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Fast Times, Records At Prefontaine Classic

Six meet records and 14 world-leading teams were set on Day 2 of the Prefontaine Classic.

Kenya's Hellen Obiri won the women's 1500m in 3:57.05 on Saturday at the 40th annual Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. Photo: David Monti
Kenya’s Hellen Obiri won the women’s 1500m in 3:57.05 on Saturday at the 40th annual Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. Photo: David Monti

Five meet records and 13 world-leading teams were set on Day 2 of the Prefontaine Classic.

On the second and final day of the 40th Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., a sold-out crowd of 13,150 saw six world-leading times in the middle- and long distance events, including five meeting records. Four of those marks in this IAAF Diamond League meeting—led by Ayanleh Souleiman’s spectacular 3:47.32 mile, the fastest mile run in the world since 2007—were the quickest ever recorded on U.S. soil.

The record party got started with the International Mile, probably the most competitive “B” race in the world. Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano, running for the first time in Hayward Field for his new sponsor Hoka One One, closed with an explosive sprint to win in a world-leading 3:52.41, the third-fastest time of his career. He narrowly beat a fast-closing Jordan McNamara of the Oregon Track Club Elite, who ran a career best of 3:52.89, and American steeplechase record-holder Evan Jager who finished third in 3:53.33, also a personal best.

“You know, I’ve had some fantastic workouts,” Manzano told reporters. “I didn’t know what I could do.”  He continued: “Today was just amazing. I feel so great, so blessed.”

But Manzano’s world leader would only hold up for two hours and 16 minutes, when 16 men lined up for the meet’s closing event, the Bowerman Mile. Behind the strong pacemaking of Kenyans Hillary Kipkorir Maiyo and Andrew Kiptoo Rotich, the pack strung out quickly, hitting 440 yards in 53.8 and half-way in 1:53-flat. After the pacemakers retired, reigning world champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya was on the front, followed by Souleiman of Djibouti, Silas Kiplagat of Kenya and Aman Wote of Ethiopia.

Kiprop hit the three-quarter mark in 2:51.9, but the tall and lanky two-time world champion couldn’t respond when Souleiman and Kiplagat surged with about 250 meters to go. Explaining later that “it wasn’t his day,” Kiprop faded to finish seventh in “only” 3:50.26.

With Kiprop out of the frame, Souleiman and Kiplagat quickly hit top speed, and duked it out down the homestretch as the Hayward fans rose to their feet. Souleiman, the reigning world indoor 1500m champion, got the upper had in the final 50 meters to get the win. Kiplagat had to settle for a 3:47.88 personal best in second; Wote set an Ethiopian record in third (3:48.60). Ten men ran under 3:52.

“It was a good race; I’m happy to win,” a smiling Soulieman told reporters in English. “This is my dream. “I am running the Doha 1500 in 3:30 (May 9th).  At that time I told myself I’m running mile in 3:47, 3:48.  That’s my goal.”

Down the finish order, American Matthew Centrowitz ran a career best 3:50.53, good for eighth place. London Olympic 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria finished 11th in 3:52.15.  Nonetheless, he set a personal best.

In the race just before the Bowerman Mile, David Rudisha made his comeback in the 800m after a year away from racing. The world record holder and London Olympic champion from Kenya ran a fearless race, following pacemaker Bram Som of Holland through the 600-meter split in 1:17.19. But the last 200 meters were difficult for the adidas-sponsored athlete, who tied-up in the homestretch, fading from first to seventh. Finishing in 1:44.87 –without any pain in his right knee– Rudisha got an honest read on his fitness.

“It was tough,” he told more than a dozen reporters jockeying for position in the mixed zone to hear the soft-spoken athlete.  He continued: “The race was good.  In the beginning I started pushing, but only in the last 100 I felt it was a little bit tough.”

Ahead of Rudisha, Botswana’s Nijel Amos, the 2012 London Olympic silver medalist, powered ahead to a meet record and world-leading 1:43.63. He narrowly defeated reigning world champion, Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia, 1:43.63 to 1:43.99.

“Actually, I’m so happy to see myself in second race 1:43,” Amos said, referring to his season-opening effort of 1:44.54 in Doha when he took second to Aman.  “It shows I’m in good shape to go back (to training) now.”

Caleb Ndiku won a strategic men’s 5000m in a world-leading 13:01.71. The reigning world indoor 3000m champion clocked a 54.7-second final lap to beat Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew (13:02.91) and defending Prefontaine champion Edwin Soi (13:04.92). Two-time Olympic medalist Bernard Lagat had an off day. Telling reporters that he felt “flat,” the 39 year-old was never a factor in the race and finished 14th in 13:31.23.

Women Break Records Too

Women put on an formidable display of running here today, too, especially the impressive all-comers record in the 1500m by Kenya’s Hellen Obiri: 3:57.05. The 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships silver medalist put herself near the front of the race early, following both the pacemaking of Phoebe Wright and the bobbing ponytail of 2011 world 1500m champion Jenny Simpson. Wright got the leaders through 800m in a very fast 2:08.07, then Simpson took over, going for broke, just like her coach Heather Burroughs had advised her.

“‘I’ll make this really simple,'” Simpson recalled Burroughs telling her. “‘Just forget about the different mantras, the different plans and things, and just go out and get on Phoebe and run hard.”

Simpson was in the lead at the 1200m mark (3:11.49), but Obiri, reigning world champion Abeba Aregawi of Sweden, and Kenyan’s Faith Kipyegon were hot on her heels.  Aregawi went to the lead with about 200 meters to go, but was swallowed up by the fast-closing Obiri. Aregawi clocked 3:57.57 for second, Kipyegon got third in 3:58.01, and Simpson set a personal best in fourth: 3:58.28.  It was the second time she had broken four minutes at Hayward Field.

“I like this stadium because last year I had a PB, this year I had a PB,” Obiri told Race Results Weekly. “So I love to come here next year.”

The women’s 2-mile also produced an all-comer’s record.  Kenya’s Mercy Cherono and Viola Kibiwot, and Bahrain’s Mini Belete engaged in a three-way battle after an ambitious first half of 4:33.5. Cherono got the victory in the final sprint, clocking the fastest time ever on U.S. soil: 9:13.27 (it was also a world-leader). Kibiwot ran 9:13.48 and Belete 9:13.85, an area record.

In fourth place Shannon Rowbury set a USA record of 9:20.25, surpassing Amy Rudolph’s previous mark of 9:21.35 set in Cork, Ireland, in 1998.

“I thought, I knew, coming into this race I had a shot at the record,” Rowbury told Race Results Weekly.  “That being said, you never know on a given day.  The last 100 meters, I saw the clock, I heard the announcers, and I knew it was going to be close.”

Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa also ran an all-comers record in the women’s steeplechase, winning a close contest over compatriot Hiwot Ayalew, 9:11.39 to 9:12.89. American Emma Coburn, a training partner of Jenny Simpson in Boulder, finished third in a career best 9:19.84.  While pleased with her performance, she nonetheless saw room for improvement.

“I’m happy with the PR (personal record), obviously,” Coburn told Race Results Weekly. “But I was definitely hoping to go a few seconds faster and have a stronger last kilometer than I did.  I kind of of checked out a little from 1200 to go to 400 to go (when she was running by herself).”