This story was written remotely --Ed.
(16-Sep) -- It took over 16 years, but Alan Webb's American record of 3:46.91 for the mile was finally broken. In fact it was smashed.
VIDEO STILL: Jakob Ingebrigtsen edges Yared Nuguse in the Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic (video still via NBC Sports)
On the first of two days of the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., which also serves as the Wanda Diamond League Final this year, Yared Nuguse of the On Athletics Club crushed Webb's mark by nearly three seconds in the Bowerman Mile, clocking 3:43.97. The 24 year-old, who was the NCAA 1500m champion for Notre Dame in 2019, also ran the #4 time in history, putting him ahead of all-time greats like Noureddine Morceli of Algeria, Steve Cram of Great Britain, and Daniel Komen of Kenya.
"I felt really, really good starting out and... I just really focused on having a strong finish at the end," Nuguse told sideline reporter Lewis Johnson in his post-race television interview with NBC Sports. "I did just that. That was an amazing time; a lot closer to the world record than I thought."
Unlike Webb --who set his record at a small meeting in Brasschaat, Belgium, where his nearest competitor finished some ten seconds behind-- Nuguse had the benefit of racing the world's #1 male middle distance runner, Olympic and world champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway. In fact, the race was set up for Ingebrigtsen to achieve a fast time, and perhaps the world record. In yesterday's press conference Ingebrigtsen said to Nuguse that he should "stick to me as long as you can," and that is exactly what Nuguse did today.
Behind pacemakers Cameron Myers of Australia and Erik Sowinski of Iowa City, Iowa, the race got off to a fast start. Myers split the first quarter in 55.4 seconds with Sowinski, Ingebrigtsen and Nuguse close behind. Myers continued to lead for the second lap, but pulled aside before the finish line where Sowinski took over. The second lap went at 56.3, and it was clear that Ingebrigtsen was looking to close his season by breaking Hicham El Guerrouj's 1999 world record of 3:43.13.
"I wanted to race where I could challenge myself to really set out at a decent pace, somewhat conservative, and then I go as hard as I could the last two laps to try to run as fast as I could," Ingebrigtsen told the flash quotes team at Hayward Field.
Sowinski retired about 900 meters into the race and Ingebrigtsen became the best possible pacemaker for Nuguse. The Norwegian did not slump in the third quarter, splitting 56.1 seconds, and that set up the two men to threaten the world record over the final lap.
They nearly did it.
Ingebrigtsen ran the last quarter in 56-flat with Nuguse just two strides behind. Ingebrigtsen broke the tape in 3:43.73, the #3 time in history, just .6 seconds short of the world record. Nuguse, who was clearly straining in the final 50 meters, was only about a quarter of a second behind.
"I know how good he is; everyone knows," Nuguse said of Ingebrigtsen. "I think I just had a season that I'm really proud of and I really wanted to end it on a really strong note. I just came in, I was like, I know I'm as good as him, I know I can do it, I know I just have to stick with it." He continued: "Didn't quite get him there, but it was still an amazing race."
Webb, who watched today's race on television, sent Nuguse a congratulatory note via Instagram. "Huge congratulations to @yaredthegoose on breaking the American Record in the Mile!" Webb posted. 3:43.97!! Almost won and got WR. The LORD has blessed him and rewarded him for his humility."
Down the finish order another nine men broke 3:50, including third place George Mills of Great Britain (3:47.65), fourth place Mario Garcia Romo of Spain (3:47.69 NR), and fifth place Reynold Kipkorir Cheruiyot of Kenya (3:48.05 U20WR). Garcia Romo is one of Nuguse's training partners. American Cole Hocker got sixth in a personal best 3:48.08, making him the fourth-fastest American of all-time.
While Nuguse's season is over, Ingebrigtsen is scheduled to run the 3000m tomorrow before getting married to fiancée Elisabeth Asserson in Norway next Saturday.
"Obviously I was here to run the mile," said Ingebrigtsen. "I'm jumping in the 3-K because I got the opportunity (he received a special wild card entry). But now it's all about getting back home to the hotel, eat, sleep, try to prepare as good as I can and we'll see tomorrow."
Had it not been for such a spectacular mile, the women's 1500m would have been the race of the day. Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, the reigning world 1500m and 5000m champion, dominated the race, winning by three seconds in 3:50.72, a new meeting record and the #5 time in history. Ethiopia's Diribe Welteji got second in a personal best 3:53.93, and Britain's Laura Muir third in 3:55.16.
"I didn't watch the clock," Kipyegon said in her mixed zone interview. "I was just running my race and see what will happen at the finish line. So it was amazing, to run a meeting record, just fantastic."
In today's other two distance events, the 3000m steeplechases for both men and women, there were no surprises. In the absence of reigning world and Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco, Kenya's Simon Kiprop Koech won easily in 8:06.26. Second went to Ethiopia's Samuel Firewu (8:10.74) and third to New Zealand's Geordie Beamish (8:14.01).
On the women's side, reigning world champion Winfred Mutile Yavi of Bahrain won a last-lap shootout against Kenya's Beatrice Chepkoech, 8:50.66 to 8:51.67. Her time was a world leader, meeting record, Asian record, and the #2 time in history. Since Kenya's Faith Cherotich got third in 8:59.65, that duplicated the podium places from the recent World Athletics Championships in Budapest.
"Today I didn't expect I did the second fastest time (in history)," Yavi said after the race. "I'm so happy, I'm excited at the same time."
The Wanda Diamond League Final continues tomorrow with four more distance events: the men's and women's 800m, the men's 3000m and the women's 5000m. Like today, each event champion will earn USD 30,000.