Prefontaine Classic Preview

Kara Goucher will run the women's 2000 meters.

Kara Goucher will run the women's 2000 meters.

An astounding 34 33 Olympic medalists are spread throughout the program.

With all the star power convening on Track Town USA, including 34 Olympic medalists (oops, make that 33, as American sprint ace Tyson Gay has unsurprisingly scratched from the men’s 200), Sunday’s Pre Classic in Eugene, Ore., promises to be must-see TV for track fans.  Although we will be watching some odd races, such as a men’s 300 meters and a women’s 2000 meters (interesting), the promoters undoubtedly have the viewers in mind.  In a traditional 1500 the world champion Maryam Jamal of Bahrain would likely beat Kara Goucher handily, but an additional 500 meters may be just enough for Goucher’s marathon endurance to make the difference.

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Here’s a quick look at the top five potential match-ups as we see them:

1.  Women’s 2000 meters – As mentioned above, this race will pit local favorite Kara Goucher against world 1500 meter champion Maryam Jamal.  Also thrown in the mix are Kenyan 5000 meter specialists Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai, along with another American, Jen Rhines.  Jamal will try and hold for a fast finish, but Goucher will try and push the pace early.

Our predition:  1.  Jamal, 2.  Masai, 3. Goucher.

2.  Men’s 3000 meters – This field is stacked like crates of boxed macaroni and cheese at a Costco. Topping the field of entrants are American Bernard Lagat (reigning 1,500 and 5000 meter world champion), Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (3000 meter American soil record holder), Ethiopian Sileshi Sihine (Olympic 10,000 meter silver medalist) and former Kenyan, now Qatari, Saif Shaheen (steeplechase world record holder).  Also looking to set a solid mark will be Americans Matt Tegenkamp (4th at the 2007 world championships for 5000 meters) and Alistair Craig of Ireland, coming off a strong 13:16 5000 meter effort at the adidas Track Classic.

Our prediction:  1.  Kipchoge, 2.  Lagat, 3.  Shaheen

3.  Men’s 400 meter hurdles – This is one event where the top athletes certainly do not duck from each other and use a paper cut as an excuse not to race.  The Americans that swept the medal stand in Beijing are entered, Angelo Taylor, Kerron Clement and Bershawn Jackson.  Who else but a Jamaican will look to break the American stride, as world leader Isa Phillips could be considered a favorite, although he only edges out Clement on the world list by .02.

Our prediction:  1.  Jackson, 2. Clement, 3. Phillips

4.  Women’s 1500 meters – World leader Gelete Burka (3:58.79) is the only woman to break four minutes in 2009.  Looking to challenge Burka will be a group of Americans including 2008 American champion Shannon Rowbury, American 5000 and 10000 meter record holder Shalane Flanagan, Olympian Christin Wurth-Thomas and Anna Willard coming off a world leading mark in the 800 last weekend.  Russian Anna Alminova ranks number two on the world list, and, oh yea, did we mention Olympic champion Nancy Lagat has joined the mix?  This should be fast from the gun!

Our prediction:  1.  Burka, 2. Lagat, 3. Willard

5.  Women’s 800 meters – Coming off her first loss EVER, Pamela Jelimo of Kenya, the Olympic champion, will look to return to form in Eugene.  Jelimo will need to bounce back well from her loss in Rabat last weekend as two of the top three performers in 2009 are entered in the forms of Tatyana Adrianova of Russia and Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica.  Also entered is Olympic silver medalist Janeth Jepkosgei, currently ranked number 2 in the world.  If her form only slightly improves from last week, Jelimo will certainly have her hands full.  We could have three or four women turning in to that last 100 meters, look for a fast first 400 and some gnarly grimises over the final meters.

Our prediction:  1.  Jelimo, 2. Jepkosgei, 3.  Adrianova

Watch the meet Sunday from 2-4pm Eastern on NBC.

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