Talented Group of Americans face stacked International Field
By Lincoln Shryack
The 5k at Payton Jordan earlier this month provided a glimpse of what may be to come at this week's Prefontaine Classic. The race at Stanford saw Ben True
and Hassan Mead
run 13:02.74 and 13:02.80, respectively, which are currently the two fastest times in the world this season. It is rare for an American to run so fast on U.S. soil this early in the season (unless you're Galen Rupp
), and undoubtedly True and Mead are both fit. The 5000m this Saturday in Eugene will be an even greater test of fitness for both men, as the world's best compete in front of the Hayward Field crowd.
Joining them will be fellow Americans Bernard Lagat, Chris Derrick and Ryan Hill, along with a strong contingent of East Africans that includes Hagos Gebrhiwet (12:47.53 PB) and Yenew Alamirew of Ethiopia as well as Isiah Koech (12:48.64 PB) and Caleb Ndiku (indoor 3k champ) of Kenya. Alamirew comes in after winning the 5k at the Shanghai Diamond League on May 18th. The Ethiopian beat a stacked field that included fellow countrymen Gebrhiwet as well as defending Pre champion Edwn Soi. Last year, Soi broke away from the stacked field over the last 200-meters, beating the seemingly untouchable Mo Farah who was running through sickness. Farah will not run this year as he recovers from his marathon debut in April.
True comes into 2014 looking to solidify his name among the best in the world after missing out on Moscow last year, and in a year without Olympic Games or World Championships, he figures to have plenty of opportunities to prove his ability. True has never shied away from a fast pace, and the closing speed he showed at Stanford in running down Mead over the final meters will surely give him confidence against even better competition this weekend.
Mead's race at Stanford was somewhat of a breakthrough for the former Minnesota All-American, as he nearly fought off True all the way to the finish en route to a nine-second personal best. While True broke through on the international stage at World XC, Mead has been largely overshadowed by both the Salazar and Schumacher groups that also train in Oregon. Payton Jordan was a huge step in the right direction for Mead, and his performance this weekend will show if he is ready to compete with an even better field.
Chris Derrick comes into Pre with something to prove to himself after he left Payton Jordan disappointed in his 13:08. Derrick just missed a PR at Stanford, but said he did not feel as comfortable as he had hoped given how well his training had been going. Last year, Derrick entered the Pre Classic relatively new to international competition and nearly ran down Galen Rupp over the final meters in running 13:09.04. Another year under the guidance of Jerry Schumacher, as well as more experience against the world's best should give Derrick the perfect opportunity to rebound and prove his fitness. A sub-13 performance is not out of reach for Derrick at Pre.
39-year-old Bernard Lagat will make his 2014 outdoor debut at Prefontaine. Lagat is coming off a 2nd place finish in the 3000m at World Indoors, and he continues to show outstanding closing speed year after year. Lagat has won five times at the Pre Classic, but never in the 5000m. His international resume speaks for itself, and the American record holder cannot be overlooked by the field.