Kerr Breaks Steve Cram’s British Mile Record in Bowerman Mile at Pre Classic

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2024 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved




EUGENE (25-May) — Making a bold push to the front with about 600 meters to go, Britain’s Josh Kerr held off both Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway and Yared Nuguse of the United States to win the Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic in a world-leading 3:45.34.  Kerr, the reigning world 1500m champion, also broke Steve Cram’s British record which had stood for nearly 39 years, and gave fans at Hayward Field a preview of what the Olympic 1500m final might look like in Paris in August.






Josh Kerr winning the Bowerman Mile at the 2024 Prefontaine Classic (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)







“I was available for whatever pace it was,” the bearded Kerr told reporters.  “I didn’t ask for any certain 800 splits, or anything like that.  I just rolled with the punches a little bit and raced it like a championships race.”






Kerr, 26, who won the World Athletics Indoor Championships 3000-meter title 84 days ago, demonstrated his mastery of tactics today.  He ran in the pack behind pacemaker Abe Alvarado through 800m in 1:52.8, then surprised his main rivals by moving brusquely to the lead in the third quarter of the race.  It was a risky call, but there was no time for self-doubt.






“Because I thought it was a dumb decision,” he said when asked why he surged so early.  “I knew if I thought it was a dumb decision then it probably was, and that was going to scare myself and everyone else around me.  Just testing myself early-on in the season.”






Both Ingebrigtsen and Nuguse reacted, as did Kerr’s fellow Scotsman Jake Wightman, the 2022 world champion.  The field stretched out and Kerr just kept pressing.






“Today it was like, how can I win this race, and if I’m going to win this race it’s probably going to be under 3:46,” Kerry continued.  “So, it was a good day.”






Ingebrigtsen, who told reporters yesterday that his winter training “wasn’t perfect,” demonstrated excellent speed for an athlete who had just come off of altitude training and hadn’t raced since last September.  He clocked 3:45.60, comfortably ahead of Nuguse (3:46.22).  The always-combative Ingebrigtsen was satisfied with his race which demonstrated that his fitness was headed in the right direction.






“I feel that it was a pretty good performance,” said Ingebrigtsen.  “It’s a pretty good start.  I’m not a fan of the mile event by itself because it has nothing to do with my culture –it’s definitely something British and American which I’m not that familiar with. It’s a very good start.  I have lost quite a bit of training this winter, and for me I perform out of consistency, more or less.”






Nuguse, the USA mile record-holder both indoors and out, was also satisfied with how he ran.






“I still feel like I’m in a good position strength-wise to keep with them and stick in a place that I wanted to be,” Nuguse said.  “I think now it’s just working that last little 100 bit that I usually have a little stronger.”  He continued: “It’s a really good start for the meat and potatoes of the outdoor season.”






Wightman ended up fifth in a personal best 3:47.83, bagging his 2024 Olympic Games qualifying mark (3:50.40 or better).  He was passed by another Scotsman, Neil Gourley, who finished fourth in 3:47.74.  Australia’s Oliver Hoare, the 2022 Commonwealth Games 1500m champion, finished ninth in 3:49.11, also getting a Paris qualifier.






Beatrice Chebet of Kenya setting a pending world record for 10,000m of 28:54.14 at the 2024 Prefontaine Classic (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)







As exciting as the mile was, the meet started in the morning with a pending world record in the 10,000-meters by two-time world cross country champion Beatrice Chebet of Kenya: 28:54.14.  The 24 year-old was trying to secure her place on the Kenyan Olympic team by finishing in the top-2 here (Athletics Kenya had designated the Prefontaine Classic as their Olympic Trials race for the 10,000m).  Latching on to Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay for 22 of the 25 laps, she surged into the lead in the final kilometer and ran laps of 68.4, 68.1 and 63.7 to get the record.






“We did not come for a world record,” Chebet told reporters, looking a little stunned.  “For us, Kenya, we came for Trials for Paris.  When Gudaf asked for world record, then for me I decided to say, let me try to go with her to see how the body is.”  She continued: “When I see Gudaf drop a bit I decide to push to see how it goes.”






