By Rich Sands, @sands
(21-Aug) -- Olympic 1500-meter champion Jakob Ingebrigsten of Norway solidified his claim as world's top miler with a dominating win at the Prefontaine Classic, while Athing Mu and Courtney Frerichs lowered their own American records in the 800 and 3000-meter steeplechase, respectively. The 46th edition of the storied meet, the sole American stop on the Wanda Diamond League tour, returned to the re-imagined Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., for the first time since 2018 and did not disappoint, with outstanding performances across the board.
PHOTO: Jakob Ingebrigtsen winning the Bowerman Mile at the 2021 Prefontaine Classic (photo by Justin Britton for Race Results Weekly)
Ingebrigsten, who claimed the gold medal in the 1500 in Tokyo by running away from reigning world champion Timothy Cheruiyot in the homestretch, bided his time for most of the famed Bowerman Mile --always the concluding race at Prefontaine-- before asserting himself in convincing fashion.
Only Australian Stewart McSweyn had followed the pacesetter, American Craig Nowak, though the first two laps in 55.36 and 1:52.25. As Ingebrigsten gradually began to catch up to McSweyn, the Aussie gave Nowak a push at 900 meters to indicate that it was time to step off the track. McSweyn (2:50.17) continued to lead at the bell, with Ingebrigsten shadowing him. Finally, with 250 meters remaining in the race the 20-year-old Norwegian bolted to the lead and was never threatened. He won in 3:47.24, a world-leading time, national record and Diamond League record and made him history's ninth fastest outdoor performer. It's also the fastest outdoor time in the world in seven years, since Ayanleh Souleiman ran the previous Prefontaine record, 3:47.32 in 2014.
"Racing at Hayward Field is always a great experience for milers," said Ingebrigsten, who made his Prefontaine debut back in 2017 as a precocious 16-year-old. "I feel this is my home meet, after Oslo of course."
McSweyn, seventh in the Olympic final, crossed the line in 3:48.40, just three-hundredths of a second off the national record he set in Oslo in July. "I feel like I'm still going pretty well since the Olympics, so the big focus was just to get out hard and see what I had," he said. "I felt good until probably about 250 to go, and then when Jakob went I tried to go, but he was just too good. I'm happy the way that I held on, but I was definitely getting pretty tired that last lap."
Cheruiyot (3:51.17) emerged from a tightly packed chase group to take third, with fellow Kenyan Ronald Kwemoi (3:51.63) and Australian Oliver Hoare (3:51.63) also coming in under 3:52.
Like Ingebrigsten, Mu won gold in Tokyo decisively. And since she prefers to run up front in fast-paced races, meet organizers enlisted a sprinter to rabbit the Pre 800. Kaylin Whitney, who took bronze as part of the U.S.'s mixed 4x400 relay in Tokyo (and ran in the heats of the women's 4x400) set a blazing tempo, reaching 400 meters in 54.19 to perfectly set up Mu for a quick time.
The 19-year-old phenom, who turned pro in June after a one-year collegiate career at Texas A&M, made the remainder of the race a solo time trial, passing 600 in 1:24.44 and holding on for a 1:55.04 American record. That lowered the 1:55.21 mark she set in Tokyo and moved her up to the No. 8 spot on the all-time list.
"Seeing the start list, I knew it was gonna be like another Olympic race," Mu told NBC's Lewis Johnson. "I wanted to come out here and be competitive again, end the season well."
This was the final race of the year for Mu, who has been competing since January at the collegiate level. In addition to her 800 exploits, she also won the NCAA title in the 400, setting a collegiate record 49.57, and was a part of the U.S.'s "dream team" 4x400 relay that won gold in Tokyo.
"I may need a little bit time just to sit down and relax after this and take in every moment and look back on everything that I did," she said, adding that she's now off for a beach vacation with friends and her brother.
Behind her, Kate Grace continued her outstanding summer season following disappointment at the U.S. Olympic trials, finishing second in 1:57.60, just ahead of Jamaica's Natoya Goule (1:57.71). Olympic bronze and silver medalists Raevyn Rogers (1:58.01) and Keely Hodgkinson (1:58.30) reversed their Tokyo positions to take the next two spots.
The women's steeplechase also featured all three medalists from Tokyo, but it was a non-Olympian, Kenyan Norah Jeruto, who stole the show. The first kilometer was reached in 2:55.20 by the pacesetter, Rosefine Chepngetich, with a pack of five women in the hunt. By 2000 meters the tempo cooled off but still appeared to be on track for a sub-9:00 finish, with Jeruto leading in 5:59.20. She and Frerichs had separated from the field and at the bell, the Kenyan began to open up a gap. She ran unchallenged to the finish in a world-leading 8:53.65, making her the third fastest of all time.
Olympic silver medalist Frerichs fought hard to the end and clocked 8:57.77, moving to No. 4 on the all-time list and lowering her own North American and U.S. record (9:00.85 from Monaco in 2018). "I just really wanted to try to carry the confidence that I had in Tokyo and go with whatever the race was," she said. And despite a post-Olympic letdown, she knew she was fit enough to finally take a crack at going sub-9:00. "It's just such a dream come true… We've been talking about this for so long so to finally have it come together is just really exciting and has me dreaming about even more now."
Hyvin Kiyeng of Kenya, who took the bronze in Tokyo, narrowly missed dipping under that barrier, finishing third in 9:00.05, while Olympic champion Peruth Chemutai (9:10.87) of Uganda was a well-beaten seventh.
Other Olympic champions fared better, with Faith Kipyegon of Kenya putting in a heroic solo effort to win the women's 1500 by an astonishing 6.5 seconds in a meet record 3:53.23, the fourth time this year she's run under 3:54. Uganda's Joshua Cheptegei, winner of 5000 gold and 10,000 bronze in Tokyo, stepped down to 2 miles and won in 8:09.55 (with a 7:41.05 split for 3000 en route). Close behind were Olympic 10,000 champ Selemon Barega (8:09.82) of Ethiopia and Paul Chelimo (8:09.83) of the U.S. Fellow Americans Grant Fisher (8:11.09) and Joe Klecker (8:11.55) finished 6th and 7th to become third and fifth fastest Americans ever outdoors.
Canadian Marco Arop won the men's 800 in 1:44.51, well clear of Olympic silver medalist Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich (1:45.02) Kenya and his gold-medal-winning compatriot Emmanuel Korir (1:45.05).
During Friday night's non-Diamond League section of the meet, double Olympic gold medalist Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands fell short in her attempt to better Letesenbet Gidey's 5000m world record of 14:06.62. Behind the pacemaking of Canada Kate Van Buskirk (1000m at 2:49.37) and Kenya's Beatrice Chebet (2000m in 5:39.05), by the time she hit the 3000-meter mark (8:30.54) she was running alone and already off the pace by about five seconds. She ended up finishing in a season's best 14:27.89. Well behind her, Americans Alicia Monson (14:48.49) and Abbey Cooper (14:52.37) both set personal bests.