The best of the best will be convening in Eugene for the 44th Prefontaine Classic, so it’s understandable that eyes will be drawn in that direction. However, D1 collegiate fans will be focused on the meets that may be crucial but are hardly climactic—the NCAA Regionals.
Prefontaine impresario Tom Jordan has loaded up his Diamond League meet with too much talent to adequately preview here, but that’s not going to stop us from (almost) randomly selecting 8 events that are pretty darn compelling:
1. The Giants Will Be In Town
Olympic shot champ Ryan Crouser, Diamond League champ Darrell Hill, World Indoor champ Tomas Walsh, European champ Konrad Bukowiecki, ’15 World champ Joe Kovacs, and more. Expect the ground to shake.
2. Indoor Dibaba Or Outdoor Dibaba?
Multiple WR holder Genzebe Dibaba has never beaten World champ Hellen Obiri in the 5000, but will have her chance at Pre. True, they’ve only met once (Rome last year). Hard to say what kind of shape Dibaba is in, because she hasn’t raced since indoors and Indoor Dibaba is sometimes a different person from Outdoor Dibaba. Obiri, meanwhile, took a disappointing 14th in the Doha 3000, so is not at her best right now. Smart fans might be looking at Sifan Hassan for the upset.
3. Taylor vs. Claye For The 43rd Time
With Christian Taylor focusing on the 400 and Will Claye chasing his musical dreams, this might be the only chance we have this year to see the two American triple jump aces face each other. Right now Taylor leads their lifetime series, 22–20. Alexis Copello of Cuba and Portugal’s Nelson Évora should make it even more competitive.
4. Who’s The Fastest Woman?
World 100 champ Tori Bowie vs. Olympic gold medalist Elaine Thompson. Throw in World 200 champ Dafne Schippers, World Indoor 60 champ Murielle Ahouré and current world leader Marie-Josée Ta Lou, and we should see a barnburner. Six of the entrants have PRs at 10.85 or faster.
5. Who Can Challenge Coleman?
It was supposed to be Justin Gatlin vs. Christian Coleman in the 100 in a battle of the reigning world outdoor and indoor dash champs, but Gatlin has pulled out. Perhaps Mt. SAC champ Ronnie Baker (9.97 WL) or China’s Bingtian Su can make it interesting Coleman?
Coleman plans to give the fans a two-fer. An hour-and-a-half later he will line up in the 200 to face 20-year-old Noah Lyles, who has already claimed May wins in the half-lap at the Doha DL (19.83) and the 150 at adidas Boost.
6. Making Them Miss Syd
Can Olympic champ Dalilah Muhammad & World champ Kori Carter run fast enough to steal the news cycle from the precocious collegiate hurdler who won’t be there, Sydney McLaughlin? Will they run faster than the Kentucky frosh does at the NCAA East Regional?
7. A Tough Debut For Simpson
Jenny Simpson will open her 1500 season in a loaded race against double World Indoor medalist Laura Muir, Dawit Seyaum (3:58.09 PR) and Winny Chebet (3:59.16 PR). Americans Brenda Martinez, Shelby Houlihan and Kate Grace will hope to break into the top places.
8. What A Way To End The Meet
They like the mile so much at Hayward Field that Pre annually features two of them. The meet-ending Bowerman Mile is the top-tier world-class race, while the earlier “International Mile” features a mix of world class internationals along with up-and-coming Americans.
Organizers have a couple of cool stats going this year. Whoever wins the International will go down in history with the 400th sub-4 ever recorded at this meet. And whoever finishes 6th will likely end up with the 500th sub-4 ever run at Hayward.
The International will bring together sub-3:50 man James Magut with Henry Wynne, Drew Hunter, and hoping-for-a-sub-4 prep Brodey Hasty.
The Bowerman will feature Ayanleh Souleiman, Silas Kiplagat and Timothy Cheruiyot mixing it up with Americans Matthew Centrowitz, Ben Blankenship, Craig Engels and Clayton Murphy. Norwegian Teenager Jakob Ingebrigtsen will make it even more interesting.
… And in Non-Eugene Action:
NCAA West: Remember Fred Kerley running 43.70 at the Regional last year? Sometimes big things happen at these meets, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Norman or someone else pops something very interesting in Sacramento. Sometimes, however, the most important news from a regional involves which top-ranked athletes don’t make it out, and there’s no predicting that.
NCAA East: Maybe Jasmine Camacho-Quinn or the LSU stick demons will make a tiny technical adjustment and we’ll see a new Collegiate Record or two. Or Keturah Orji won’t lean too far forward on her last phase and she’ll get her American Record back in the triple jump. Or if Sydney McLaughlin runs just an ‘average’ race by her standards—what would that even be? Plenty to see here.
Other Nationals: Occasionally the smaller national meets like Div. II, Div. III and the NAIA produce noteworthy performances from a Div. I mindset, however they often produce great competition. Well worth a watch if you’re in the area.