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Rupp and Symmonds Shine at the Prefontaine Classic
By Steve Ritchie - Special to the Statesman Journal
June 2, 2012

Galen Rupp

EUGENE - Galen Rupp and Nick Symmonds had outstanding races, and seven world-leading marks were recorded on Saturday at the Prefontaine Classic. Many of the top track and field athletes in the world competed at the meet, which is part of the IAAF Samsung Diamond League series.

One of the world leading times was in the 5000 meters as Rupp's training partner and favorite for Olympic gold Mo Farah of Great Britain won in a time of 12:56.98. Isaiah Koech of Kenya was in second, with former UO star Rupp close behind in an eight-second personal best time of 12:58.90. Rupp finished more than a second ahead of fourth-place Kenenisa Bekele, the world record holder at the distance.

Nick Symmonds talking to his coach Mark Rowland

Rupp became just the seventh American ever to run under 13 minutes in the 5000, and was the first to do so on American soil. After the race Rupp said he was happy with the time but his focus was competing well against the world's best.

"We came in with a goal just to compete and weren't worried about time at all. We knew it would be a quick pace and the time would take care of itself."

Under the tutelage of long-time coach Alberto Salazar, Rupp has been working on his speed at the end of races, and his race here indicated that he is making progress. His last two laps were run in 1:58, just two seconds slower than Farah.

Like Rupp, former Willamette standout Symmonds placed third. Going up against a loaded field in the 800 meters, Symmonds started the race faster than he usually does and was positioned in the middle of the pack going into the final lap.

He passed several runners on the backstretch and the final 100, but couldn't catch the leaders, Abubaker Kaki of Sudan and Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia, generally regarded as two of the top three 800 runners in the world. Kaki won in 1:43.71, with Aman just .03 seconds back. Symmonds was pleased with his third-place finish and his season-best time of 1:44.32.

"I wanted to come in (to the race) with the mentality that this is the Olympic Trials final," Symmonds said. "If I approach this like it's the Olympic Trials, position myself to be top three and bring it home, I think it's a pretty good confidence booster for going into the Trials in three weeks. . . It's going to take a performance just like that to make the Olympic team."

Justin Gatlin

Sprint queen Allyson Felix got an easy win in the women's 200 in 22.23, as the expected duel with her American rival Carmelita Jeter never materialized. Jeter placed fifth in 22.78, behind Jeneba Tarmoh and Bianca Knight of the U.S. and Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria.

2004 Olympic gold medalist Justin Gatlin continued his impressive comeback from a drug suspension, as he won the 100 meters in 9.90 over Nickel Ashmeade of Jamaica. Race favorite Walter Dix was fourth in 10.04. Former McKay High sprint star Ryan Bailey, who is currently training with Coach John Smith's group in Southern California, was scheduled to run the 100 meters, but he withdrew from the race on Friday for reasons that were not announced.

"I'm just worried about getting "W's" now," Gatlin said, as the upcoming Olympic Trials approach later this month in Eugene. "It doesn't matter if it is a 9.7 or 10.7. Everything is on track and I just need to stay healthy and go out and dominate the race."

2011 world champion Liu Xiang of China was the class of the 110 hurdles, winning in a wind-aided time of 12.87, which would have tied the world record if the wind had been legal. American Aries Merritt also dipped under 13 seconds in the race, stamping himself as a favorite to win the Olympic Trials.

Ashton Eaton

Decathlete and former UO star Ashton Eaton also competed in the 110 hurdles, and held his own against the world-class field. Eaton was seventh in 13.34, a time that would qualify as an all-time best had it been run in a decathlon competition.

The Bowerman Mile, the final event of the meet, was won by 2008 Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya in 3:49.40. It was a world leader and also the fourth time Kiprop has run under 3:50 at the Pre Classic. All 16 runners who finished the race ran under four minutes.

Local favorite Andrew Wheating and former world champion Bernard Lagat were in the race, but finished 16th and 14th, respectively. David Torrence was the top American in the mile, placing ninth in a personal best of 3:52.01, nearly five seconds ahead of Wheating, who said he was very discouraged by his performance."Rock bottom is a very sour taste," Wheating admitted. "I've never felt that before. When we got to the last lap, I knew I couldn't maintain that pace. I lost my strength on the second lap and that's not good."

Sally Kipyego

Sanya Richards-Ross extended her winning streak in 2012 by capturing the 400 in a world-leading 49.39 over 2011 world champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana.

The men's 400 meters lost a little of its luster when world champion Kirani James of Grenada was disqualified for a false start. James appealed the disqualification and was allowed to run the race under protest. Lashawn Merritt of the United States got the win in 44.91, and James' appeal was eventually disallowed.

Other outstanding marks at the meet were by world champion Anna Chicherova of Russia, who cleared 6-7 ½ in the high jump, and American Reese Hoffa, who put the shot 71-6 3/4 .

Oregon Track Club Elite athletes were led by Sally Kipyego, a native of Kenya, who was second in the 3000 with a personal best of 8:35.89. OTC's Cyrus Hostetler, a former Newberg High athlete, who placed fourth in the javelin in 265-10. The event was won by Vadims Vasilevskis of Latvia in a meet record 277-8.

 

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