INDIANAPOLIS - Bernard Lagat, Sanya Richards, Stephanie Brown Trafton, LaShawn Merritt and Nick Symmonds will lead many of the world's top athletes Sunday at the 2009 Nike Prefontaine Classic at historic Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene.
The fifth event of the 2009 USA Track & Field Outdoor Visa Championship Series, the Nike Prefontaine Classic will be televised live Sunday on NBC from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Double 2007 World Champion Lagat leads 3,000m field
American 1,500m record holder Bernard Lagat, who became the first man ever to win both the 1,500m and 5,000m at the same World Championships two years ago in Osaka, Japan, will lead a strong field in the men's 3,000 meters. Lagat, who won the 2-mile at the Nike Prefontaine Classic last year, will be challenged by fellow American and 2008 Olympic 5,000m finalist Matt Tegenkamp, who finished fourth at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka. Favorites include 2008 Olympic 5,000m silver medalist Eluid Kipchoge and Moses Masai, who ended the 2008 season ranked #5 in the world at 5,000m. Both are from Kenya.
Symmonds, Smith & Robinson face world's best in Nike men's 800 meters
In one of the most unforgettable moments ever on the fabled Hayward Field track, local favorite Nick Symmonds won the 800m men's final at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team for the first time in his career. Symmonds was joined on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team by fellow Eugene-based Oregon Track Club member Christian Smith, who dove across the finish line just ahead of 2004 Olympian Khadevis Robinson for the third and final spot on the Team USA 800m roster for Beijing. Smith's time of 1:45.47 bettered the Olympic A qualifying standard, which officially punched his ticket to Beijing.
Symmonds, Smith and Robinson will compete at the Pre Classic against an impressive array of international stars led by defending Prefontaine champion, Hayward Field record holder and Beijing Olympic bronze medalist Alfred Yego of Kenya, who ended the 2008 campaign ranked #1 in the world by Track & Field News. Also keep an eye on Ahmad Ismail of Sudan, who was the silver medalist in Beijing, and Canadian Gary Reed, who finished fourth at the Olympics and entered this year ranked #5 in the world. 2004 Olympic gold medalist and three-time World Outdoor Championships medal winner Yuriy Borzakovskiy of Russia, also is in the field.
In the women's 800m, Hazel Clark returns to Hayward Field after winning the Olympic Trials there last year in qualifying for her third Olympic Team. Favorites in the race will be Kenyan 2008 Olympic gold medalist Pamela Jelimo, who is ranked #1 in the world, and fellow Kenyan Janeth Jepkosgei, who won the silver medal in Beijing and finished the season ranked #2 in the world. Also look for 2004 and 2008 Olympic finalist Tatyana Andrianova of Russia to challenge for top honors.
Shannon Rowbury will lead the U.S. contingent in the Nike women's 1,500m following a standout 2008 season where she won at the Olympic Trials, finished seventh at the Olympic Games and ended the season ranked #1 in the U.S. and #6 in the world. Other Americans to watch out for in this event include 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan, and standout 3,000m steeplechasers and 2008 Olympic Games finalists Anna Willard (2008 Olympic Trials champion, who owns the fastest 800m time in the world this year and second fastest time in the 1,500m by an American) and Jenny Barringer (American record holder). Also watch for 2008 Olympian Christin Wurth-Thomas, who owns the U.S. leading time this season of 4:03.96. 2008 Pre Classic runner-up and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Nancy Lagat of Kenya will be one of the favorites, along with Ethiopia's Gelete Burka, who is the defending Pre Classic champion and the #2 ranked women's 1,500m runner in the world.
The men's Bowerman Mile is always a featured event of the Pre Classic and this year will be no different with many of the world's finest middle distance runners in the field. Leading the Americans will be 2008 Olympic teammates Leonel Manzano (who won the 1,500m May 30 at the Reebok Grand Prix in a career best 3:34.14), 2008 Olympic delegation flag bearer Lopez Lomong and U.S. record holder and 2004 Olympian Alan Webb. Leading the international challengers will be Haron Keitany of Kenya, who ended the 2008 campaign ranked #1 in the world, and his countryman Asbel Kiprop, who won the silver medal in Beijing and entered this year ranked #3 in the world. Also watch for Kenyan Shedrack Korir who won at Pre last year in 3:50.49, and 2008 Canadian Olympian Nate Brannen.
2008 Olympic Trials 5,000m champion and 10,000m runner-up Kara Goucher will lead the U.S. contingent in the women's 2,000m, where she'll face three-time Olympian Jen Rhines and 2008 10,000m Olympian Amy Yoder Begley. Look for Maryam Jamal of Bahrain, who ended 2008 ranked #1 in the world at 1,500 meters, to challenge the Americans.
Team USA Beijing Olympic 400m hurdles medalists meet again in Eugene
In leading a U.S. sweep of the men's 400m hurdles medals in Beijing, Angelo Taylor won his second Olympic 400m hurdles gold medal by leading from start to finish in a personal-best time of 47.25 seconds. Taylor, who won the 2000 Sydney gold medal running out of lane 1, joined National Track & Field Hall of Famer Edwin Moses as the second man ever to win Olympic 400m hurdles gold medals eight years apart.
Kerron Clement, who entered the Beijing final as the 2007 world champion, was slightly behind Taylor coming off the final curve and went on to the silver medal in 47.98 seconds. 2005 world champ Bershawn Jackson captured the bronze medal with his time of 48.06, which secured an American men's 400m hurdles sweep for the fifth time in Olympic history (1904, 1920, 1956, 1960, 2008).
The Americans will be challenged by Jamaican Isa Phillips, who ended the 2008 season ranked #6 in the world by T&FN, and his countryman Markino Buckley, who entered the 2009 campaign ranked #8 globally.
