chebolei and Mburu) do not have the 27:00 Olympic standard. Will they work together to chase it here? It’s not clear whether Wavelight will be in use for this race, but we assume it will be.

One guy who is probably overjoyed that the Trials are in Eugene is Edwin Kurgat. The 2019 NCAA XC champ for Iowa State has been on fire in 2024, running 12:57 at BU in January and 26:57 at The TEN in March, and since he is based in Flagstaff with Under Armour Dark Sky Distance, his travel to Eugene should be stress-free.

Men’s 400 hurdles (4:04 p.m. ET): Benjamin leads the way

There won’t be much drama when it comes to who wins this race: Rai Benjamin just laid down a world-leading 46.64 last week in Los Angeles and is the clear favorite with no Alison dos Santos or Karsten Warholm in this field. We’ll be watching to see whether Benjamin can run even faster in Eugene and whether he will risk drawing the ire of his sponsor Nike by ripping off his bib at their showcase meet.

Women’s 5000 (4:18 p.m. ET): Sifan Hassan headlines

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After running the Tokyo Marathon in March, reigning Olympic 5k/10k champ Sifan Hassan made a soft return to the track at the Track Fest in LA two weeks ago, running 14:58 to handily win the 5,000. Hassan said after the race she needs to improve her speed, and she will get the opportunity in Eugene as there are some talented Ethiopian 1500m women stepping up here, including World Indoor champ Freweyni Hailu and 18-year-old Birke Haylom (3:53 1500 in Xiamen on April 20). Another Ethiopian, Ejgayehu Taye, who ran 14:29 for 2nd in Doha on May 10, is also running. Peak Hassan would have no problem with those women, but Hassan is not close to her peak at this point in the season so this could be interesting.

Americans Weini Kelati and Emily Infeld are both running, too, and this is an opportunity for them to hit the 14:52.00 Olympic standard. The 27-year-old Kelati, who ran 30:33 for 10,000 in March, has a better shot than the 34-year-old Infeld, who ran 15:12 in her last race at Bryan Clay (though Infeld is only one year removed from her pb of 14:50).

Men’s 110 hurdles (4:50 p.m. ET): World champ v Olympic champ

No one has broken 13.00 yet in the 110 hurdles this year, but that could change if the field at Pre can catch a friendly wind on Saturday. World champ Grant Holloway ran 13.07 into a 0.7 headwind on the temporary track at the adidas Atlanta City Games last weekend and will be favored here. He’s up against old rivals Daniel Roberts of the US and Olympic champion Hansle Parchment of Jamaica.

Women’s 1500 (4:57 p.m. ET): St. Pierre shows her stuff

It’s hard to believe, but at age 29, Elle St. Pierre has as many World Indoor medals as Diamond League appearances (two each). Her last appearance was in Birmingham nearly five years ago, where she ran 4:30 to finish 7th in the mile, but she should be much closer to the front this time out. St. Pierre has been setting personal bests all year, from the mile (4:16) to 3000 (8:20 to win World Indoor gold) to the 5000 (14:34 last week) and her 3:58.03 in the 1500, which she ran without a rabbit to win the 2021 Olympic Trials, seems destined to fall on Saturday.

Elle St. Pierre World Champion (Kevin Morris photo) Kevin Morris photo

Will it be enough for the win? With Tsegay in the 10k, Hassan and Freweyni Hailu in the 5k, and Faith Kipyegon missing Pre after an injury this spring, St. Pierre has a real opportunity to nab her first Diamond League victory. Her biggest rivals here are Ethiopia’s 22-year-old Diribe Welteji, last year’s Worlds silver medalist and road mile world champ, and Olympic silver medalist Laura Muir of Great Britain.

Welteji is wildly talented but also wildly inconsistent. She ran 3:55 in February but only managed 4th at World Indoors. She was 4th in the DL opener in Xiamen in 3:57, then DNF’d Doha before impressively winning the LA Grand Prix last week in 3:55. If the good version shows up on Saturday, she will be tough to beat.

