Prefontaine Classic Quick Take — A New Era Dawns

Athlete Of The Meet Darlan Romani PRed 3 times, his best put of 74-2¼ moving him to No. 9 on the all-time list. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

STANFORD, CALIFORNIA, June 30—Staged at a new venue and unfurling a new fast-paced and constrained Diamond League presentation, the 45th edition of the Prefontaine Classic signaled a new and exciting era as an array of global athletes delivered sparkling performances. In adherence to tight DL television window guidelines, Tom Jordan and his staff nimbly produced a crisp, nonstop parade of 13 Diamond League contests, sprinkled in 5 non-DL events, and kept the capacity crowd fully engaged in a compelling gathering that was fully presented in less than 2½ hours.

Pinnacle performances abounded, but the consensus top performer was Brazilian shotputter Darlan Romani. In dominating the event, the Athlete Of The Meet had a winning put of 74-2¼ (22.61) to set a new Meet, Diamond League, South American & Brazilian records. His 3-PR series featured 4 heaves farther than runner-up Ryan Crouser’s best throw of 72-9 (22.17). In the other men’s field event, new pro Mondo Duplantis trailed clean-jumping world champion Sam Kendricks when the bar went up to 19-5½ (5.93) . Kendricks went 3-and-out while the world leader made a clutch clearance on his final jump at that height. With the win in hand, Duplantis was unsuccessful at 3 attempts at a world-leading 19-8½ (6.01).

The top sprint event of the day was the men’s 100, as Christian Coleman controlled the race from the gun to win in 9.81. His clocking improved his world leading mark by 0.04 and like many marks on the day, set a new facility record. The 37-year-old Justin Gatlin crossed in 9.87—his fastest time since ’16—to take 2nd. Côte-d’Ivoire’s Marie-Josée Ta Lou bested a strong field in a curiously slow women’s century, winning in 11.02 to edge Aleia Hobbs by 0.02. Newly-minted pro and NCAA champion Sha’Carri Richardson finished 4th in 11.15. In the women’s 200 Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare showed she was the strongest on the homestretch to win in 22.05. And world leader Michael Norman toyed with a star-studded field in the men’s 400 running the final curve with a vengeance to finish in 44.62.

In the women’s field events, world leader and 2-time world champion Mariya Lasitskene had a best clearance of 6-8¼ (2.04) for the victory while Vashti Cunningham joined the 2-meter club with a PR 6-6¾ to take 2nd. China’s Lijiao Gong won the women’s shot with at 64-11¼ (19.79).

In the men’s hurdles, Rai Benjamin looked spectacular, racing essentially unchallenged over the full lap version. He appeared quite comfortable coming down the homestretch to ring up a winning time of 47.16, a season’s best and world-leading clocking. WR holder Kevin Young and the great Edwin Moses are the only Americans to have run faster than Benjamin’s winning time, No. 8 on the all-time performances list. In the 110s, A strong push over the final three hurdles drove Spain’s Orlando Ortega to a 13.24 victory while France’s Wilhem Belocian (13.29) took 2nd, just edging Olympic champion Omar McLeod (13.29).

In the women’s steeplechase, WR holder Beatrice Chepkoech showed she is in a class by herself by running away from the field for the win in a world-leading time of 8:55.58. Emma Coburn took a spill with 1100m remaining but popped back up and gamely rallied for 2nd in 9:04.90, the No. 4 U.S. performance ever.

In one of the best women’s 3000s ever Olympic medalist Sifan Hassan ran a brilliant race, unfurling a long kick for the win in a list-leading 8:18.49, the fastest outdoor performance ever. Hard-charging German Konstanze Klosterhalfen (8:20.07) closed quickly for 2nd while Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey (8:20.27), the race’s workhorse, held on for 3rd. WR holder Genzebe Dibaba (8:21.29), who had never lost a single DL race before today, finished 4th

Caster Semenya was greeted by loud cheering from the capacity crowd as she powered down the homestretch to win the women’s 800 in 1:55.70, the fastest 2-lap clocking ever on U.S. soil. Ajee’ Wilson (1:58.36) crossed 2nd with her teammate Raevyn Rogers (1:58.65) getting up for 3rd.

The women’s 1500 featured a crowded but extremely talented field. Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon took control midway through the race and the Olympic champion was never headed, hitting the line in 3:59.04, the fastest time ever run for this event on California soil. Laura Muir crossed 2nd in 3:59.47, while Shelby Houlihan (3:59.54) left it too late, closing fast but finishing 3rd.

As always, the Prefontaine Classic closed with the Bowerman Mile. The pacers did their job, leading the talented field through splits of 56 and 1:56 and allowing a bunched field to hit the bell in 2:55. A spirited final circuit was a closing treat for the appreciative crowd. Crafty Timothy Cheruiyot was not to be denied as his stunning final furlong drove the reigning Diamond League champ home in 3:50.49. Ayanleh Souleiman (3:51.22) crossed next, followed by the Ingebrigtsen brothers, Filip in 3:51.28, Jakob in 3:51.30 as all 15 finishers broke 4:00. ◻︎