Galen Rupp on his way to setting a US 10,000m record at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene (© Kirby Lee)
The IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene has a history of producing fast 5000m races, including the only sub-13:00 times – five and counting – recorded on US soil. That number could rise at this year’s Prefontaine Classic on 30 May.
Two of the USA’s greatest runners are among the stars in the field, national record-holders Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat.
Between themselves, they own every US record at a championship distance from 1500m to 10,000m.
Rupp’s Olympic 10,000m silver medal was the best by a US man since Billy Mills won gold in 1964, and his London 5000m fourth place matched the best by a US man since 1972, when the 21-year-old Steve Prefontaine finished in that place in Munich.
Lagat is the only US athlete to win major championship golds in the 1500m and 5000m in the same year, 2007. Last year, he won his seventh US 5000m title, giving him the most in history, and he has competed at the Prefontaine Classic in 13 of the past 14 years.
Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew was the 2013 Diamond Race winner and has improved each year since his first Pre Classic appearance as a 21-year-old in the 2011 Bowerman Mile, when he was seventh. He was the runner-up in last year’s Pre 5000m.
Edwin Cheruiyot Soi of Kenya has run faster than 13 minutes in each of the past six years, a streak exceeded only by world record-setters Haile Gebrselassie (9) and Kenenisa Bekele (8). The 2008 Olympic Games bronze medallist won the 2013 edition of the Pre Classic, beating Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah.
Kenya’s Isiah Koech was a team-mate of Soi’s at the past two global outdoor championships, winning bronze at the 2013 World Championships after a fifth place at the 2012 Olympics as an 18-year-old. He is also the fastest runner in the field with a PB of 12:48.64.
Another Kenyan, Lawi Lalang, is a training partner of Lagat and will be making his first Pre Classic appearance. His range includes NCAA titles in cross country, 10,000m outdoors and one mile indoors. He also won the famous Carlsbad 5km road race in March, beating Lagat.
Kejelcha returns to Hayward Field
Two other young talents in the field both hail from Ethiopia.
Yomif Kejelcha won gold at last year’s IAAF World Junior Championships in the same Hayward Field arena that will stage the Prefontaine Classic while his compatriot Birhan Nebebew, now 20, was a junior when he finished fifth in the 2013 Pre 10,000m.
Bahrain’s Albert Rop set an Asian record of 12:51.96 in 2013 and was fourth in last year’s Pre Classic.
Ryan Hill of the USA has only lost once so far in 2015 and his victories include the US indoor two mile title.
Australia’s Collis Birmingham is the only man to compete in all of the Pre 5000m races in the IAAF Diamond League era and has twice set personal bests at the Pre Classic.
Juan Luis Barrios is undefeated on the track in 2015, including a 5000m victory at Stanford’s popular Payton Jordan Invitational. He is Mexico’s second-fastest ever 5000m runner, trailing just the 13:07.79 of Arturo Barrios (no relation) set 36 years ago.
Mohammed Ahmed is the highest-finishing Canadian ever in the World Championships 10,000m, finishing ninth in 2013, while Kenya’s Cornelius Kangogo was the silver medallist at the 2014 African Cross Country Championships.
Fast, competitive races were one of Steve Prefontaine’s loves and this year’s meeting will also mark 40 years since Prefontaine’s last race on 29 May, 1975.
Organisers for the IAAF
2015 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 15 May
Shanghai, CHN – 17 May
Eugene, USA – 30 May
Rome, ITA – 4 June
Birmingham, GBR – 7 June
Oslo, NOR – 11 June
New York, USA – 13 June
Paris, FRA – 4 July
Lausanne, SUI – 9 July
Monaco, MON – 17 July
London, GBR – 24-25 July
Stockholm, SWE – 30 July
Zurich, SUI – 3 September
Brussels, BEL – 11 September