EUGENE, OREGON, August 21 — Turns out the much-ballyhooed Prefontaine Classic was worth all that ballyhoo, as the first Diamond League competition following the Olympic Games delivered on its promise of enthralling clashes between Tokyo medalists and rivals hoping for a measure of revenge. This report will look at the men’s side of things.
On the track, the 200 provided the most thrills. Bronze medalist Noah Lyles savored the chance to line up against Kenny Bednarek, who had occupied the next higher step on the Olympic podium. This time, instead of lane 3, the reigning world champion was happy with lane 7, with Bednarek chasing him from 6. And in 5 was 400H silver medalist Rai Benjamin, whose PR 19.99 came 3 years ago.
Benjamin got out best, nearly making up the stagger on Bednarek on the turn, but Lyles went through his gears and started moving ahead at 80m, hitting halfway in 10.3. It was over. Bednarek struggled to stay close on the stretch but Lyles found a zone he hadn’t visited in 2 years. He streaked across the line in a world-leading 19.52, just 0.02 off his best and the No. 9 performance in history (No. 3 among Americans). Bednarek’s 19.80 got 2nd, with Josephus Lyles scoring a PR 20.03 in 3rd. Benjamin finished 5th in 20.16.
Said the winner, “Five sessions of therapy I was able to let go of what happened in Tokyo and convince myself that I know I’m upset and I know I’m in great shape to run and come out here and be able to put it on the track.
“I don’t think you understand how lifeless it was in Tokyo to have no crowd there. It was dead silent. To come here and see a whole lot of people who love track, it was just amazing.”
One who didn’t give his rivals any hope was local favorite Ryan Crouser in the shot. With all three medalists present, Crouser again proved his dominance with a first-round toss of 75-3½ (22.95), a mark that only one other human — long retired — has ever hit. It was also the No. 3 performance ever. In round 2, he added a 75-1¾ (22.90) in case anyone was getting any ideas. Round 3, the Olympic champion had what would be his worst throw of the day, 73-4¾ (22.37). No one could touch that either.
When round 4 started, Brazil’s Darlan Romani held 2nd with his 70-2½ (21.40). Bronze medalist Tom Walsh was a tick behind at 70-2¼ (21.39). But Joe Kovacs wasn’t even on the board after 3 fouls, but he busted a 71-11¾ (21.94) to take over the second spot. Crouser responded with the best DL throw ever, the No. 3 mark in history, 75-11½ (23.15).
Round 5 saw Romani improve to 71-2 (21.69) for 3rd, and Crouser heave 75-1¼ (22.89). The champion would close out his day with a 73-6¼ (22.41) in the last round, where Kovacs would foul and thus be demoted behind Romani in DL points for the day.
For Crouser, a 74-8½ (22.77) average for 6 throws would stand as one of history’s finest days. “I felt really good competing here today,” he said. “It’s always a little bit of a challenge coming off of a major championship like the Olympics, to travel and kind of have that big sigh of relief and then to refocus in.
“I was really happy with the performance today because I feel like I struggled just a little bit in warmups, kind of tuning in. It wasn’t quite as well-executed as I had hoped. I was just really happy to come back here and share this with friends and family.”
In the 800, Marco Arop, who didn’t even make the Tokyo final, pulled off a stunning upset of the top two Olympic medalists with a powerful finish. No one followed rabbit Eric Sowinski closely through a 50.61 first lap. Clayton Murphy led the pack nearly 10m behind, while Arop ran in last place, keeping his eye on silver medalist Ferguson Rotich while Tokyo winner Emmanuel Korir stayed mid-pack.
On the backstretch, Arop finally moved past Rotich, his long stride gobbling up track until he ran with the leaders on the final turn. The 22-year-old Canadian took the lead with 100 left and ran unchallenged to the line in 1:44.51. Both Kenyans kicked hard to nab the next two spots, Rotich nailing Korir just before the finish, 1:45.02–1:45.05.
“I wanted to change it up,” said Mississippi State alum Arop, who is often a frontrunner. “I ended up a little further back than I thought I would for the final 200. I didn’t see anyone behind me.”
The 2M brought together the 5000 gold and bronze in Joshua Cheptegei and Paul Chelimo as well as a solid supporting cast that raised the prospect that the American Record of 8:07.07 might be in danger, if not the legendary WR of 7:58.61 set by Daniel Komen back in ’97.
