Will the Prefontaine Classic track meet, scheduled for June 1 at Hayward Field in Eugene, OR, feature the year’s most thrilling men’s 5000 meters? Organizers say so, Runner’s World reports, as the event marks a rematch of sorts for Bernard Lagat and Galen Rupp, American stars who duked it out last June—in Eugene, no less—in a memorable 5000-meter Olympic Trials race.
Thanks to a big kick on the final homestretch, Rupp beat Lagat for the first time in his career to win in a Trials-record time. Both went on to make the 5000-meter final at the 2012 London Olympics, where Lagat turned the tables, finishing fourth to Rupp’s seventh. (Earlier in those Olympics, Rupp fared even better in the 10,000 meters—his signature event—when he earned America’s first medal for a man at that distance since 1964.)
In addition to Rupp and Lagat, the Pre Classic men’s 5000-meter field includes four men who’ve posted sub-12:50 times. The fastest of the bunch, Kenya’s Isaiah Koech, boasts a personal best of 12:48:64. He’ll face a strong challenge from countrymen Thomas Longosiwa and Edwin Soi—bronze medalists at the London and 2008 Beijing Olympics, respectively—and John Kipkoech, who ran a personal-best 12:49:50 last June in Paris. Kipkoech is ranked fifth in the world in the event, according to the IAAF Diamond League website.
Also on the starting line will be Chris Derrick, this year’s U.S. cross country champion, and Canadian Cam Levins, who last year won NCAA titles in both the 5000 and 10,000 meters and ran in both finals in London. Mo Farah, who last year broke the Pre Classic 5000-meter record with a time of 12:56:98 and went on to an historic double victory in London at 5000 and 10,000 meters, may also join the fray, though he may opt for the 10,000 meters instead.
The 5000 meters has special significance at the meet, whose namesake, Steve Prefontaine, nearly medaled in the event at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The then–21-year-old placed fourth, and he was one year away from trying for the podium in the 1976 Montreal Games when he died in a car crash in Eugene. It was Prefontaine’s 40-year-old Olympic Trials record that Rupp finally beat last year.
Best 5000 of the year? Time—or rather times—will tell, but this one certainly has all the makings of a classic.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg