Sunday, June 05, 2011

2011 Prefontaine Classic - photos and write-up

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Yesterday was the first day of the Prefontaine Classic 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. Today, June 4, was the main day with about a couple of dozen events. Things kicked off with a powerful rendition of the national anthem. First up was the women's pole vault followed by the women's triple jump. Below is the lineup for the triple jump event which was eventually won by Olha Saladukha of Ukraine as a gift to herself for her birthday which was today.

If two events are boring, you can always wait a bit and soon enough you'll see a third or fourth event. All at the same time. A good exercise in multitasking your eyes and brain. Below is the lineup for the men's discus event. Robert Harting of Germany won with a 68.40m throw.

The women's shot put (lineup in photo below) was won by Nadezhda Ostapchuk with a 20.59 effort.

While the field events were in progress, the international men's mile kicked off. Ryan Gregson of Australia won with a strong finishing kick and finished in 3:53.86. Eight of the total nine runners in the race finished in sub-4 times.

As soon as the mile finished, hurdles were put up by the officials. Not the bad kind, but the good kind and for a good purpose - the men's 3000m steeplechase. Below is a photo of some of the runners on their way. Ezekiel Komboi of Kenya won in a time of 8:08.34 beating Paul Koech, the current meet record holder, by well over a second.

This was followed by the women's 400m hurdles. Lashinda Demus (seen below) won with a 53.31s effort. Next was the men's 800m. Abubaker Kaki of Sudan (not shown) won in blistering time of 1:43.68 thereby setting a new meet record.

The men's high jump took to orbit while the track events continued. The eventual winner was Raul Spank of Germany with 2.32m. Below is the lineup.

While the high jumpers continued, the women's 1500m event started. There were some good headwinds at points during the race and the meet record (or any other record) was pretty safe. There was some incident that happened around 150m away from the finish where there seemed to be some tripping but I wasn't able to catch a good glimpse as it was half way across the field. Here's a shot of Gelete Burka battling with Maryam Jamal on the final straightaway. Burka won in 4:04.63. Morgan Uceny finished third.

Here's Burka after her victory.

The women's javelin was won by Christina Obergfull with a 65.48m effort. Here's a shot of the lineup.

The men's long jump was won by Greg Rutherford of England with a 8.32m jump. Irving Saladino of Panama failed to complete a single legal jump. You could see the frustration on his face even from afar. It just wasn't his day. Here's the lineup before they started.

The men's 100m hurdles was looked forward to by the Chinese segment of the crowd as seen in the photo below. The placard translates to "Liu Zhang, go for it". This was the second time for Zhang at the PreClassic, if I remember correctly. The last time which was a couple of years ago, he got disqualified for a false start and that was a great anti-climax.

No such anti-climax this time. However, David Oliver decided he wanted first place, with a time of 12.94s beating Zhang by 6/100 of a second.

Next up was "Blade Runner" seen below, aka Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. Here he is lining up for the 400m race. Pretty darn impressive when you see him run like that in real life from 100 feet away. Watching it on TV is one thing but it's only when you see it in real life, you think a little bit beyond "Wow!"

Pistorius put up a good show but Angelo Taylor took the race in 45.16s followed closely by Jeremy Wariner. Pistorius finished last in a time of 46.33s.

After the 400m came the men's 2 mile race with a lineup of, among others, Bernard Lagat, Eliud Kipchoge, Tariku Bekele, Matt Tegenkamp. Here's a short of part of the lineup.

Here's another shot during the race. Meanwhile, Reese Hoffa won the men's shot put with a 21.65m effort and Hayward Field extended its record as the home of the most 70+ feet shot put throws.

Here's the 2 mile race again, this time in the final 100 meters with Lagat battling Koech. Lagat won comfortably in 8:13.62 and got a very loud round of applause. However that was nothing compared to the applause the last place finisher got. High school kid Lukas Verzbickas who finished about 16 seconds behind Lagat. If you didn't know, you'd have thought the applause was for Usain Bolt breaking 9.50s. The Eugene crowd is absolutely wonderful. No wonder Verzbickas is joining the University of Oregon in Eugene. He got interviewed by the presented Katherine Clark and came across as a shy but nice young kid. Hopefully Eugene and the PreClassic will see more of him.

Carmelita Jeter won the women's 100m with a 10.70s effort which was better than the meet record. However the wind had been pretty strong and I don't know if that has been ratified as a new record yet. Jeter also won the Maria Mutola award and here she is being interviewed by Katherine Clark, who did a great job throughout.

Below is the end of the men's 100m race. Steve Mullings of Jamaica won in 9.80s. Justin Gatlin finished 6th and he did get a good round of applause at the beginning of the race. No high is better than the runner's high.

Here's Mullings again. Happy as a bunny. A real fast bunny. This was followed by the women's 800m (not shown). Kenia Sinclair won in 1:58.29. Caster Semenya, making her first appearance in a while, ran a good race and finished second, about 0.59s behind. She was probably around fifth or sixth with about 200m to go before she kicked it up a level.

Here's a shot of the men's 200m in progress. Walter Dix won in 20.19s.

Another shot of Dix after he finished. Next was the women's 400m (not shown). Amantle Montsho won in 50.59s. Allyson Felix finished third and Sanya Richards Ross was fourth. There was a false start at the beginning and it seemed to be Felix. The guys sitting behind me were totally convinced it was Felix. I did see her leg move or twitch a bit but in the end, the officials decided to not charge it on any one. An official walked around to each athlete with a green card held up in her hand, apparently indicating that the athlete was good to go. A bit like the yellow and red card you see in soccer.

