The stars of the track and field world came out in full force for the 2014 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, on Friday night.
According to The Register-Guard in Eugene, last year's event brought almost 20,000 fans to Hayward Field. It's not hard to see why so many flocked to the University of Oregon campus, either. Prefontaine Classic was also ranked the best track and field invitational in the world.
With a namesake so legendary, you only expect the best.
A bevy of events took place on Saturday, and the quality of competition sure matched the quantity. The day was filled with highly contested disciplines and plenty of new records, as track and field's top athletes put on a glowing spectacle.
Men's International Mile
Although it's an international event, it was the Americans sweeping the podium here. Led by Leonel Manzano's blazing 3:52.41—the year's fastest time—the United States took the top five spots in the discipline.
USATF tweeted Manzano's accomplishment once the race concluded:
The competition was stiff, as Manzano didn't run dominate the field. In fact, Jordan McNamara and Evan Jager were right there with him down the final stretch. Although McNamara closed strong, he simply couldn't overtake Manzano.
During an interview with Ken Goe of OregonLive.com after the race, Manzano noted how strong the field was by simply stating, "This race used to be won in 3:55, 3:56."
Here's a look at the top-three finishers:
Justin Gatlin continues to dominate this short-yet-exciting event.
Gatlin ran a wind-aided 9.76 seconds to remain undefeated this season. The reigning Olympic bronze medalist didn't get off to an incredibly strong start; however, he certainly made up for it down the final stretch of the race.
This win marks Gatlin's third at the Prefontaine Classic, according to a tweet from USATF:
Here's how the podium shook out:
A fantastic showing from Hellen Obiri earned her the top spot in a fast-paced, highly anticipated race.
Obiri hung around in the back to begin the race, given its quick early tempo. She kept a solid pace and maintained her endurance to undergo a late-race surge to the front of the pack.
Jenny Simpson maintained the lead until late in the race; however, Obiri and Abeba Aregawi finished strong, passing Simpson around the 200-meter mark and finishing in first and second, respectively.
Prefontaine Classic's Twitter account noted how impressive Obiri's pace was throughout the race:
MR for Obiri! 3:57.05! FOUR sub-4:00! #PreClassic— Prefontaine Classic (@nikepreclassic) May 31, 2014
When the dust settled, the top three came to fruition:
|3||Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon||Kenya||3:58.01|
It was a difficult finish for Simpson, but she did record a new personal best, according to a tweet from Prefontaine Classic:
|3||Jan Kudlicka||Czech Republic||5.63|
|2||Viola Jelagat Kibiwot||Kenya||9:13.48|
|3||Stephanie Ann McPherson||Jamaica||50.63|
|1||Vitezslav Vesely||Czech Republic||83.75|
|3||Youssef Ahmed Masrahi||Saudi Arabia||44.77|
|1||Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku||Kenya||13:01.71|
|3||Edwin Cheruiyot Soi||Kenya||13:04.92|
Friday was merely the kickoff for the weekend's festivities. With only seven events on the schedule, what the night lacked in volume, it more than made up for in the excitement category.
Men's International 800
The men's international 800 meters was the first of two men's 800-meter races. Although it's considered the "B" race, plenty of top runners were in the field this year.
Wesley Vazquez jumped out to an early lead, keeping up with the pace-setter for the first 400 or so meters. He ended up paying for his quick start, though, falling back and settling for a fourth-place finish.
While Vazquez was distancing himself from the pack, lurking in the background was Job Kinyor. The Kenyan paced himself for the first half of the race and waited until Vazquez started fading to make his move.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah snapped a photo of Kinyor in full stride:
Men's 800m!!!! Job kinyor of Kenya won 1.44 pic.twitter.com/wZCLWlxpb8— Mo Farah (@Mo_Farah) May 31, 2014
Once Kinyor took the lead, he wasn't giving it back. He put a ton of distance between himself, Elijah Greer and Erik Sowinski, who wound up finishing second and third.
|2||Elijah Greer||United States||1:45.30|
|3||Erik Sowinski||United States||1:45.64|
In the first of two heats in the women's 800 meters, Justine Fedronic prevailed. Jessica Judd set the pace early, but she looked to tire out down the stretch, which allowed Fedronic to overtake her and build a healthy lead:
Women's 800m National Race - Section 1: Justine Fedronic (FRA) 2:01.50, Jessica Judd (GBR) 2:02.28, Diane Cummins (CAN) 2:02.64 #PreClassic— Prefontaine Classic (@nikepreclassic) May 31, 2014
The second heat demanded the most attention with both Chanelle Price, who won a gold in the 800 at the World Indoor Championships, and teenage phenom Mary Cain. The 18-year-old Cain has dominated the junior running scene, so Friday night's race would be a good outdoor test of her mettle.
Her coach, Alberto Salazar, made sure to temper expectations, though, per Ken Goe of The Oregonian:
The fact that she is at a world-class level at such a young age means that there is no hurry. You don't have to hurry stuff because she has plenty of years. I think it's more prudent and the chances of success much higher if we keep it relaxed and let her do the things she wants to do.
Cain showed her age, mustering an eighth-place performance. She never got out ahead of the pack and stayed in the back for the entirety of the race.
Price, on the other hand, burst out right from the start and kept up with the pacemaker. Some wondered if she'd be able to hang on as the pack caught up with her, but the 23-year-old managed to cross the line just before an on-rushing Maggie Vessey.
The Prefontaine Classic posted a photo of the finish to Instagram to illustrate how narrowly Price beat out the competition.
Although Vessey had to settle for second, she placed first in the fashion category, per House of Run:
Here is what Maggie Vessey wore in the 800 pic.twitter.com/UCkSlwjolV— House of Run (@HouseofRun) May 31, 2014
|2||Jessica Judd||Great Britain||2:02.28|
|1||Chanelle Price||United States||2:00.38|
|2||Maggie Vessey||United States||2:00.48|
Galen Rupp entered as the fan favorite. Not only is he an alumnus of Oregon, but he also set the American record in the men's 10,000 meters back in 2011.
Peter Gambaccini of Runner's World reported that Rupp was heading into Eugene with the intention of breaking his record. Rupp's pursuit of the record books was a great way to cap off a torrid night of action.
In short, he had the weight of Hayward Field on his shoulders. And he didn't disappoint.
Finishing with a final lap time of 58.58 seconds, Rupp smashed his old time of 26:48.00, setting the new American record at 26:44.36, per David Monti of Race Results Weekly:
Rupp made sure to pace himself for most of the race. He was clearly in a great position to win the race, but whether or not he could best his previous record was in doubt.
Then Rupp turned on the jets in the final 800 meters:
Rupp closed last 800 in 1:57.99 for AR— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) May 31, 2014
His performance was a masterclass in distance running. Even Farah, who was helping to call the race on USA Track and Field's website, couldn't help but to cheer on Rupp down the final stretch and heap praise upon the American runner.
There couldn't have been a better way to close out "distance night."
|1||Galen Rupp||United States||26:44.36|
|2||Paul Kipngetich Tanui||Kenya||26:49.41|
|1||Brittney Reese||USA||6.86 (+1.6)|
|2||Tori Bowie||USA||6.82 (+0.7)|
|3||Ivana Spanovic||Serbia||6.77 (+1.0)|
|1||Reese Hoffa||United States||21.64|
|2||Joe Kovacs||United States||21.46|
|3||Christian Cantwell||United States||21.38|
Note: You can view the full results for each event at DiamondLeague-Eugene.com.