Emptying the Pre Classic Notebook: Thoughts on Sifan Hassan, Elise Cranny, & An Erriyon Knighton Update

Plus praise for Cameron Myers and good news for Sha'Carri Richardson / The Pre Classic That Was

The wonderful thing about a Diamond League meet like the 2024 Prefontaine Classic is that it packs a lot of action into a two-hour TV window. If you sat down on your couch to watch the NBC broadcast on Saturday afternoon, you saw 11 races and four field events, most of them featuring one of the strongest fields of the 2024 season.

That format is great for viewers, but it does present a challenge to the sort of in-depth analysis we like to offer at LetsRun.com. Prefontaine is nominally one sporting event, but really it’s 15 different events happening in the same stadium in quick succession. There are so many storylines that it is impossible to cover all of them on the day of the race.

(This is also why I don’t support turning the Olympics/Worlds into a three- or four-day meet. Spreading the meet out across nine or 10 days means more finals get the attention they deserve and makes it easier for athletes to double or triple).

Take Sifan Hassan. The reigning Olympic champion — arguably the greatest female distance runner in history — showed up to Pre to run the 5,000 meters, ran with the second pack, and got absolutely smoked, finishing 16 seconds behind the winner. Seems like a pretty big deal, right? But so much else was happening that her performance was mostly lost in the shuffle.

There’s a phrase in sports journalism known as “emptying the notebook” — when you put whatever remaining thoughts you have on a topic or event into one big column. Rather than write our normal WTW recap where we try to break down all of the action from all of the meets last week, let’s empty the notebook on the 2024 Prefontaine Classic, starting with Hassan’s performance and what it means for the rest of her season.

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Sifan Hassan: “I’m not really fresh. I don’t want to be fresh.”

Hassan was only 7th in the women’s 5,000 on Saturday in 14:34.38 (2024 Prefontaine race videos here), well back of winner Tsigie Gebreselama (14:18.76), her lowest finish in any Diamond League since she was 10th in the 800 in Paris in June 2018. Yet Hassan was not in a bad mood after the race. Hassan actually drew some encouragement from running much faster than her last time out (a 14:58 win in Los Angeles on May 11) and feeling strong over the final few laps.

Hassan elected not to run with the leaders at Pre (Kevin Morris photo)

Hassan did run the Tokyo Marathon on March 3, but said that was not why she ran slowly on Saturday (last year, Hassan ran the London Marathon on April 23 and was running 29:37 for 10,000 by June 3). Instead, Hassan said she is in the midst of a very hard training block — she joked that if the race had been held a day earlier, she might have run 17:00. (It’s also worth noting that Hassan is a practicing Muslim and Ramadan lasted from March 10 to April 9 — fasting during that period may have affected her training).

“I really feel much, much better than last time,” Hassan said. “I’m getting really better…I’m really coming from hard training season. I have to train now for almost three more months very hard…I’m not really fresh. I don’t want to be fresh.”

Hassan likes to wait until the last minute to announce her plans for the major championships, but unlike previous years, one of the events she is considering this time around is the marathon. Surely she would have to make a decision earlier this time to give her time to properly prepare for the marathon?

Hassan smiled when I brought the topic up and said she is training for all possible events, which is one of the reasons she is so exhausted right now. The big date to watch for Hassan is July 7. That is when she will run the 10,000 in Hengelo. Hassan said she will back off training before that race to see where her fitness is at and will make a decision about the Olympics shortly afterwards.

“Hengelo is like for me, [as] you guys say, Olympic trials,” Hassan said. “I will see in Hengelo what I’m miss[ing].”

We also asked Hassan for her thoughts on Beatrice Chebet‘s 28:54.14 world record in the 10,000 on Saturday. Hassan was not surprised by the time at all.

“I knew we woman could run under 29:00,” Hassan said. “I know from a long time ago.”

Hassan briefly held the 10,000 world record in 2021, running 29:06.82 in Hengelo before Letesenbet Gidey broke her record two days later on the same track. Hassan had hoped to run sub-29:00 in that race, but the world record at the time was 29:17.45 and she said her management was worried sub-29:00 was too aggressive.

