FINAL PRE CLASSIC AT HAYWARD FIELD DELIVERS GREAT RESULTS
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
EUGENE, OREGON (26-May) — At the final edition of the Prefontaine Classic ever to be held at historic Hayward Field here, the capacity crowd of 12,667 was treated to both unexpectedly sunny conditions and a top-flight athletics competition punctuated by seven world-leading marks, three meeting records, one all-comers record, and even an U18 meeting record. The stadium, which is on the campus of the University of Oregon and has hosted athletics meetings for 97 years, will be demolished later this year and will be replaced by a completely redesigned facility.
“I’m not sure it will hit me until it’s gone,” said Tom Jordan who has directed the meet since 1984.
Fans of middle and long distance action, in particular, did not go home disappointed. On paper, the top mark was Caster Semenya’s 800m meeting and all-comers record of 1:55.92 (also a 2018 world leader), but it was perhaps the U18 meeting record in the Bowerman Mile of 3:52.28 by Norway’s 17 year-old Jacob Ingebrigtsen that left the most lasting impression. Ingebrigtsen’s mark –good for fourth place behind African stars Timothy Cheruiyot (3:49.87 WL), Samuel Tefera (3:51.26), and Elijah Manangoi (3:52.18)– toppled Alan Webb’s previous mark of 3:53.43 achieved at this meeting in 2001, the year after Ingebrigtsen was born. Webb, who lives a two hour drive from here in Portland, was on hand today to watch the race.
“My goal was to take Alan Webb’s record, but I knew of course it was going to be tough,” a poised Ingebrigtsen told reporters. “I had a PB in mind, but today felt really good. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.”
The race went out hard from the gun with pacemakers Andrew Rotich and Jackson Kivuva pulling the 15-man field through the quarter mile in 55.6 seconds. The pack quickly strung out with Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman, Ethiopia’s Tefera, and Kenya’s Cheruiyot and Manangoi close behind. Rotich got the field through halfway in 1:55.3, then stepped off to allow Kivuva to finish up the pacing duties. With one lap to go, Souleiman had faded slightly leaving Tefera and Manangoi to chase the powerful Cheruiyot, last summer’s IAAF World Championships silver medalist, to the line. Cheruiyot’s 56.1-second final lap was fast enough to get the win, but it was Ingebrigtsen’s 55.5-second last lap which was the fastest and sealed the record for him.
“I had a really good last lap, so it felt good,” Ingebrigtsen said simply.
South Africa’s Semenya, the reigning Olympic and world champion, dominated the women’s 800m. Behind the pacemaking of Chrishuna Williams, Semenya hit halfway in 57.93, and ran nearly as fast for her second circuit (57.99).
“I had to take an advantage when I saw 57,” Semenya said after here race. “I tried to maintain 57 again, and see what I can come up with.”
Behind Semenya, American Ajee’ Wilson came from fourth position in the homestretch, passing Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Ethiopia’s Habitam Alemu, to get second in 1:56.86, the third-fastest time of her career.
“When it came to the last 200 of the race I made a couple of mistakes, but I was able to come away with second,” said Wilson who was pleased with her time but not her tactics.
In the women’s metric mile, the Bowerman Track Club’s Shelby Houlihan upset international medalists Jenny Simpson of the United States and Laura Muir of Great Britain with a blazing final 100 meters where she moved from sixth position to first. Houlihan broke the tape in a world-leading and personal best 3:59.06, her first-ever sub-4:00 run.
“It was really cool to be able to break four,” an elated Houlihan told the media. She continued: “Going into the bell lap I was like, I feel really good now and I’m just hoping I can stay strong into the last lap and I was able to.”
Simpson, who led at the bell and held that lead into the final turn, had to settle for third in 3:59.37, just edged at the line by the charging Muir (3:59.30). Morocco’s Rababe Arafi also had an excellent race, clocking a personal best 3:59.51 in fourth place.
“I thought the best thing for me to do leading was to make them run hard the whole last 400,” Simpson explained. She added: “I just did the best that I could.”
Linden Hall set an Australian record of 4:00.86 in sixth place.
In other distance action, Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia ran a world-leading 14:26.89 in the 5000m, leading three other women, Letesenet Gidey and Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia and Hellen Obiri of Kenya, under 15 minutes. Australia’s Luke Mathews won the International Mile, essentially the B heat, in 3:57.02, which was the 400th sub-4:00 mile ever recorded at the Prefontaine Classic. Benjamin Kigen was the surprise winner of the men’s steeplechase, running a world-leading and personal best time of 8:09.07. Behind him, Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto and the USA’s Evan Jager, the 2016 Olympic gold and silver medalists, fought fiercely for the runner-up spot. Both men were given the same time of 8:11.71, but Kipruto was awarded second place by 2/1000ths of a second over Jager.
The 2019 edition of the Prefontaine will be held on June 28 and 29, meeting director Jordan said yesterday. The venue, however, has not yet been set. The new stadium will not be ready until at least the 2020 track season.
PHOTO: Shelby Houlihan winning the women’s 1500m at the 2018 Prefontaine Classic at historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon in Eugene (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly).
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