Chebet broke the existing record of 29:01.03 set by Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey in Hengelo in 2021.  Tsegay, who finished second here today, got close to that mark, running 29:05.92.






“My target is I try for world record,” Tsegay told reporters in English.  She continued: “Sometimes it’s like that.  No problem.  Congratulations for Chebet; very fast time.”






Third place Lilian Rengeruk (29:26.89) locked in the second Kenyan team berth (the third athlete will be picked by committee).  She finished just ahead of Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, who clocked 29:27.59 and also has a chance of being named to the Kenyan team.






The men’s 10,000m, which also served as the Kenyan Trials, saw the win go to Daniel Mateiko in a personal best and world-leading 26:50.81.  In a thrilling four-man sprint, Mateiko beat Nicholas Kipkorir (26:50.94), Benard Kibet (26:51.09) and Edwin Kurgat (26:51.54).  Kurgat was actually the race leader coming off of the final bend, but faded in the last 20 meters.






“I wanted to give myself a chance,” said Kurgat, who competed for Iowa State University during his collegiate career.  “I knew we were four and they only needed two as the one who would be chosen.”  He continued: “I have no regrets.  I’m really, really happy.”






Daniel Ebenyo, the 2023 World Championships silver medalist in the 10,000m, fell and finished eighth.






Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain winning the 800m at the 2024 Prefontaine Classic (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)







Also happy was Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson in the women’s 800m.  The 2021 Olympic silver medalist launched her long drive for home with about 120 meters to go and swept past reigning world champion Mary Moraa of Kenya, 2024 world indoor champion Tsige Duguma of Ethiopia, and 2019 world champion Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda to get the win in a world-leading 1:55.78.  She karate-chopped the tape with her right hand in triumph.






“I decided to hang back and test my speed at the end,” Hodgkinson told reporters.  She added: “But you have to think on your feet, see what’s going on around you, and make your decision right there.”






Moraa finished second in 1:56.71 and another Briton, Jemma Reekie, came from behind to take third in 1:57.45.  American Nia Akins got fourth in 1:57.98.






“To feel that good running a 1:57 is new territory for me,” said Akins.






In the three remaining distance events –the women’s 1500m, 3000-meter steeplechase and the 5000m– there were also excellent performances.  Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji ran a very fast 3:53.75 to win the 1500m over Australia’s Jessica Hull.  Hull, who competed for the University of Oregon during her collegiate career, took second in a national record 3:55.97.  Elle St. Pierre, the newly-crowned world indoor 3000m champion, took third in a personal best 3:56.00.  That made her the second-fastest American of all-time.






“One of my strengths is my strength,” said St. Pierre, who ran a personal best 14:34.12 for 5000m one week ago in Los Angeles.  “I think that 5-K reflected that and gave me more confidence that I could hang on to a faster pace for longer.”






In a two-woman battle Peruth Chemutai of Uganda beat Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya in the women’s steeplechase, 8:55.09 to 8:56.51.  Chemutai’s time was a world leader and national record.  Americans Valerie Constien (9:14.29), Courtney Wayment (9:14.48), Gabbi Jennings (9:18.03), and Kaylee Mitchell (9:21.00) all ran under the Olympic qualifying standard of 9:23.00.






Finally, in the women’s 5000m Tsige Gebreselama and Ejgayehu Taye battled right to the line and Gebreselama got the win, 14:18.76 to 14:18.92. Ethiopian athletes took the top-6 positions.  Back in ninth place, American Weini Kelati got the Olympic standard (14:52.00 or better) by running 14:35.43.  However, she said she was likely to stick with the 10,000m for the USA Olympic Trials next month.






“I was really comfortable,” said Kelati, who competed for the University of New Mexico during her NCAA career.  She added: “I’m leaning kind of the 10-K.  We’ll see.”

*  *  *  *  *

Next year’s Prefontaine Classic, the only stop of the Wanda Diamond League in the United States, will be the meet’s 50th edition.

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