“They put it actually the pace slower,” Hassan said. “I thought oh, that’s easy.”

Cameron Myers is not using his age as an excuse

Saturday was my first chance to interview Australian teen phenom Cameron Myers and I came away impressed by his maturity. Myers ran 3:50.15 in the Bowerman Mile — the fastest time ever by a 17-year-old — and he admitted afterwards he was hoping to go even quicker. But Myers also went in knowing this was one of the strongest mile fields ever assembled, and as a result he decided to go out conservatively (he was last with 650 to go) to minimize the risk of blowing up.

“I could have potentially put myself a little bit further up in the first two laps, but that might have meant that the second two laps could have been a bit slower,” said Myers.

The present and future of Australian miling: national record holder Ollie Hoare and 17-year-old Cam Myers (Kevin Morris photo)

Running loves its phenoms — Alan Webb ran 3:53.43 as an 18-year-old at the 2001 Pre Classic and people are still talking about it. Myers just ran three seconds faster and was five months younger when he did it (17 years, 11 months for Myers vs. 18 years, 4 months for Webb). Equalizing for shoe improvements, it’s roughly the same caliber of performance. So why aren’t more people talking about it?

Part of it was the compelling race up front between Josh Kerr and Jakob Ingebrigtsen. But another reason is that Myers has been consistently excellent in 2024. Coming into this race, Myers had already run 3:33, 3:34, and 3:35 in the 1500 as well as 3:52 in the mile this year. While this performance was the best of the bunch (3:50.15 is worth 3:33.10 for 1500 using the 1.08 conversion), it was not a huge surprise.

Athletes like Ingebrigtsen — who won the European title at 17 — and the Netherlands’ Niels Laros — who made the World Championship final and ran a 3:48 mile last year at 18 (but is injured this year) — have shown that it is possible to run amongst the world’s best while still a teenager. Myers shares similarly big goals, and is not allowing his age to be an excuse for not reaching them.

“The way I look at it, I’ve gotta be competitive with guys like Ollie [Hoare], [Adam] Spencer, Jesse [Hunt], Stewy [McSweyn],” Myers said. “Just to make a team, you’ve gotta be competitive on the global stage. I’m thinking that if I make the team, you’re sort of expected to go and make the final at the Olympics, so I’ve gotta hold myself to the highest of standards.”

Myers finished 5th at the Australian championships last month, which made his path to Paris more difficult. He admitted that he needs to improve in championship-style races, but said he will now head to Europe for some races where he will try to make the case that he belongs at the Olympics this year.

“From my understanding, the [Australian] policy is pretty discretionary,” Myers said. “You would think someone like Spencer and Ollie are pretty locked into those first two spots given their performance at the trials. The way I’m approaching these races is that there’s a spot that’s up for grabs so I need to do my best to prove to the selectors that should be me.”

Is Neil Gourley “the next guy”?

After Jake Wightman and Josh Kerr passed Jakob Ingebrigtsen with 200 meters to go to win gold in the last two World Championship finals, I wondered if there was some rule that stated all global 1500 meters had to be won by a Scot pulling a massive upset over Ingebrigtsen in the final lap. And if so, did that mean Neil Gourley was destined to do the same this summer in Paris?

At the time, it was a fun thought — one that other LetsRun visitors apparently shared — but seemed like a complete long shot. And while it’s still unlikely — gold medals are very hard to win! — after Saturday’s Bowerman Mile, there is an outside chance that it actually comes to fruition. Gourley ran 3:47.74, a two-second pb, to finish 4th behind only Kerr, Ingebrigtsen, and Yared Nuguse, and ahead of Wightman. That result is impressive enough on its own, but what makes it even more remarkable is that it was Gourley’s first race since finishing 9th in the 2023 Worlds.

Even Gourley himself could not believe it — as he outlined on Instagram after the fact, he missed two months of running in September and October due to osteitis pubis and a pubic bone stress reaction, then missed another two months in February and March with a sacral stress reaction. As recently as March, he was unable to walk and only began running on solid ground again on April 1.