Muir is also somewhat of an unknown quantity as this will be her first track race since World Indoors, where she was 5th in the 3000, nine seconds back of St. Pierre. Muir did not look fully sharp in that race, however, and has better 800 speed than St. Pierre, so she cannot be counted out in Eugene.

This is a big race for the Americans, too. Reigning US champ Nikki Hiltz is also a kicker, which makes Hiltz an underdog to St. Pierre in a race that is likely to go fast (though after a silver at World Indoors, Hiltz’s 3:59.61 pb has a good shot to go down here). 2022 US champ Sinclaire Johnson, who ran 4:00 in LA last week, is also running, as is reigning US 5k/10k champ Elise Cranny. Cranny, now working with NAU assistant Jarred Cornfield, has changed coaches twice since last season and has only raced at one meet in 2024 (2:02/4:09 double on April 12-13), so this race will be a key check-in ahead of the Olympic Trials.

Who wins the women's 1500 at Pre?

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Women’s steeplechase (5:09 p.m. ET): Trials preview

This event has taken some serious hits from a US perspective as Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, the only Americans to ever medal in this event have both announced they will miss the Olympic Trials due to injuries sustained during awkward landings in the water pit. This race features a number of the top remaining US contenders, led by 2023 US champ Krissy Gear, two-time Worlds team member Courtney Wayment, and 2021 Olympian Val Constien, coming back from her own ACL tear in 2023.

Up front, expect world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and world champ Winfred Yavi (making her 2024 debut) to battle for the win.

Men’s 200 (5:27 p.m. ET): Where is Knighton at?

This is another event where we’re still waiting for full start lists to be posted as of Wednesday afternoon, but the names that have been announced so far are pretty awesome: Worlds silver medalist Erriyon Knighton, Worlds bronze medalist Letsile Tebogo, and Olympic silver medalist Kenny Bednarek, who leads the world this year thanks to his 19.67 in Doha.

Bednarek has been on fire in 2024 and Tebogo had been too until he was upset by Kyree King in the 100 in LA last week. Our biggest question is around Knighton, though. After taking 4th at the 2021 Olympics, 3rd at the 2022 Worlds, and 2nd at the 2023 Worlds, there was hope Knighton could step up and challenge Noah Lyles (not running Pre) in 2024. But Knighton has not raced since a relay appearance on March 30, and he pulled out of his sponsor adidas’ meet in Atlanta last weekend. Those are not good signs in an Olympic year, and if Knighton isn’t at Pre, you have to seriously wonder what is up with him and whether he will be ready to go for the Trials a month from now.

Women’s 800 (5:34 p.m. ET): The stars are all here 

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UPDATE: Andrew Greif reported on Wednesday night that Mu has withdrawn from the meet due to hamstring soreness, which is also why she did not run at last week’s LA Grand Prix. This preview was written before that news.

If not for the Bowerman Mile, this would be the race of the meet. The three superstars of the women’s 800 — Athing MuKeely Hodgkinson, and Mary Moraa — are all racing, and when that happens, we get fireworks. We’ve had three previous races between the trio (thankfully they are all sponsored by Nike so they have to race Pre, or else they might never race each other outside of the championships) and all three were classics. A refresher:

2022 Worlds, Eugene: 1. Mu 1:56.30 2. Hodgkinson 1:56.38 3. Moraa 1:56.71
2023 Worlds, Budapest: 1. Moraa 1:56.03 2. Hodgkinson 1:56.34 3. Mu 1:56.61
2023 Pre, Eugene: 1. Mu 1:54.97 2. Hodgkinson 1:55.19 4. Moraa 1:57.42

So far in 2024, Moraa has been racing a bunch, mostly in the 400 (she ran 50.56 in LA last week) but she has also picked up 800m wins in Nairobi and Doha. Hodgkinson missed the indoor season due to injury but things appear to be clicking as she ran a 400 pb of 51.61 in her season opener in Italy last week.