However, no one in the race concerned themselves with the pacers or the lights flashing on the curb. Cheptegei led the chase pack at a more leisurely tempo early then dropped behind a pair of Kenyans. With 2 to go he was in 5th but with 550 left he sprinted to the lead. He hit the bell at 7:14.9, with Olympic 10K champ Selemon Barega just behind. A 54.7 final circuit gave the Ugandan the win in 8:09.55. Barega held off fast-finishing Chelimo by a hundredth, 8:09.82–8:09.83.
The 100 field delivered a heck of a race, and if only that wind hadn’t been blowing… Silver medalist Fred Kerley was in lane 5. To his immediate right, bronze medalist Andre De Grasse. A Tokyo-frustrated Trayvon Bromell in 7 along with a stellar cast (slowest PR 9.93), including 400 man Michael Norman dropping down for the first time this season.
Norman, in lane 9, actually got out best and led at 10m, but the field, led by Kerley, caught him a few strides later. By midway, it was de Grasse who took over. The Canadian, smooth and powerful, jetted far enough ahead that he had time to give Kerley a serious look and thrust his arm up at the finish in 9.74w. The mark was well ahead of his PR 9.89 but negated by a 2.9 wind.
Kerley’s 9.78w took 2nd ahead of Ronnie Baker (9.82w), Bromell (9.86w) and Norman (9.90w).
Said de Grasse, “I just went out there to have some fun. Not a lot is expected of me now that the Olympic Games are over. In the Olympic final I didn’t get out of the blocks. Today I felt like I did a good job coming out of the blocks and my transition was good, so I knew it was going to be a good race after that.”
What turned out to be a strange mile race saw only two men chase the rabbit, Tokyo 7th-placer Stewart McSweyn and gold medalist Jakob Ingebrigtsen. The rest of the field, headlined by silver medalist Timothy Cheruiyot, ran farther back, either expecting the Olympic champion to fall back to them or not caring if he didn’t.
Pacemaker Craig Nowak took the lead two through the 400 in 55.36 and 800 in 1:52.25. McSweyn was at the fore at 1200 in 2:50.17. By that point the two had nearly 30m on the pack, led by Cheruiyot. Ingebrigtsen tagged McSweyn on the backstretch and steamed to the finish in a world-leading 3:47.24, the fastest outdoor mile ever run on U.S. soil. It also made him No. 10 on the all-time world list, displacing Bernard Lagat. The Australian followed in 3:48.40, missing his NR by just 0.03, with Cheruiyot outkicking the rest in 3:51.17.
The Olympic medalists held their own in the triple bounce, with Tokyo champion Pedro Pichardo taking the lead with his first jump of 56-6¾ (17.24) and bronze medalist Hugues Fabrice Zango claiming 2nd with his round 2 leap of 56-2 (17.12). The real battle was for the third spot, with four notables all landing within 4cm of each other before Donald Scott landed his fifth jump at 55-10½ (17.03).
The order for the top 3 stayed the same in the final jump-off, with Pichardo improving to 57-10¼ (17.63) to seal the deal.
PRE CLASSIC MEN’S RESULTS
100(2.9): 1. Andre De Grasse (Can) 9.74w; 2. Fred Kerley (US) 9.78w; 3. Ronnie Baker (US) 9.82w; 4. Trayvon Bromell (US) 9.86w; 5. Michael Norman (US) 9.90w; 6. Justin Gatlin (US) 9.93w; 7. Akani Simbine (SA) 9.95w; 8. Isiah Young (US) 9.98w; 9. Cravon Gillespie (US) 10.09w.
200(1.5): 1. Noah Lyles (US) 19.52 (WL, AL) (x, 9 W; x, 3 A);
2. Kenny Bednarek (US) 19.80; 3. Josephus Lyles (US) 20.03 PR; 4. Aaron Brown (Can) 20.12; 5. Rai Benjamin (US) 20.16; 6. Jerome Blake (Can) 20.20 PR; 7. Vernon Norwood (US) 20.36;… fs—Kyree King (US).
800: 1. Marco Arop (Can) 1:44.51; 2. Ferguson Rotich (Ken) 1:45.02; 3. Emmanuel Korir (Ken) 1:45.05; 4. Elliot Giles (GB) 1:45.46; 5. Clayton Murphy (US) 1:45.97; 6. Isaiah Harris (US) 1:46.00; 7. Oliver Dustin (GB) 1:46.61; 8. Bryce Hoppel (US) 1:47.22;… rabbit—Erik Sowinski (US) (50.61).