But Gourley still tried to mimic a traditional running schedule over the winter, with two or three threshold sessions a week. The difference was that instead of logging them on a track, he was doing them on a bike on Lake Mary Road in Flagstaff or on Zwift “racing 50-year-old guys.”

Gourley’s comeback is reminiscent of what Grant Fisher did in 2023, where he spent the summer cross-training as he rehabbed from a stress reaction. After three weeks of running workouts, he returned with a 12:54 5k in Zurich in August, then set an American record of 7:25 in the 3k to end the season in September.

Given the success of Gourley and Fisher and Florida star Parker Valby‘s cross-training heavy regimen, I asked Gourley’s coach Stephen Haas if it caused him to reassess the role cross-training can play. He said he’d still prefer to see Gourley running his full volume of 90+ miles per week.

“Especially at altitude like what Neil has done, if you can get in the aerobic work and then add on the high-end workouts that you need running-wise, I’ve always believed that [staying fit through cross-training] was doable,” Haas said. “It doesn’t change my mind about, okay now we need to do less mileage and have everybody cross-train. It was more out of necessity than anything.”

MB: Neil Gourley will win Olympic Gold

Elle St. Pierre was pleased with her 3:56, but knows it will take more to medal in Paris

The last time Elle St. Pierre was in Eugene before last weekend was in July 2022 for the World Championships. At that meet, she ran 4:09 and was eliminated in the semis of the 1500. It later came out that she had been pregnant at the time with son Ivan (born March 2023).

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Now a mother, St. Pierre has been better than ever in 2024, and Saturday’s race was her first 1500 since that race at the 2022 Worlds. Given St. Pierre has run pbs in the 3000 (8:20.87) and 5000 (14:34.12) this year, and also ran a 1:59 pb in an 800 time trial in the leadup to Pre, she was expected to lower her 3:58.03 pb and did exactly that, clocking 3:56.00. That moves her to #2 on the all-time US list, behind only Shelby Houlihan‘s 3:54.99 from 2019.

The Wavelight was set to Houlihan’s record pace on Saturday, and St. Pierre came in with one eye on the record, but midway through the race shifted her focus to just beating as many people as possible. She wound up 3rd behind Worlds silver medalist Diribe Welteji of Ethiopia (3:53.75) and Australia’s Jess Hull (3:55.97), with whom St. Pierre has shared some great battles this year, but beat Olympic silver medalist Laura Muir (3:56.35) and was more than three seconds ahead of US champ Nikki Hiltz in 5th (3:59.64). St. Pierre was pleased with the result but also said it was good to have some hunger for the rest of the season.

“It’s early in the season and I’m trying not to peak too soon,” St. Pierre said. “Leaving this race wanting a little more is a really good place to be. It helps me learn a lot about racing. It’s my first 1500 in a few years.”

St. Pierre’s third-place finish matched her American compatriot Yared Nuguse’s third-place finish in the men’s mile; the difference was, almost all of the major players were in the men’s race while several top women were either running other events in Eugene (World Indoor champ Freweyni Hailu was in the 5,000, world indoor record holder Gudaf Tsegay was in the 10,000) or absent (Faith Kipyegon withdrew due to injury). St. Pierre believes it will take low-3:50s fitness to medal in Paris and thinks she can get there by August.

“I really hope to,” St. Pierre said. “That’s the plan.”

Elise Cranny: “It’s been a really hard year”

Elise Cranny’s final two years with the Bowerman Track Club were the two best seasons of her career. In 2022, she set American record of 14:33.17 for the indoor 5,000 and ran a pb of 30:14.66 for the 10,000. Last year, she won US titles in the 5,000 and 10,000 and ran 4:16.47 for the mile — at the time the second-fastest ever by an American woman. But the 28-year-old Cranny has changed things up in a big way heading into the Olympic year, leaving BTC last fall (she told Runner’s World she felt burnt out) and then leaving her new training group, Team Boss and Joe Bosshard, after just three months. Now she’s back in Boulder being coached remotely by Northern Arizona University assistant Jarred Cornfield.

Cranny said all the change has been challenging — “it’s been a really hard year” — but also empowering.

