(20-Aug) -- Of all of the world's great miles, the Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic stands out for the volume of fast performances, superb winning times, and truly great athletes who have been race champions. Along with the under card International Mile, fans at the "Pre" have seen 197 different men break the four-minute mark a total of 436 times. Moreover, the lofty 3:50 barrier has been broken 24 times, a remarkable achievement given that the meet is usually held in late May or early June before most middle-distance athletes reach top seasonal fitness.
PHOTO: Matthew Centrowitz winning the 2018 USATF 1500m title at Drake Stadium in Des Moines (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)
But this year's Bowerman Mile, which will be contested tomorrow at the re-imagined Hayward Field in Eugene, is a post-Olympic curtain call event for the first time. Athletes may be a little tired, but they should still have plenty of speed in their legs and Ayanleh Souleiman's seven year-old meet record of 3:47.32 could finally be broken.
"I'm sure it's going to be fast," said Australia's Stewy McSweyn at a press conference today. McSweyn, 26, will not only compete tomorrow but also has the fastest time in the world so far this year, 3:48.37, set in the Svein Arne Hansen Dream Mile at the Bislett Games in Oslo on July 1.
Only five men have broken 3:50 this year, including 2016 Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz who ran a personal best 3:49.26 at the eponymous Centro Mile in Portland on July 24, just before the Tokyo Olympics. He's also in tomorrow's field after a disappointing Olympics where he only finished ninth in his semi-final. He sees an opportunity to run fast tomorrow and also gain one of the few titles which has eluded him: Bowerman Mile Champion.
"I don't have a Bowerman Mile championships so that would be nice," Centrowitz told the assembled media today.
Centrowitz, 31, is a gifted racer and has always done best in championships settings where tactics are more important than sustained speed. Still, he'd like to see a fast time and said today that he'd like to be an American record holder before he retires. Bettering Alan Webb's towering mark of 3:46.91 from 2007 is still one of his goals.
"Workouts have been going really well," he said. "I've had a pretty consistent year of training, so although Tokyo wasn't the result I was looking for it doesn't change the fact that I'm relatively fit enough to come out and have another PR tomorrow. So, that's kind of the main goal."
Centrowitz will have plenty of fast company for tomorrow's race, including newly crowned Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway and 2019 world champion Timothy Cheruiyot, who finished just behind Ingebrigtsen in Tokyo. Both men like a fast pace, and Cheruiyot won the Bowerman Mile in 2018 (3:49.87) and 2019 (3:50.49), and he also won the International Mile in 2015 before he became a star (3:55.80). He likes running at Hayward.
"It's great to be back in here in Eugene," Cheruiyot said today. "It's my first location winning (a) mile, International Mile, after Bahamas World Relays in 2015. So, I feel great to be here, to be back here, and compete again."
A total of six men in the field have broken 3:50 during their careers: Centrowitz (3:49.26), Cheruiyot (3:49.64), McSweyn (3:48.37), Samuel Tefera of Ethiopia (3:49.45), Ronald Kwemoi of Kenya (3:49.04), and Filip Ingebrigtsen of Norway (3:49.60). Two others have broken 3:52: Jakob Ingebrigtsen (3:51.30) and Matthew Ramsden of Australia (3:51.23). McSweyn sees Souleiman's record as a realistic goal for tomorrow.
"I think I'm in good form," McSweyn said. "Obviously, the field is amazing. These two guys (looking at Cheruiyot and Centrowitz) and we've got other guys as well. I'm predicting it's going to be fast. I'm excited. I feel like I've gained momentum throughout the season, so I'm hoping to be right in the mix."
Tomorrow's meet is the start of the second half of the Wanda Diamond League season. Four more meets will be contested after Eugene: Lausanne (August 26), Paris (August 28), Brussels (September 3), and Zürich which will host the final (September 8 and 9).