2. Stewart McSweyn (Aus) 3:48.40 (3:32.98) (2:50.2); 3. Timothy Cheruiyot (Ken) 3:51.17 (3:36.71); 4. Ronald Kwemoi (Ken) 3:51.31 (:36.71; 5. Ollie Hoare (Aus) 3:51.63 PR (3:36.96); 6. Jake Heyward (GB) 3:52.15 PR (3:37.02); 7. Abel Kipsang (Ken) 3:52.20 PR (3:36.71); 8. Filip Ingebrigtsen (Nor) 3:52.97 (3:37.21); 9. Matthew Centrowitz (US) 3:53.32 (3:37.60); 10. Moh Ahmed (Can) 3:53.87 PR (3:38.22); 11. Matthew Ramsden (Aus) 3:53.97 (3:37.90);… rabbit—Craig Nowak (US) (55.36, 56.89 [1:52.25]).
2M: 1. Joshua Cheptegei (Uga) 8:09.55 (WL) (7:40.98);
2. Selemon Barega (Eth) 8:09.82 (7:41.11);
3. Paul Chelimo (US) 8:09.83 (AL) (x, 6 A) (7:41.90);
4. Jacob Kiplimo (Uga) 8:10.16 PR (7:41.27); 5. Berihu Aregawi (Eth) 8:11.04 PR (7:41.40 PR);
6. Grant Fisher (US) 8:11.09 PR (5, 8 A) (7:41.93); 7. Joe Klecker (US) 8:11.55 PR (8, 11 A) (7:41.71);
8. Mark Lomuket (Ken) 8:15.54 PR (742.73); 9. Nibret Melak (Eth) 8:16.75 PR (7:42.29); 10. Michael Kibet (Ken) 8:18.01 PR (7:44.63); 11. Daniel Simiyu (Ken) 8:19.67 PR (7:43.79); 12. Luis Grijalva (Gua) 8:21.98 NR (7:48.08 NR; 13. Marc Scott (GB) 8:31.90 PR (7:55.54);… rabbits—Josh Thompson (US) (2:29.83), Bethwel Birgen (Ken) (5:05.45).
TJ: 1. Pedro Pablo Pichardo (Por) 57-10¼ (17.63) (56-6¾, p, p, p, p, 57-10¼) (17.24, p, p, p, p, 17.63);
2. Fabrice Zango Hugues (Bur) 56-2 (17.12) (53-2¾, 56-2, f, 54-½, f, 56-½) (16.22, 17.12, f, 16.47, f, 17.08);
3. Donald Scott (US) 55-10½ (17.03) (52-0, 54-10¼, 54-4¾, 55-2, 55-10½, 55-7¾) (15.85, 16.72, 16.58, 16.81, 17.03, 16.96);
4. Will Claye (US) 55-2¾ (16.83) (53-6½, 54-7¼, 54-8¾, f, 55-2¾) (16.32, 16.64, 16.68, f, 16.83);
5. Andrea Dallavalle (Ita) 55-1½w (16.80) (55-1/16.79); 6. Chris Benard (US) 55-1 (16.79); 7. Max Heß (Ger) 54-10¼ (16.72).
SP: 1. Ryan Crouser (US) 75-11½ (23.15) (x, 3 W, A) (75-3½ [x, 5 W; x, 4 A], 75-1¾ [=11, x W; =8, x A], 73-4¾, 75-11½, 75-1¼, 73-6¼) (22.95, 22.90, 22.37, 23.15, 22.89, 22.41);
2. Joe Kovacs (US) 71-11¾ (21.94) (f, f, f, 71-11¾, f, f) (f, f, f, 21.94, f, f);
3. Darlan Romani (Bra) 71-2 (21.69) (68-11¾, 69-10¼, 70-2½, 67-2, 71-2, 70-4¼) (21.02, 21.29, 21.40, 20.47, 21.69, 21.44) (official DL finish: Crouser–Romani–Kovacs);
4. Tom Walsh (NZ) 70-2¼ (21.39) ; 5. Josh Awotunde (US) 69-8¾ (21.25); 6. Darrell Hill (US) 69-0 (21.03); 7. Payton Otterdahl (US) 66-6½ (20.28).