William Jay Bowerman
was many things. He was a renowned coach. He was an innovator. He was the tyrant of his wife’s waffle iron. In a booming era of coaches wearing hats, his tyrolean
cap stood alone.
For these, and some other achievements, his legacy includes, but isn’t limited to, a trophy
, Donald Sutherland, and lastly, a mile at the Nike Prefontaine Classic.
The Bowerman Mile, for us non-metric folk, is the best thing to stem from the imperial measurement system since NASA lost a Mars orbiter
in 1999 because one engineering team used the metric system and the other didn’t. The next year, the Prefontaine Classic named the classic mile distance for the grand ol’ man and all was forgiven.
In what’ll be the finale for this weekend’s event, an incredible field of 13 world-class milers will close the curtain on the 40th edition of the Prefontaine Classic. And when we say world-class, we mean it in every sense of the word.
Below, we’ll preview the 13 entrants in order that we think they’ll finish.
#1 - Asbel Kiprop
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:48.59
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:27.72
Season Best: 3:29.18 (Doha DL, 1st place)
In short, let's just say that Kiprop is superb at the mile. Since 2008, he’s been ranked no lower than number two in the world and has maintained the number one spot on three occasions. But at Hayward Field, where legends never die, Kiprop has been king of the Bowerman Mile.
The reigning world champion and number one metric miler in the world has won the event three out of the four times he's run it. He’s gone sub-3:50 in all four races as well.
After the Doha Diamond League, where he bested the best of the best and ran the fastest
1,500-meter ever before July, we expect more of the same.
Also, for what it’s worth, the fastest mile ever run in May was 3:49.92 by Hicham El Guerrouj at none other than the Prefontaine Classic.
#2 - Ayanleh Souleiman
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:50.07
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:30.16
Season Best: 3:30.16 (Doha DL, 3rd place)
Souleiman, the aggressor, tried to hold off Kiprop over the final 200-meters
in Doha. Although his efforts left him for broke in the final meters (he finished 4th), he still walked away with a new personal best and Djibouti national record.
Since his emergence on the world scene in 2011, I’ve always rated the 21-year-old sky high. If he can lurk behind Kiprop, rather than try and take the race to him, he could easily end up in second, if not the victor.
#3 - Silas Kiplagat
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:49.39
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:29.27
Season Best: 3:29.70 (Doha DL, 2nd place)
The defending Bowerman Mile champion is the only one to defeat Kiprop at this venue. In Doha, Kiplagat stayed on Kiprop’s heels and unleashed an impressive kick to pass nearly the entire field, sans Kiprop.
It’s hard to judge Kiprop’s teammate on Kenya’s 4 x 1,500-meter world record relay squad. I remember last year when he said he was in “top form like never before
” and then, three days later, went on to finish sixth in the Shanghai DL in 3:33.67.
#4 - Taoufik Makhloufi
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:52.94
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:30.40
Season Best: 3:30.40 (Doha DL, 4th place)
If you’re going to celebrate and eat it, at least finish the race first, like this dude:
Much like his finish in Doha, Makhloufi will be in the hunt for a top-4 finish. He's coming off a big personal best from Doha (he's only run 3:30 twice) and his fourth fastest 800-meter (1:44.73) performance of all-time from Shanghai DL.
#5 - James Kiplagat Magut
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:50.68
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:30.61
Season Best: 3:30.61 (Doha DL, 5th place)
In one fell swoop, Magut skipped over the 3:33, 3:32, and 3:31 range and dropped his 1,500-meter personal best from 3:33.31 to 3:30.61 in Doha.
Between then and now, Magut has gone back to Kenya to run a 1,500-meter in Nairobi (3:40.4A) and was a part of that world relay team featuring the two Kenyans list above (he split 3:38.8).
If Magut can keep riding this wave, he’ll be in the mix.
#6 - Aman Wote
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:49.88
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:30.86
Season Best: 3:30.86 (Doha DL, 6th place)
I’ve said it before, but Wote, who finished sixth in Doha in 3:30.86, broke Mulugeta Wendimu's 3:31.13 Ethiopian National Record from 2004.
The Ethiopian 1,500-meter national record holder finished sixth. Sixth. Absolutely astounding.
Even though he was outclassed on his historic day, one thing Wote can take away from this season is that he
has giant balls is fearless. At the Drake Relays Mile, no one else went with the Ethiopian, who ended up winning by over 7-seconds.
I really like Wote, but like Kiplagat, he’s sometimes hard to read. Last year, he finished 3rd at the Bowerman Mile, but struggled at the World Championships, where he finished 7th in his quarterfinal and 8th in his semifinal.
But late season fitness aside, we slated the talented Wote for another sixth place finish.
#7 - Bethwell Birgen
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:50.42
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:30.77
Season Best: 3:31.22
Birgen, whose first name is spelled with either one L or two on any occasion, has gone from pacing Galen Rupp’s indoor American attempts to near personal bests in the 1,500-meters.
He’s been brilliant over the last three outdoor seasons, running 3:31.00 and 3:30.77 in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Despite the fact he was not picked for Kenya’s World Relay team, His 7th place finish in Doha (3:31.22) has not gone unnoticed.
