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Distance Races Don’t Disappoint At Pre Classic

Multiple meet records and world-leading times highlight the United States’ top track competition.

Written by: Mario Fraioli

It was the last event on the schedule, but the men’s Bowerman Mile certainly did not disappoint at Saturday’s Prefontaine Classic Diamond League Meeting at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

Kenyan Asbel Kiprop won the meet’s main event in convincing fashion, taking the lead with just over a lap to go and holding it all the way to the tape, winning the fabled four-lap race in 3:49.71. Morocco’s Amine Laalou finished second in 3:50.22, with Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin close behind in third (3:50.68).

Pacemaker Lachlan Renshaw towed the field through an opening lap of 55 seconds, and was followed closely by Kiprop — the reigning 1,500-meter gold medalist from Kenya — who led at the bell in 2:51. Americans Lopez Lomong, Bernard Lagat and Andew Wheating were just a few strides back with one lap to go before Wheating, the recent University of Oregon graduate, made his last race in an Oregon singlet a memorable one. The 2008 Olympian closed well over the final 400 meters, pulling away from Lomong and Lagat to finishing fifth in a personal best of 3:51.74. Lomong, the U.S. 1,500-meter champion, finished seventh in a personal best 3:53.18, while Lagat, the American 5,000-meter record holder, crossed the line in 3:54.36 to place a disappointing ninth.

Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba ran a meet-record 14:34 in the women’ 5,000 meters, outdistancing second-place finisher Shalane Flanagan of the OregonTrack Club by 15 seconds, as five women broke the 15-minute barrier in the race. Flanagan’s teammate, Olympian Amy Yoder-Begley, finished fifth in a personal-best 14:56.72. Recently crowned U.S. 5,000 -meter champion Lauren Fleshman finished tenth in the 12-woman field in 15:33.

In the men’s 5,000 meters, Tariku Bekele led an Ethiopian sweep , out-sprinting countrymen Dejen Gebremeskel and Imane Merga in the final straightaway to post the fastest 5,000 meters ever on American soil in 12:58.93. Bekele’s run broke Kenyan Luke Kipkosgei’s 12-year-old meet record of 13:07.83. American Chris Solinsky, who ran with the lead pack for much of the race, fell off the pace with two laps to go and finished seventh in 13:08.11, twelve seconds off his personal best set last month in Oslo. Solinsky’s Oregon Track Club teammate, Matt Tegenkamp, finished a disappointing 13th in 13:25.09.

Australia’s Ryan Gregson broke the tape in the men’s international mile — which served as a warmup of sorts for the Bowerman Mile — in 3:53.19, just ahead of the University of Oregon’s A.J. Acosta, who ran a personal-best 3:53.76. Acosta’s fellow Americans David Torrence, Steven Pifer, Russell Brown and Galen Rupp all had solid showings, finishing fourth (3:54.47), seventh (3:56.12), eighth (3:56.83) and tenth (3:57.72), respectively, in the 11-man field. In all, 20 men broke the four-minute barrier on the day.

Abubakir Kaki of the Sudan broke the meet-record in the men’s 1,000 meters, running a world-leading time of 2:13.62 to top the field. Kenya’s Boaz Lalang was a full second-back in second place, while reigning U.S. 800-meter champion Nick Symmonds finished third in 2:16.35

In the women’s steeplechase, Kenyan Milcah Chemos Cheiwya won a tactical affair over Spain’s Marta Domingquez, 9:26.70 to 9:29.61. The women’s 800 meters was won by Russia’s Mariya Savinova in a world-leading time of 1:57.56, as Kenya’s Nancy Langat finished second in 1:57.75. Americans Phoebe Wright (1:58.22) and Alysia Johnson (1:58.84) posted personal bests to finish fourth and fifth in the 11-women field, as Olympian Anna Pierce, the U.S. 1,500-meter champion, crossed the line sixth in 1:59.42.

Today’s meet was the sixth stop on this summer’s IAAF Diamond League tour, and the second and final meet of the series to be held in the United States. The next stop on the 14-meet schedule is in Lausanne, Switzerland on Thursday night. [sig:MarioFraioli]