Kevin Morris photo

“A lot of my life, I’ve just stayed where I was, not thought too much about anything,” Cranny said. “So I feel in a lot of ways, very empowered of taking ownership over my career. We are only able to run for a finite amount of time and I’ve just thought about a little bit more of how can I create something that works the best for me.”

Will those changes pay off? Cranny ran 4:03:08 and finished 13th of 14 in the 1500 at Pre, but her time was a step forward from her only other meet this season, a 2:02/4:09 two-day double at the Bryan Clay Invite on April 12-13. She acknowledged she still has some work to do before the Trials, but Cranny has turned things around quickly before. Last year, she ran just 15:16 at the LA Grand Prix on May 26 but was a dominant force at USAs.

“The last couple months, things are really coming around,” Cranny said. “It’s been a really good exercise in having confidence in myself without having external results.”

Cranny said she will definitely run the 5,000 at the Olympic Trials but is still deciding whether to run the 1500 or 10,000 as a second event (the 5,000 comes before both). Cranny may have a better shot at finishing in the top three in the 10,000, but does not have the Olympic standard (she may be able to move into the ranking quota if she runs fast at USAs). She does have the 1500 standard, but her odds are longer in that event as four Americans just beat her convincingly in the 1500 at Pre.

MB:  If you were Elise Cranny, would you do the 1500/5000 double at the Trials or the 5000/10,000?

Sha’Carri Richardson was a big winner at Pre

Kevin Morris photo

Richardson, who declined to talk to LetsRun.com in the mixed zone, may have been the biggest winner of the entire meet. Coming in, there were some questions about Richardson’s fitness given she ran just 22.99 and 23.11 in her two Chinese 200m races in April. Richardson showed there is no reason to worry as she blasted a 10.83 (#2 in the world this year) despite cool conditions in Oregon not suited to fast sprinting.

But it wasn’t just Richardson’s time that cemented her as the favorite for 100m gold in Paris. So far, her biggest rivals from Jamaica have done very little to scare her. Check it out:

  • Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce: The 37-year-old has yet to race at all in 2024. Last year, she did not open up until July 8 and still managed to run 10.77 for bronze at Worlds, but it may take more than that to beat Sha’Carri in Paris.
  • Elaine Thompson-Herah: Opened her season by running 11.30 to finish last at Pre — a reverse of the 2021 Pre Classic where ETH ran 10.54 for the win and Sha’Carri was last.
  • Shericka Jackson: Jackson has the most reason to be optimistic. She has only run 11.03 and 22.82 in her two races this year, but she won both and the latter was into a 1.0 headwind in Marrakech. It’s not hard to imagine her doing what Richardson just did and running fast once she gets slightly better conditions.

Erriyon Knighton’s agent gives an update: “I guarantee you, everyone will see him and they’ll be amazed”

Erriyon Knighton withdrew from the 200 at Pre, a discouraging development given the meet is just one month out from the US Olympic Trials. LetsRun.com asked his agent John Regis why Knighton was absent and whether he was injured. Regis wouldn’t answer the latter question specifically.

Embed from Getty Images

“It’s the choice of the athlete at this particular point,” Regis said. “He’s getting ready for the championships. For him, he has to focus on what he’s doing now in training. When he’s able to go out there and show his form, he will show his form.”

LetsRun.com noted to Regis that Knighton had also been listed among the initial entries at the adidas Atlanta City Games on May 18, but Regis said Knighton was not actually scheduled to run that meet.

“When he’s ready to run, I guarantee you, everyone will see him and they’ll be amazed at how fast he’s able to do what he does,” Regis said.

Knighton has not raced at all outdoors apart from a couple of relay legs in Gainesville in March, and Regis said he was not sure if he would race before the Trials. But when LetsRun.com asked Regis if Knighton was still planning on competing at the Trials, he was clear: “Oh absolutely,” Regis said.

Given the competition in the US right now — world champ Noah Lyles, Kenny Bednarek (19.67 sb), and the emerging Courtney Lindsey (19.71 sb) — Knighton will have to be close to his best if he is going to make a second Olympic team.

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