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Galen Rupp Fit and Ready to Race World-Class 5K Field at Pre Classic
By Steve Ritchie - Special to the Statesman Journal
May 31, 2013

Steve Prefontaine

Eugene - The Prefontaine Classic got off to a rousing start Friday evening at historic Hayward Field, with a handful of distance races and field events featuring a host of Olympic champions and world-class athletes competing.

The Prefontaine Classic, now in its 39th incarnation, is a stop on the IAAF Diamond League circuit and annually brings the world's top track and field athletes to Eugene. Eight events were contested Friday, with 17 more on tap for Saturday.

Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, a three-time Olympic champion and 10,000 meter world record holder, broke away from a tight pack in the homestretch to win the 10,000 in a world-leading time of 27:12.08. Countryman Imane Merga was just .25 seconds behind at the tape.

The International Mile featured former UO standout Andrew Wheating, but Wheating never seemed to find a comfortable rhythm in the race, finishing fifth in 3:57.02. James Kiplagat Magut of Kenya won in 3:55.24. High schooler Bernie Montoya just missed his try at breaking four minutes, as he took eighth in 4:01.71.

Now healthy after struggling through injuries the past two years, Wheating said that a lack of confidence is holding him back.

"I ran scared," Wheating said. "I'm finally healthy and success is knocking at the door, and I'm too afraid to answer it because I don't want to get hurt again. . . had I made my move when I should have and not been afraid I could have won that race."

Also on Friday evening, Aleksandr Menkov of Russia took the world lead in the long jump, winning the event on his fifth attempt at 27-6 ½. Christina Obergfell of Germany set a meet record of 222-1 in the javelin, and Valerie Adams of New Zealand continued her winning ways in the shot at 66-1 ½.

Galen Rupp

Earlier in the day, former UO star Galen Rupp said he was healthy and his fitness level was "better" than it was last year, when he won a silver medal in the 10,000 meters at the Olympic Games in London.

"My (training) mileage is up there, as high it has ever been," Rupp said."And my speed work has been going really well so I think I'm in great shape for the summer."

As might be expected at the Pre Classic, Rupp faces a very strong field in Saturday's 5000 meters, including Bernard Lagat, Isiah Kiplangat, and training partner and Olympic double gold medalist Mo Farah.

Rupp said he didn't have any specific goals or times in mind for the Saturday race.

"Really just competing is the main emphasis here," Rupp said. "You don't get too many opportunities to run against a great field with Olympic medalists and guys who have finished high in the World Championships . . . For me it's great practice to run against these guys and try to get ready for races later in the summer like the World Championships."

Rupp, who has been coached by distance guru Alberto Salazar since he was a high school student at Central Catholic, said staying healthy was a key to his success.

"Staying healthy has always been a huge thing that my coaches have stressed. I've been fortunate enough to stay healthy throughout my career. This past year is no different. The aim is to continue to build on the past, and, if you do things right, hopefully, you get better and better every year."

Other headliners at the Saturday portion of the meet include a number of London gold medalists: Sanya Richards-Ross in the 400 meters, Renaud Lavillenie of France in the pole vault, Kirani James of Grenada in the 400, Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia in the 5000, Ivan Ukhov of Russia in the high jump, and Germany's Robert Harting in the discus.

Nick Symmonds talking to his coach Mark Rowland

The meet lost a little of its luster, however, with late withdrawals due to injuries by world record holders Aries Merritt and David Rudisha, as well as U.S. sprint star Carmelita Jeter.

Besides Rupp, local standouts scheduled to compete include former McKay High star Ryan Bailey in the 100, former Willamette star Nick Symmonds in the 800, UO alum Matthew Centrowitz in the 1500, and OTC Elite's Jesse Williams in the high jump.

Also entered is New York high school junior Mary Cain, who has been decimating U.S. prep and junior records since the first of the year. Cain will be running the 800 and taking aim at the 31 year-old high school and American junior record of Kim Gallagher, who ran 2:00.77.

Cain will be facing a top-notch field that includes two Olympic champions, Mariya Savinova and Pamela Jelimo, as well as top American Alysia Montano.


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