Sunday, July 04, 2010

Prefontaine Classic 2010 - photos and write-up

Click on any photo for a larger version.

This weekend, I went to see the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon; the fourth consecutive year for me.This edition was a special one since the Pre Classic is now part of the IAAF Diamond League. The day was beautiful - blues skies with occasional clouds, and a gentle gust of wind or two once in a while. Not too warm either. A sold out crowd (they apparently had to build some 500 additional seats at the last minute) and there you have it - all the elements for a great start to the July 4th weekend.

The first event was the women's hammer throw. It is not part of the official IAAF Diamond League any more. However, the Prefontaine Classic decided to have it anyway, albeit as a separate event. It started at 11 a.m., before the Pre Classic which was at 12:00 noon. The meet kicked off with a powerful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by someone from the Eugene Symphony (I think). Incredibly powerful vocal chords. That's him on the live display screen of the stadium.
The first official event was the International Men's Mile. It had a large field with at least four wearing Oregon colors including AJ Acosta and Galen Rupp who drew some enthusiastic crowd support. Unfortunately, green wasn't the one to win. Ryan Gregson of Australia won in 3:53.19 followed closely by AJ Acosta who was 0.57 second behind in a new PR for him by over four seconds.
In a compressed 3-hour meet such as this, you always have multiple events on at the same time. At some points, we could see a track event, a shot put, a pole vault, and a long/triple jump simultaneously. The men's discus throw event was won by Piotr Malachowski of Poland with a 67.66m throw. The men's shot put winner was Christian Cantwell with 22.41m, adding yet another notch to Hayward Field's record as the reigning home of the most 70 foot throws anywhere in the world. Nadezhda Alekhina of Russia won the women's triple jump with a 14.62m effort.

From where we were, it was a bit difficult to see the pole vault on the other side of the field because the protective net for the discus throw was up. This is what it looked like through the net. Fabiana Murer of Brazil won the women's event with a 4.58m effort. Too bad Yelena Isinbayeva couldn't make it. Murer gave a nice interview where she looked genuinely happy and thankful to the crowd for their support.

The women's 5000m was won by Tirunesh Dibaba in 14.34.07. Shalane Flanagan put up a great fight to overtake a few over the final lap and ended up in second place. That's Dibaba below gliding her way to victory.
The men's 1000m was the next event. Abubaker Kaki of Sudan had gone on record in his intention to set a new world record. Nick Symmonds, the local favorite was there. So were Alfred Yego and Boaz Lalang. In the end, Kaki was the victor with a 2:13.62 effort, about 1.66 seconds off the world record. Valiant effort nonetheless. That's Kaki below followed by Lalang, the second place winner. Symmonds hung back for the first half as usual, but kicked hard in the last lap to finish third.

The women's 400m hurdles was next. Lashinda Demus took victory with a 53.03 in a new Hayward Field record and a PreClassic record. The women's steeplechase followed soon. Milcah Chemos of Kenya won with a 9:26.70 performance. That's her in the photo below followed by the eventual runner-up, Marta Dominguez of Spain.
Next up was the women's 800m, this time without the perennial contestant and favorite Maria Mutola who retired a couple of years ago. Mariya Savinova of Russia made sure that Mutola's name was mentioned by breaking her 13 year old meet record by 1/100th of a second. Here's Savinova on her way to victory.
Irving Saladino won the men's long jump with a 8.46m jump beating out Dwight Phillips by 5cm. Last year it was Phillips who won and Saladino finished second. The men's 110m hurdles was won by David Oliver equaling the current American record of 12.90s. Oliver was elated. Big smiles and big victory celebration.

This was followed by the women's 100m event pictured below. Veronica Campbell Brown of Jamaica took victory in 10.78s.
The men's 5000m started soon after with a strong field - Tariku Bekele, Kipchoge, Solinsky, Tegenkamp, Merga. Solinsky looks much bigger than the rest in real life. Almost like a rugby player in comparison. The race itself was exciting. The Hayward Field crowd kicked into high gear in the last couple of laps and pulled Bekele in for a 12:58.93 win. Gebremeskel followed barely 0.37 second behind.
Two sub-13 performances and the first time ever on American soil as the announcer told us. That's Bekele in the photo below on his way to number one. I wonder if Bekele has ever raced his brother Bekele.
Needless to say, a new Hayward Field and PreClassic record. Solinsky however looked totally spent afterwards. Here he is lying on the track with a concerned meet official looking over him. Matt Tegenkamp is the background a few meters away.
The men's 200m race featured Tyson Gay, Walter Dix, Shawn Crawford, Churandy Martina, and Richard Thompson among others. Dix won in 19.72 followed by Gay 19.76. The post-race interview featured both Dix and Gay. Gay said that he was happy with the result and that it was "not bad for my first race." I guess that was his first race of the year?

The women's 400m was another tightly contested race. Allyson Felix beat out Amantle Montsho by 0.03 second. The third place was 0.01 second behind that - Shericka Williams. Here's a photo on them on the final straightway.

The event that everyone looks forward to at the end of the meet - the Bowerman men's mile - started on time, in fact, about 15 seconds before the scheduled time of 2:47 p.m. The announcer informed us that until then Hayward Field had seen 221 performances under 4 minutes. A spectacular field lined up as usual, under the sunny Eugene sky. The biggest cheer, however, for Andrew Wheating who lined up for his last race wearing the University of Oregon uniform. What a race it turned out to be. The crowd played a big role, especially when they all got up on their feet for not the last, but the last two laps. That finishing stretch was just like you see on TV - incredibly fast and powerful, almost like a Bolt sprint. Kiprop and Laalou battled it out with Kiprop edging ahead to win by 0.49 second. Here's them on their final sprint.
Check out the super-thin legs of Kiprop. I read somewhere on the Internet (and therefore it must be true) that the "bird-like legs" act as a powerful lever and and push you forward real fast. Funnily enough, I was talking to a high school kid today who mentioned he can't really run because he has thick calves.

The race was amazing. I can't do a byte-based description well enough to do justice; you should have been in the stadium to have experienced the atmosphere. It was louder than a stadium filled with 40,000 vuvuzelas. Wheating came through in a PR-shattering 3:51.74. He gave a nice interview at the end where he said that now he knows that he has it in him and that "I think I can run with the big dogs". That's him below waving to the crowd on his way out.

Another year, another great meet. A few meet records, field records, soil records, and American records. Everything but a world record. It was a great experience as usual. Nutrilite didn't seem to have their tent from last year with all the good stuff. I guess recession hit them too. Lots of people. For some reason, I noticed there were a lot more kids hanging around to get autographs and photographs of the athletes on their victory lap. I think it was Kara Patterson, the javelin throw winner, who spent at least 15 minutes doing that. Great overall entertainment for less than the price of a movie and a dinner. A great start to the weekend and as always, we made our way to the best ice-cream in Eugene, Prince Pucklers.

If it interests you, here are my reports from 2007, 2008, and 2009.



Anthony said...

Nice one, Jobs!

I'm pretty sure that the Bekele brothers have raced together a few times.


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