The women's 100m hurdles features an equally impressive cast headlined by 2008 Olympic gold medalist Dawn Harper, who ran the race of her life in Beijing, crossing the finish line first with a personal-best time of 12.54 seconds.
A native of East St. Louis, Ill., Harper, who finished third at the 2008 Olympic Trials in Eugene, will be challenged by 2005 and 2007 world champion Michelle Perry, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep and 2003 world champion Perdita Felicien, both of Canada. Jamaican Brigitte Foster-Hylton, who placed sixth at the Beijing Olympics, will be in the mix, along with American Damu Cherry, who finished fourth in Beijing and ended the 2008 season ranked #8 in the world.
Dix, Merritt, Richards & Williams lead Pre Classic sprint events
Beijing Olympic 100m and 200m bronze medalist Walter Dix will be looking for a win in the men's 100m in Eugene. He'll face a strong challenge from young up-and-comer Travis Padgett, who finished fourth at the 2008 Olympic Trials. Dix and Padgett jointly sit atop the 2008 U.S. list, both having run10.00 seconds. Former world record holder and Olympic 4x100m relay gold medalist Asafa Powell from Jamaica will challenge the Americans, along with his Olympic relay teammate Michael Frater. Trinidad's Richard Thompson, who won the 100m silver medal in Beijing, will also be a factor.
The men's Nutrilite 300m will feature 2008 Olympic 400m and 4x400m gold medalist LaShawn Merritt, who won the 400 meters here last year in 44.65 seconds. Merritt, who ended the 2008 season ranked #1 in the world for the first time in his career, will face 2008 Olympic 400m bronze medalist David Neville, and Wallace Spearmon, who entered this year ranked #4 in the world at 200 meters.
2008 Olympic 400m bronze medalist, 4x400m relay gold medalist and reigning Pre Classic champion Sanya Richards will lead the field in the Nutrilite women's 400m after ending the 2008 campaign ranked #1 in the world for the fourth year in a row. She'll face two talented Jamaicans in Olympic silver medalist Shericka Williams and Novlene Williams, who ended last year ranked #3 in the world. Also keep an eye on Team USA Beijing 4x400m relay gold medalist Natasha Hastings.
2008 Olympic Games fourth-place finisher and 2005 World Outdoor champion Lauryn Williams will face a strong challenge in the Visa women's 100m from 2008 Pre Classic winner and Beijing Olympian Torri Edwards. Jamaican 2008 Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser, who ended 2008 ranked #1 in the world, will be considered a favorite, along with her countrywoman Kerron Stewart, who captured the 100m silver medal and 200m bronze medal in Beijing.
In other running events, 2008 U.S. Olympians Billy Nelson and Josh McAdams will compete in the 3,000m steeplechase against Kenya's Paul Koech, who ended the 2008 season ranked #1 in the world.
Brown Trafton headlines field events at Pre Classic
After placing third at the 2008 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Stephanie Brown Trafton shocked her fellow competitors in the Olympic Games final with her initial throw that sailed 64.74 meters/212 feet 5 inches. Her competitors failed to match that effort and Brown Trafton became the first U.S. woman to win Olympic discus gold since Lillian Copeland in 1932. The 2008 Pre Classic champion, Brown Trafton will face American record-holder Suzy Powell and reigning Olympic Trials champion Aretha Thurmond on Sunday.
In other women's field events, reigning Olympic Trials and NCAA champion Brittney Reese and 2008 heptathlon silver medalist Hyleas Fountain will square off in the long jump, and Olympic teammates Jessica Cosby, Amber Campbell and Loree Smith will tangle in the hammer throw, where they'll face Olympic gold medalist Oksana Mankova of Belarus.
World's best meet in Visa Men's Shot Put
In men's field event action, Beijing Olympic shot put gold medalist Tomasz Majewski of Poland will have his hands full dealing with Olympic Games silver medalist and reigning World Indoor champion Christian Cantwell, two-time Olympic silver medalist, 2005 World Outdoor champion and 2008 Pre Classic winner Adam Nelson and 2007 World Outdoor champ Reese Hoffa. 2009 USA Indoor champion Dan Taylor, who entered this year ranked #10 in the world, also will challenge for top honors.
2004 Olympic gold medalist Tim Mack will join 2008 Olympic Trials champion and Olympic Games fourth-place finisher Derek Miles as favorites in the men's pole vault, where they'll face Beijing Olympic silver medalist Yevgeniy Lukyanenko of Russia, who is ranked #1 in the world.
2008 Olympic Trials champion Jesse Williams, 2004 Olympic fourth-place finisher Jamie Nieto and 2008 Olympians Andra Manson and Dusty Jonas will compete against each other in the men's high jump. The talented U.S. quartet will face a strong challenge from Russia's 2008 Olympic medalists Andrey Silnov (gold) and Yaroslav Rybakov (bronze), and Great Britain's Beijing silver medalist Germaine Mason.
2004 Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Outdoor champion Dwight Phillips leads a strong American contingent in the men's long jump, where he'll square off against 2008 Olympians Miguel Pate, Brian Johnson and Trevell Quinley. Entering as the favorite will be Panama's Irving Saladino, who won Olympic gold in Beijing and is ranked #1 in the world by T&FN.
Tickets for the 2009 Nike Prefontaine Classic may be purchased by calling 1-800-WEBFOOT or go online to www.goducks.com. USATF welcomes you to pay with your Visa.
For more information on the 2009 Nike Prefontaine Classic and the USATF Visa Championship Series, visit: www.visachampionshipseries.com.
About USA Track & Field
USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, some of the most-watched events of Olympic broadcasts, the #1 high school and junior high school participatory sport and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States.
For more information on USATF, visit USATF.org.