That leaves the enigmatic Mu. The 21-year-old described 2023, a year in which she moved across the country to be coached by Bobby Kersee, mulled skipping Worlds entirely, and broke up with her boyfriend, as “pretty tough” in a recent Runner’s World interview, but it’s worth remembering that she still ended the season by running her fastest time ever, an American record of 1:54.97 at Pre in September. Mu has not raced since then (she had been listed among the entries for last week’s LA Grand Prix but withdrew beforehand) but one thing Mu has shown time and again is that if she does make it to the starting line, she is going to deliver.

Since her breakout at the start of 2021, Mu has raced 43 times, including prelims. The only race during that span that could be considered objectively “bad” is her DNF at 2022 Millrose when she stepped off the track with a lap to go. Other than that, she has lost a grand total of three finals: she was 2nd in the 400 at 2021 NCAA indoors in 51.03 (that’s more than half a second faster than Hodgkinson has ever run), 2nd in the USA 1500 last year (a great result in her third-best event), and 3rd at Worlds last year (she ran 1:56.61 and was beaten by two studs). Those are defeats, but they are not bad races.

World Indoor champ Tsige Duguma and 2019 world champ Halimah Nakaayi (who ran a 1:57.56 pb last week) will be trying to insert themselves into the conversation. But right now it’s Mu/Hodgkinson/Moraa in some order until proven otherwise.

Who wins the women's 800 at Pre?

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Women’s 100 (5:42 p.m. ET): Sha’Carri v Elaine

The storyline here is simple: world champ Sha’Carri Richardson v Olympic champ Elaine Thompson-Herah (world indoor champ Julien Alfred is also entered, as is Marie Josee Ta Lou-Smith).

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The race is surprisingly important for both sprinters. Richardson has raced two 200s this year — she was 2nd in Xiamen on April 20 in 22.99, then 3rd a week later in Suzhou in 23.11 — and neither race was impressive, with Daryll Neita burying Sha’Carri in the latter one. But if you’re a Sha’Carri fan, there are a bunch of ways to justify the performances. It’s April. It’s a long trip to China. No one ran very fast. The 200 is not her best event.

It’s harder to make those excuses this time around. Now it’s Memorial Day weekend, and Sha’Carri is racing on a fast track in Eugene in her best distance. The cool conditions on Saturday may prevent a super fast time, but if Richardson is beaten as convincingly as she was in Suzhou, it is time to panic. That said, we know what Richardson can do at her best and it would not be a surprise to see her show up and win against a strong field.

Thompson-Herah, meanwhile, is 31 and coming off a tumultuous 2023 season where she did not even make the Jamaican Worlds team — the first time that happened since 2013. Thompson-Herah began last year struggling with the same Achilles injury that has plagued her for years, but her form took off at the end of the season after switching coaches from her husband Derron Herah to Shanikie Thompson, and she ran 10.79 in last year’s Diamond League final. But just when Thompson-Herah seemed to be trending in the right direction again, she split with Thompson after a pay dispute this offseason and is now on her third coach in a year, Reynaldo Walcott.

We know how dangerous Thompson-Herah can be when everything is firing (which always seems to fall in Olympic years) and there is reason for optimism given last year’s late surge. Her result on Saturday will tell us whether “Olympic year Elaine” is back once again.

Men’s Bowerman Mile (5:52 p.m. ET): One Of The Greatest Mile Fields Ever Assembled

This race is so amazing it got its own article.

LRC A (Regular Season) Race For The Ages – 2024 Bowerman Mile Preview: Kerr v Ingebrigtsen Grudge Match, Wightman Returns, & Stars Galore Americans Yared NuguseCole HockerHobbs Kessler, and Matthew Centrowitz have their hands full with a stacked field that also features World Indoor champ Geordie Beamish.

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