EUGENE, Ore. – There were 11 world-leading marks, two American records, seven meet records, seven field records and more than 20,000 spectators spread across two days at the 40th edition of the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field.
In other words, it was a typical Pre meet.
More than 7,000 fans turned out for the free “Distance Night in Eugene” show on Friday, followed by a sold-out crowd of 13,158 for the main program on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.
In the end, it was a hometown hero who stole the show as University of Oregon alum Galen Rupp returned to the site of so many of his collegiate triumphs to create another iconic moment in his stellar running career.
Rupp, 27, thrilled those in attendance on a cool evening by breaking his own U.S. record in the 10,000 meters with a time of 26 minutes, 44.36 seconds.
It was the second fastest 10,000 ever run on U.S. soil, behind Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, the reigning world record-holder, who clocked 26:25.97 at the 2008 Pre Classic.
Rupp, who set his previous PR of 26:48.00 three years ago, took advantage of his strength and fitness, ideal weather conditions, and a raucous crowd to earn the Maria Mutola Outstanding Athlete of the Meet award.
His 5K splits were 13:26 and 13:18; his final mile was 4:06 and his last four laps were 65, 64, 59 and 58 seconds each.
When asked where this performance stood on his list of all-time highlights at Hayward Field, Rupp didn’t hesitate.
“It’s right up there,” he said. “I’ve had so many great memories running for Oregon here, it’s just a special place for me. It was a great way to end the night. It shows you how special this place is, to get this many people coming out and being enthusiastic about the 10K …
“There’s a reason they call it TrackTown. People love track here and they always come out and support the distance races. It’s just a great place to run.”
Alberto Salazar, who is Rupp’s coach with the Nike Oregon Project in Portland, wasn’t surprised at his performance.
“Not at all,” Salazar said. “Galen is a much better runner than he was three years ago when he ran 26:48. I knew he could do it if he felt good and got the right weather, and we’d rather do it at Hayward Field than anywhere else.”
Rupp dropped a minor bombshell when he mentioned that he and his wife, Keara, are expecting twins within the next six weeks.
“It’s the best news I’ve ever received,” he said. “My wife and I are thrilled. It’s been a big motivator for me, to see how she’s handling everything. I have to take care of her and be there for her, first and foremost, and I can’t wait to meet them. We’re going to have one of each, a boy and a girl.”
The other American record at the Pre Classic was turned in by NOP’s Shannon Rowbury, who used a strong finishing kick to place fourth in the two-mile with a time of 9:20.25. The old mark of 9:21.35 was set by Amy Rudolph in 1998.
“So much fun to race at Hayward Field,” Rowbury said. “I think Hayward is part of the reason I was able to accomplish it today. The crowd is so great and the excitement is just palpable. It really makes a difference.”
It was the first time the women’s two-mile had ever been contested at Pre, so Kenya’s Mercy Cherono established a meet and field record of 9:13.27 in winning the race.
Oregon Track Club Elite’s Sally Kipyego placed fifth at 9:22.10, and UO alum Jordan Hasay, who also runs for NOP, was ninth with a personal best of 9:35.05.
“That was really uncomfortable,” Kipyego said. “I felt flat. It was a little bit too quick for me and I found myself in no-woman’s land, I guess. Just had to grind it out and it was kind of hard. I’m just not comfortable with that pace right now, and today showed I’m still rusty, and I’m working my way through it, and that’s fine.
“I’m looking forward to New York and the future and this race doesn’t change anything. It just tells us where we are and that were not as sharp and ready to run with these girls and I would like to be.”
The other Pre Classic and Hayward Field records were as follows:
- Ayanleh Souleiman, Dijbouti, Bowerman Mile, 3:47.32
- Nigel Amos, Kenya, 800m, 1:43.63
- Helen Obiri, Kenya, 1,500m, 3:57.05
- Sofia Assefa, Ethiopia, 3,000-meter steeplechase, 9:11.39
- Will Claye, USA, triple jump, 57-11 ¼
- Sandra Perkovic, Croatia, discus 227-5
Besides Kipyego, eight other OTC Elite athletes competed at the Pre Classic.
Ashton Eaton, the reigning Olympic gold medalist and World Champion in the decathlon stepped into a world-class field in the 110-meter high hurdles.
Despite a cautious start out of the blocks, and smashing into the ninth hurdle, he still managed to tie his lifetime best of 13.35 with a sixth-place performance, a time he wasn’t overly pleased with.
“I’m disappointed with the time, because I’ve already done it, and I’m obviously looking for something faster,” Eaton said. “But I felt good about the race. The energy in the crowd was fantastic. As soon as I came out, they were cheering for me.”
In the International Mile, OTC Elite’s Jordan McNamara just missed a PR with his second-place finish at 3:52.89, while teammate Patrick Casey shaved nearly three seconds off his lifetime best with a fourth-place time of 3:53.71. Ciaran O’Lionaird was 11th with a season-best mark of 3:57.99.
Leo Manzano, the silver medalist in the 1,500 meters at the 2012 London Olympics, won the race in 3:52.41.
“I looked up with 120 meters to go,” McNamara said. “I was trying to put the pieces in motion, and I thought I could come away with the win, maybe, but Manzano is the hardest guy in the world to pass in the last straight … it was a good effort, and I’ll take it, but there is more work to do, for sure.”
Added Casey: “It was tough. Every step felt pretty hard, but I’m really happy with the way I toughed it out and rallied over the last 200 … I’m training with unbelievable guys and they push me to be a better runner. I’m having fun with it, and its real exciting stuff, but there’s still more in the tank.”
In all, 12 of the 13 runners in the International Mile broke the 4-minute barrier. The only one that didn’t was Oregon recruit Blake Haney, who labored across the finish line in 4:10.41.
The meet closed with a flourish in the Bowerman Mile as all 14 finishers ran under four minutes, six dipped under 3:50, and the top two runners – Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman and Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat – clocked 3:47.32 and 3:47.88, respectively.
UO alum Matthew Centrowitz, who competes for NOP, ran a lifetime best of 3:50.53 as the top American in eighth place.
Other OTC Elite performances as the Pre meet were as follows:
- Hassan Mead, 5,000m, 10th, 13:19.57
- Elijah Greer, International 800m, 2nd, 1:45.30
- Charles Jock, International 800m, 6th, 1:46.84
- Tyler Mulder, International 800m, 9th, 1:51.07
- Jemma Simpson, National 800m, 7th, 2:01.50.
Two other high school runners competed at the Pre Classic in anticipation of a potential bid to earn a spot on Team USA for the IAAF World Junior Championships, July 22-27, at Hayward Field.
Mary Cain, who became the first high schooler to break 2 minutes in the 800 at last year’s Pre Classic, opened up her outdoor season with a 10th place finish in the National 800m at 2:02.31. Colorado prep Elise Cranny finished 13th in the 1,500m at 4:13.38.