The final race of the day - the Bowerman mile. Below is a shot of the starting lineup. Haron Keitany of Kenya won in 3:49.09. Asbel Kiprop finished third after picking it up from fifth or sixth place with about a 100m to go.

Thus ended another great edition of the Pre Classic. Nice, warm, and sunny day in Eugene. About 75F. Of the five times I've been to the PreClassic, it's rained only once and that too at the very end. Who says it's always raining in Oregon?

If you're interested, you can read my write-ups from earlier years - 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007.


Saturday, June 04, 2011

Prefontaine Classic 2011 special event - photos and writeup

 Click on any photo for the larger version.

As seems to have become the annual norm, we found ourselves in Eugene, Oregon this weekend for the 2011 Prefontaine Classic. This year was a bit different - they had a special set of events on Friday, a day before the actual event on Saturday. Three events, each with an amazing lineup of runners - mens 25k/30k, womens 5,000m, and mens 10,000m. The cool thing was Friday's events were free.

We got there a couple of hours before the event started only to find out we needn't have. As can be seen in the photo below, we found a grand total of one other person there. The weather was great however and killing two hours was easier than guessing which event Galen Rupp would be running.

We could have picked any but one seat in the stadium. I picked the one right next to the finish line, literally about 15 feet away - much less than what Irving Saladino will likely long jump tomorrow. While waiting around for the start to arrive, I took a bunch of pictures of the various equipment. Here are some finish line cameras, probably meant for photo-finish decisions. Too bad there were any today.

First up, at 6:40 p.m., was the mens 25K/30K combo. The lineup included, among others, the recent 2:03 Boston marathoner, Moses Mosup. He was going to go for a world record in both. The 25K and 30K world records were both set by Toshihiko Seko of Japan back in 1981. Here's a photo of the start.

Mosop was definitely on a mission. Eugene also decided to cooperate - both in terms of the weather and the spectators. Each of the 76 laps that the runners finished was accompanied by a good round of clapping and cheers without fail. Each and every single round. Soon, the lead pack dropped to four as seen below.

Mosop keep hammering away and about the half way mark, the lead pack was down to two - Mosop and Joel Kimurer - seen in the photo below.

World record attempts require a different kind of personality. Mosop embodied it today. Lap after lap, you could see the power emanating from his legs and the intensity in his face. At some point, Kimurer decided to get water only to see Mosop break away a bit further.

A bit further became a bit more and then a bit more and soon enough, the crowd was on its feet cheering Mosop, first onto a 25K world record (1:12:25) and then a 30K world record (1:25:47). There was no stopping Mosop today and somebody probably knew that this would be the case and went ahead and got a T-shirt made well in advance. (Also notice in the photo below that there's still someone running in the race much after Mosop finished his victory lap.)

He was beaming brighter than a 100W bulb. Seems like a really nice guy - something you wouldn't be able to tell looking at the intensity on his face throughout the race. Here's a close-up of him.

Summer days are long at this latitude, but at some point, the stadium lights had to come on. As far as I can remember, this was a first for the Prefontaine Classic, which is usually held in the mornings.

The men's race was followed by the women's 5K with a huge lineup of about 20 runners including Cheruiyot, Dibaba, Cherono, Flanagan, Goucher, Masai, Kipyego, and several others. Vivian Cheruiyot won in a handy time of 14:33.98. Here's Cheruiyot and Masai lapping Amy Yoder-Begley on their way to a 1-2 finish, followed closely by Mercy Cherono.

Cheruiyot again, breaking the finish tape.

She seems like a really nice person. While on her post-victory lap, someone handed her their baby to take a photograph with. Then, after she finished, someone did the baby thing again. Here's a photo below. Trying to inspire the baby or trying to get some of the DNA from the sweat to rub off onto the baby? Anyway, she was a real sport and posed with the baby for the longest time.

Another thing I found interesting was this camera at ground level right at the finish line. Here's a shot below. Does anyone know what it is for? Photo-finish decisions? Motion activated or remote-controlled photography?

The final race of the day was the men's 10K. Pretty big lineup again. Funny thing is that the handout showed Galen Rupp, the big stadium scoreboard showed Galen Rupp, but reality decided not to show Galen Rupp. I don't recall any announcement either. Here's a shot at the start of the race.

At one point, the pacesetters were apparently going too slow and Tedesse of Eritrea decided to kick it up a notch by himself. After 25 laps of some exciting action, during the course of which, some people dropped out or dropped back, Mo Farah of England hit the final straightway and put in a pretty good kick at the end to win the race.

He reminded me (a bit) of Bernard Lagat with his big smile on his way to breaking the tape. I took a very similar picture of Lagat about 2-3 years ago when Lagat won the 2 mile race at the PreClassic. Farah was joined by his daughter afterwards. The announcer seen below talked to him for quite a bit. Sorry I don't remember her name but apparently she was an Olympic medalist for England in 2004 (I think). If you know her name, please let me know.

In the absence of Galen Rupp, Chris Solinsky was definitely a crowd favorite. However, he dropped out due to some reason. Here he is, in the photo below, presumably explaining the reasons for his doing so.

At almost close to 3 hours, this was about the same as the main PreClassic event usually is. A great day and some great weather. Some great performances. Hopefully this was just an appetizer to tomorrow's weekend brunch.

I wrote this in a hurry. So, please excuse any typos and do let me know so that I can rectify them.