Meet director Tom Jordan has really gone above the calling with the absolutely loaded distance races he has put together for the Friday night portion of the Prefontaine Classic being labeled as “Distance Night In Eugene.” The most updated entries can be found here. Below are my thoughts on the two headline races of the evening.
The women’s 5000 meters features three of the world’s premier distance runners. Double Olympic gold medalist Tirunesh Dibaba has yet to race in 2011 but is the defending Pre Classic 5k champ. World cross country champion Vivian Cheruiyot has looked good this year with a win at the Shanghai Diamond League meet in 14:31.92. Cheruiyot’s countywoman and training partner Linet Masai, the 2009 World champion over 10k, is also entered.
Dibada will seek to improve upon her meet record time of 14:34.07 set in 2010 and perhaps challenge the U.S. all-comers mark of 14:24.53 run by Meseret Defar in New York in 2006.
The likely fast pace will facilitate an attempt of the American record by Shalane Flanagan. Flanagan previously held the mark before it was bested by Molly Huddle’s time of 14:44.76 set last summer.
Predictions: 1. Dibaba, 14:29; 2. Cheruiyot; 3. Masai; Flanagan misses AR, 14:47
The men’s 10,000 meter features many of the greatest East Africans taking on America’s top distance talents. Ethiopian Imane Merga has been on a roll, winning the World Cross Country Championships in March and taking the Rome Golden Gala in a world-leading 12:54.21. Zersenay Tadesse has proved himself to be one of the world’s best with four World Half-marathon titles and silver medalist at the 2009 World Championship 10k. Moses Masai, the bronze medalist in that 2009 Berlin race, and “Mr. Silver” Sileshi Sihine are also entered.
The American all-comers record is 26:25.97 set by Kenenisa Bekele at Hayward Field in 2008. The mark could be in danger, especially if rabbits hit the target 5k pace of 13:18.
Late entries Chris Solinsky and Galen Rupp make the race even more intriguing as they will renew their 10k battle last contested at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational last year. Like for Flanagan in the women’s 5k, the fast nature of the race will likely set up the two men to challenge Solinsky’s American record of 26:59.60.
Predictions: 1. Merga, 26:31; 2. Tadesse; 3. Masai; Solinsky new AR, 26:48, Rupp 2nd American under 27 minutes, 26:58
Watch the men’s 10,000 meters tomorrow starting at 8:40 PM Pacific Time at niketf.com.