#8 - Matt Centrowitz
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:51.79
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:31.96
Season Best: 3:35.44
An unconfirmed A confirmed late addition, Centrowitz finds himself back home at Hayward Field for yet another fast mile.
Even after a viral infection this winter, Centro maintained his newly built strength (read: a big 5K personal best at Payton Jordan) while keeping his lethal, silky smooth finishing form (read: Oxy HP 1,500-meter win).
Despite all this, plus his tenacity in major 1,500-meter finals, I don’t think he has what it takes right now to crack this top five. Even last year, despite a big indoor campaign, Centro finished 10th in the Bowerman Mile in 3:51.79.
That’s not to say that 10th last year or a projected 8th place this year should be viewed as a disappointment. I just think that right now, he’s lacking that certain je nais se quoi
he displayed at the 2012 Lausanne DL 1,500-meters
, where he ran his PR of 3:31.96 and contended for the win.
That performance came in August, this is May, and it’ll be a long summer for a single
man in Europe.
#9 - Johan Cronje
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:54.84
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:31.93
Season Best: 3:33.31
The surprise 2013 World Outdoor 1,500-meter bronze medalist looked solid in Doha, placing 10th in 3:33.31.
At 32-years-old, Cronje is certainly finding his stride at the 1,500-meters as he set personal bests last year at 800m-meters (1:45.64) and 1,500-meters (3:31.93). That’s not to mention an indoor 1,500-meter personal best of 3:37.49 set this February.
He finished 10th nearly a month ago at his last Diamond League Meeting, so we’ll give him a bump up one place to finish 9th this Saturday.
#10 - Will Leer
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:56.39
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:35.27
Season Best: 3:41.31
The lone American has more hair on his face than the rest of the field has on their head. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to everything else.
After a busy indoor season which saw the man with the brilliant beard win the Millrose Mile (3:52.47), finish second at USAs (3:43.21A), and take 6th at World Indoors (3:39.60), Leer has been slowly building back up for outdoors.
A 3:41.31 mile win in Jamaica that birthed this incredible tweet
from Nick Willis
and a 3:39.3 third leg on Team USA’s 4 x 1,500-meter relay are both strong performances, but aren't enough to hang with the field at the Prefontaine Classic.
Don't get me wrong, I would like nothing more to see Leer take the win and bring back out the double guns
, but I think he’ll be hanging off the back of the historic fast pace at the Bowerman Mile.
For a little perspective, some may say that we shouldn’t discount him after his impressive Millrose Mile win. But then again, if you take a look at his en route split of 3:37.89, it just doesn’t match up to the rest of the field.
#10 - Collins Cheboi
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:51.44
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:31.53
Season Best: 3:32.30
I’ve been waiting to make a Collins “It’s Che-Boi” Cheboi joke for almost a year, but I won’t because I’m above that kind of humor.
A 3:36.74 1,500-meter run at altitude in April and a 9th place finish in Doha (3:32.30) in May was enough for Cheboi to be added to Kenya’s 4 x 1,500-meter. Serving as Kenya’s leadoff, Cheboi ran a strong 3:38.6, but was second to Team USA’s Patrick Casey.
Even though he’s a 3:31 guy when he’s on his game, “losing” to Casey on the first leg bumps him below Centrowitz, who beat Casey at the Oxy HP 1,500-meters.
Transitive property and whatnot.
Note: Looking back on this now, this seems like a low place for Cheboi, who's currently ranked 9th in the world in the 1,500-meters. But around this time last year, he ran two miles in 3:51.44 and 3:52.70, which is something that a guy like Leer is easily capable of doing.
#12 - Mekonnen Gebremedhin
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:49.70
1,500-meter Personal Best 3:31.45
Season Best: N/A
A decent indoor campaign followed up by a DNF in Doha and a 3:39.9 opening split for Ethiopia’s 4 x 1,500-meter relay doesn’t sell me on Gebremedhin.
Here’s the thing, though. In the past three years, Gebremedhin has been in excellent form this time of year.
In 2011, he ran a season best of 3:31.90 on May 29; in 2012, he ran his personal best of 3:31.45 on May 27; and in 2013, ran his season’s best of 3:32.43 on May 18.
Though he’s prone to running fast early spring, he’s yet to show that his trend will continue.
#13 - Henrik Ingebrigtsen
Outdoor Mile Personal Best: 3:54.28
1,500-meter Personal Best: 3:33.95
Season Best: 3:38.53
The speedsuited Norwegian has had a quiet 2014. He ran two almost back-to-back 800-meters in Norway, setting a personal best of 1:48.09 in the second of the two. Prior to that, he flew over to Stanford, CA for the Payton Jordan Invitational, where he finished runner-up in the 1,500-meters in 3:38.53.
I'm not really sure where he fits in this field (maybe it's to fill the European quota?), so I unfortunately put him in last. Sorry, Henrik.
The Bowerman Mile is set to go off this Saturday at 2:49 Pacific Time. If you’re not planning on watching it live, you’re a fool. The truth lives.
Mitch Kastoff is the Senior Site Editor at Flotrack. Contrary to popular belief, he did not invent the high five. If you enjoyed these ramblings or have any comments, questions, or concerns, feel free to reach him on Twitter or by email.