Track and Field News editor Garry Hill was spot on as he proclaimed it “distance night” in the intro for day one of the 40th running of the Prefontaine Classic as American Galen Rupp thrilled the Hayward Field crowd with a brilliantly executed national record 26.44.36 in the 10000m.
The London silver medallist employed four pacemakers to assist the attempt on his own national mark from 2011 with the quartet including our own national record-holder Ben St. Lawrence.
The Australian put his order in for the winner’s shout by taking the field through 3000m in 8.03. Not bad, considering his absolute best for the season back in February at Christchurch was around the same time.
With Rupp back in fifth, Wolde took up the front-running to hit 5k in 13.26. Whilst slightly off the pace, a negative split was not out of the question as the University of Oregon alumni had closed with a faster second-half by two seconds in his Brussels race. Here though he needed to make up four seconds.
The American moved into second by 8k with Sambu leading and continuing to push. At 9k Rupp, was *only* on for a 26.56 which he must have known, as he then opened up the throttle and headed for home, and what a run-in he produced.
With the crowd on its feet in anticipation of another moment to add to Eugene folklore, Rupp closed with a 2.29.4 final kilometre including 1.57.9 over the last two laps, to take nearly four seconds off his former mark.
The superlatives of the performance and race speak for themselves. It was the second-fastest time on US soil and faster than London Olympic winner Mo Farah’s personal best. Runner-up Paul Tanuo set a new personal
mark as fellow Kenyan’s Bedan Karoki and Stephen Sambu became the 49th and 50th men to crack 27 minutes. It was a fitting finale for the first day of competition and a fantastic prelude to the second day of action.
In the field, equal world-leading performances by Serbian Ivana Spanovic and Darya Klishina in a tightly contested long jump and a meet record by Croatian Sandra Perkovic in the discus, were the highlights.
Spanovic produced a national record of 6.88m on her final attempt to win the women’s long jump on a count-back from Darya Klishina. Both jumps equaled the Russian’s own world leading performance set in Tokyo three weeks ago. It was a thrilling competition as just two centimeters separated the top four women.
Triple-world champion Brittney Reese opened the competition with a season’s best 6.86m to lead at the end of round one, but was pushed into third as first France’s Elouise Lesueur jumped 6.87m, then Klishina with 6.88m also passed the American. Spanovic, fresh off a national record at the Shanghai Diamond League two weeks ago, was only in fifth with 6.77m in round two but was just getting started.
The Serbian improved the national record in round four by one centimeter with 6.86m to move ahead of Reese who was producing some big fouls but nothing on the scoreboard.
In the final half of the competition, Klishina was unable to match her early mark as Lesueur fouled every other attempt.
In the final round, Spanovic, who owns two world championships bronze medals, then launched out to her best mark 6.88m, another one centremetre improvement on the Serbian record.
World and Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic dominated the women’s discus improving her own meet record by over two meters with a mark of 69.32m. It was the Croatian’s third best this year behind the 70.52 she recorded to win the Shanghai event.
In the mens shot put New Zealander Tom Walsh finished sixth with 20.51m behind the American trio of Reese Hoffa, Christian Cantwell and John Kovacs. Hoffa threw 21.64 to win for the fourth time at the meet, and at this edition surrounded by fans who were invited ring-side to see the big men of athletics up close and personal.
Shocker of the night goes to the bloke next to me watching the shot on the in-field, who yells out to Tom Walsh to get out of the way so he can take a shot of Hoffa.
Action continues tomorrow with Australians Collis Birmingham (5000m) and Zoe Buckman (1500m) in action. 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin looks set to continue his winning ways in 2014 especially with the Jamaican duo of Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake absent.
800m world-record holder David Rudisha makes a much anticipated return to the track faster after cutting last years season early with injury before this event last year.