Pre Classic Review: Elaine Thompson-Herah and Jakob Ingebrigsten shine in Eugene

Trackstaa reviews an incredible weekend of action at the Pre Classic in Eugene, Oregon.

Diamond League AG

The field that assembled for the Pre Classic this weekend, in nearly all events, was strong enough to grace any of the finals of the Olympic Games in recent memory. The women’s 100m final, for example, contained 3 of the 6 fastest women of all time and, my goodness, it did not disappoint. In total, 9 Pre Classic meet records broken and 8 Hayward Field records. Of these, 3 were Diamond League records and 2 American records, for good measure too. A crowd of nearly 9000 witnessed record after record tumble, including 5 of the best ever in the USA.

The women’s 100m was dubbed beforehand as the Olympic final that never was. Sha’Carri Richardson the US sprint sensation who burst onto the scene this year was back after her one month suspension for smoking cannabis and rightly or wrongly, despite the race including the double-double Olympic champion, it was Richardson’s inclusion that produced the most interest.

Come the race itself, however, Richardson was left in the blocks by the class of the 3 Jamaicans which also included Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and, Shericka Jackson. Elaine Thompson-Herah confirmed her status as arguably the best ever with an incredible time of 10.54. Officially, the second fastest time in history, only bettered by Flo Jo’s 10.49. Most track fans look on Flo Jo’s time with a sceptical gaze however and so many would regard Thompson-Herah’s 10.54 as the fastest time in history. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took second (10.73), Jackson third (10.76) and Richardson was last in 11.14.

In the women’s 200m, Swiss athlete Mujinga Kambundji ran a wonderful bend to beat the Olympic bronze medallist and US Champion, Gabby Thomas (22.11) in 22.06 whilst British fans will have been pleased to see Dina Asher-Smith’s hamstring hold up to take third in 22.19.

Elsewhere, Faith Kipyegon reaffirmed her status as the greatest 1500m runner of all time, despite narrowly missing out on Tirunesh Dibaba’s world record, cruising to victory in a meeting record of 3:53.23 and amazingly, she’s now run under 3:54 for the sixth time this season, more than anyone else in history. Laura Muir paid for a blisteringly quick early pace, and came a disappointing 12th. Australian, Linden hall and USA athlete, Josette Norris, took second (3:59.73) and third (4:00.07) respectively.

On the men’s side, Andre De Grasse proved his class by backing up his Olympic gold with a win and a huge PB in what people often say is his worse event, running a lightning quick 9.74. Thirty-nine year old Justin Gatlin was also racing, he finished fourth behind Fred Kerley in second (9.78) and Ronnie Baker in third (9.82). In the 200m, Noah Lyles stormed to a comfortable victory of a peerless bend, running the 5th fastest 200m of all-time, a fraction behind his own PB of 19.50 (19.52). Only Michael Johnson has ran faster for the US now than Lyles. His brother Josephus Lyles, ran a lifetime best 20.03 to take third. Kenny Bednarek took second.

In the longer distances, the 2 mile turned out to be a hugely exciting race with a field that included the Olympic gold medallists in both the 5000m and 10000m. In the end, Cheptegei was too strong and going into the final 100m, after a tight race, he held off a field that included some of the fastest kickers in the world, winning in 8:09.55. Ultimately, Barega (8:09.82) just held the challenge of Paul Chelimo (8:09.83), roared on by the home crowd, to take second.

Many fans, including me, were particularly excited about the 800m races. The women’s race always liked a battle for second with Athing Mu in such blistering form and, so it proved. We had tipped her in our preview podcast (which you can listen to here), to possibly go on and break the world record and whilst it wasn’t to be this time, her age and ability mean that it’s almost inevitable to come at some point. This time, she stormed to the win, metres ahead of everyone, to win in 1:55.04, another huge PB, another American record and a full 2 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Kate Grace took second (1:57.60) and Natoya Goule finished third in 1:57.71. Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson who took silver in sensational style in Tokyo looked tired and faded in 5th (1:58.30) – what a season she has had nonetheless.

Diamond League AG

The men’s 800m was far less a foregone conclusion but it was a dominant display from Canada’s Marco Arop (1:44.51) in another slow men’s race. Fergus Rotich kicked himself into second place (1:45.02) with Olympic champion Korir taking third in 1:45.05. Elliot Giles took fourth with Oliver Dustin once again fading in the final 100m to take 7th (1:46.61).

The main spectacle of the meet was the final race, the Bowerman Mile. Named after the enigmatic track coach and Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman, Jakob Ingebrigsten, Olympic 1500m champion, had declared his intention to aim for El-Guerrouj’s world record (3:43.13). On the day, the windy conditions meant that was always unlikely but it was nevertheless a display from Jakob that demonstrates that at just 20 years old, he’s likely to dominate the world of distance running for the next decade, breaking the world records in both the 1500m and the mile.

Jakob’s win owes as much to the aggressive, fearless running of Stewy McSweyn who ensured the pace was hot, to his own talent. With Jakob and Stewy out on their own with with 220 to go, Jakob eased into top gear and powered past McSweyn. Using his strength, he powered away from McSweyn and seemed to be running exceptionally fast in the final 100m despite it looking very easy. He finished in 3:47.24 which is a PB, world lead, national record and Diamond League record. Timothy Cheruiyot looked in leggy in third (3:51.17) but there were great performances from Oliver Hoare (3:51.63 PB) and Jake Heyward (3:52.15 PB). Former Olympic champion, Matthew Centrowitz struggled to a 9th place 3:53.32.

It wasn’t to be for Sifan Hassan who had set her sights on the 5000m world record. Again, the conditions and all of her previous racing meant that she didn’t quite have the legs to get close to it despite winning by a full 15 seconds in 14:27.89. Elsewhere, there were impressive performances from Ryan Crouser in the shot put and Norah Jeruto and Courtney Frerichs in the 3000m SC. For all the results, click this link.

The Diamond League action doesn’t stop there with another meet scheduled for Lausanne on Thursday. We’ll have a preview of all the action on our website so keep an eye out on Instagram for all the details.