Coming Up Sunday: 10 Don’t-Miss Clashes At The Pre Classic

This Bislett Games win made Mariya Lasitskene 2-for-2 in Diamond League meets this year. (MARK SHEARMAN)

1. Mariya Lasitskene vs. The High Jump WR

Dominant is an understatement. Lasitskene’s win-loss record over the last three seasons is 62–2. But sure, there could be an upset here. Top American Vashti Cunningham is always good. Yulia Levchenko won silver at the last Worlds with her 6-7 (2.01). Teenager Yaroslava Mahuchikh jumped 6-6¼ (1.99) in January. But don’t kid yourselves. The fans are here to watch the greatest high jumper of our era, one who in her last meet flew a PR 6-9 (2.06) and made three attempts at a new World Record. The 26-year-old Russian is in the shape of her life and that means that every time she competes, fans stand the chance to see history made. After almost 31 years, Stefka Kostadinova’s 6-10¼ (2.09) from ’87 is due to fall.

2. Michael Norman vs. Fred Kerley

Norman has had all of the buzz lately and rightfully so. In April the 21-year-old USC alum came up with a PR 43.45 early in his training cycle, moving to No. 5 on the all-time world list. Now he’s at 8 straight wins in the event—and his average winning margin is some 0.82 seconds. Strong and dominant—and his speed is progressing too, a 19.70 win over Noah Lyles at 200 shows. But don’t count out 24-year-old Kerley, who ranked No. 1 in the world last year—despite missing a chunk of DL prime time to injury. He won the ’17 USATF final, the last 400 Norman lost. He’s undefeated this year so far, and brings a best of 43.70.

3. New Pro Sha’Carri Richardson vs. The Old Pros

The transition from college superstar to the big stage is tougher than it looks. Sure, on the day, that NCAA 10.75 by the 19-year-old LSU alum looked like the sort of race that wins gold medals. But it was just one race in an otherwise impressive, but not stunning, collegiate season. For Richardson to win, she’s going to have to run a race better than what she did in Austin, as her pro debut finds her facing formidable veteran talent. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, now 32, has faced “new sensations” more times than she can count. She’s been here before (2 Olympic golds, 3 WC golds) and her recent =WL 10.73 shows that she is in very fine form indeed. Then there is reigning U.S. champ Aleia Hobbs, who hasn’t been beat by an American since the ’17 USATF meet. But that’s not all! Don’t forget reigning world champ Tori Bowie or last year’s No. 1 World Ranker, Marie-Josée Ta Lou.

4. Shot War: Ryan Crouser vs. Tom Walsh

The top two putters in the world—each with an eye on the WR—will once again battle at Prefontaine. Overall, Olympic champ Crouser has a 13–9 lifetime record against the Kiwi world champion. And both are in incredible form, Crouser leading the world at 74-7¼ (22.74) and Walsh at No. 2 on the list (73-¾/22.27 last week). And as friendly as our sport often is, it is somehow refreshing to see a matchup where the two principals truly want to crush each other.

5. Shelby Houlihan vs. Laura Muir & Faith Kipyegon

The women’s 1500 is a dream race for many. Houlihan won last year en route to a No. 1 World Ranking. Kipyegon is the Olympic champion. And Muir, the winner of the Diamond League last season, just keeps getting better. She’s undefeated this year after winning Euro Indoor golds at 1500 and 3000. If Houlihan is to have any chance, she’s going to need to stay close enough to use her blistering kick to good advantage. With Muir unafraid to lead, we might see the Scotswoman try to shake Houlihan and Kipyegon with a very fast pace. If the race goes that way, look for some very fast times indeed. The U.S. all-comers record is 3:56.41, set by Kipyegon in winning Pre during the Olympic year. It could be in jeopardy.

6. The Vault Club vs. Itself

Every single active vaulter who has ever topped 6-meters (19-8¼) except for Shawn Barber and Timur Morgunov will be at Stanford. Four-time Pre champ Renaud Lavillenie holds the U.S. all-comers record at 19-10¼ (6.05). That will be in danger as he tangles with teen sensation Mondo Duplantis (this year’s only 6m performer), Olympic champ Thiago Braz, world champ Sam Kendricks and new NCAA titlist Chris Nilsen.

7. Hellen Obiri vs. Sifan Hassan & Genzebe Dibaba

Obiri has been on a hot streak, undefeated in anything with a range from a world-leading 8:25.60 for 3000 to a World XC gold. The 3K faceoff here with Hassan, Dibaba—and not to forget 10K WR holder Almaz Ayana—could be one of the best distance races ever seen in North America. Hassan has shown impressive range this year, with a 3:55.93 at 1500 and a 31:18.12 win over 25 laps at Stanford. Add in a 65:45 half-marathon and it’s safe to say that her off-season training has gone quite well. Dibaba, the 1500 WR holder, is showing her best form in years, topped by a 3:55.47 to beat Hassan’s national record. At the Doha DL, she ran 8:26.20 to finish 2nd to Obiri. We didn’t see Ayana at all last year because of a bum knee. She has a best of 8:22.22 in the event, but since she hasn’t raced at all this year, we don’t know anything about her fitness—except that when she shows up, she’s ready.

8. Bowerman Mile: Kenya vs. Ethiopia

In this corner, representing Kenya: reigning 1500 world champ Manangoi and last year’s No. 1 World Ranker (and defending Pre winner) Timothy Cheruiyot. And in this corner, representing Ethiopia: the young pair who this winter each grabbed a World Record. Samuel Tefera, still only 19, broke the 1500 standard with his 3:31.04. He will be joined by compatriot (and Nike Oregon runner) Yomif Kejelcha, the 2-time World Indoor 3000 champ who crushed the undercover mile record with his 3:47.01 in Boston in March. Also in the ring: 2-time Pre winner and meet recordholder Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti.

9. Beatrice Chepkoech Steepling vs. Everybody

Chepkoech has significantly enhanced her running brand since she ran a 4:05.36 for 9th in the 1500 here last year. Now she is the steeple WR holder at 8:44.32 and the holder of two straight World No. 1s in the event. In all, 6 of the fastest 8 in world history will be splashing down at Stanford, including world champion Emma Coburn and silver medalist Courtney Frerichs. Olympic medalist Hyvin Kiyeng, African champ Norah Jeruto and World Junior champ Celliphine Chespol will ensure the pace will not lag.

10. Elaine Thompson Dashing vs. Dafne Schippers & Co.

One fast 200 coming up. Thompson, the double Olympic winner, faces off against silver medalist Schippers, the reigning world champion. At last week’s Jamaican Championships Thompson more than established her fitness with a world-leading 10.73/22.00 double. Schippers, the European 200 recordholder at 21.63, has won two WC golds at the distance. Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, the world list-leader last year in the 100 and the 200, has already won two DL 200s this year.