Genzebe Dibaba will return to the Prefontaine Classic and attempt to add the 5000-meter world record to one of the greatest collections of track achievements ever seen.
Fittingly, the 2015 Track & Field News Woman Of The Year will be running in Friday’s portion of the meet, a session this year dedicated to women athletes, and named Joan Benoit Samuelson Night in honor of the American who won the first Olympic gold medal in the women’s marathon in 1984.
Six other elite international and national women’s events will be held and – thanks to title sponsor NIKE – admission on Friday is once again free.
Genzebe Dibaba is a fearless runner. The 26-year-old Ethiopian often leaves pacesetters outdistanced, as she did two years ago on a perfectly warm afternoon in the Pre Classic 5k, running by herself to set the meet record of 14:19.76, more than 10 seconds faster than her nearest pursuer and the fastest ever recorded in the U.S. It was just one of many triumphs in her racing career that includes setting the world 1500-meter record that summer at 3:50.07, breaking a mark that had stood for 35 years.
After a sterling indoor campaign last year saw her set a World Record in the mile and win the 3000 at the World Indoor Championships in Portland, Dibaba aimed at making a challenge to the 5k mark in last year’s Pre Classic, but a foot injury on the eve of her would-be debut in the 10k at Dubai in late April kept her away from racing for more than two months. She was able to compete in Rio, earning silver for her only Olympic medal.
This year has seen a return to her record-setting form, adding the fastest 2000 ever in February. She now has history’s fastest time indoors in six events from the 1500 to the 5k, some faster than the outdoor best.
Genzebe is not the only Dibaba family member to be T&FN Woman of the Year or to appear at the Pre Classic. Her older sister, Tirunesh, earned the same title in 2008, the year she set the still-standing family record of 14:11.15. And by the way, that’s also still the World Record. Tirunesh also has a magical history at the Pre Classic, never losing in three races – twice in the 5k and once in the 10k, in 2012. Neither Dibaba sister has ever lost at the Prefontaine Classic.
Lining up against Dibaba will be a half-dozen other women in last year’s T&FN world rankings, giving thought that this year’s race could also challenge last year’s depth, which saw 11 run under 15 minutes, easily the most on U.S. soil.
Mercy Cherono, 26, of Kenya was ranked No. 4 in the world last year, matching her Olympic 5k finish. She was silver medalist in the 2013 World Championships in Moscow and is a previous Pre Classic winner, taking the 2-mile in 2014.
Senberi Teferi, 22, of Ethiopia was next in the Rio 5k at 5th. In 2015 she was silver medalist in the World Championships 5k (ahead of Genzebe Dibaba) and at the World Cross Country Championships. This will be her first race in the U.S.
Ethiopia’s Etenesh Diro Neda, who turns 26 today (May 10), is the next-highest ranked in the field at No. 7 by T&FN, though in Rio she ran the steeple for the second straight Olympics. She was 5th in the 2012 London Olympics and 2013 World Championships in that event and has a best of 9:14.07.
Ethiopian Gelete Burka, 31, is no stranger to the Pre Classic. The first woman to run sub-4 at the Pre Classic, Burka’s four victories in the 1500 are second to only Suzy Favor Hamilton’s five in meet history. She owns gold medals in the World Indoor Championships (2008 1500) and World Cross Country Championships (2006). Last year she was 8th in the Rio 10k and was silver medalist in the 2015 Beijing World Championships.
Molly Huddle, 32, is the top American in the field. Winner of both the 5k and 10k at last summer’s U.S. Olympic Trials, she chose to only contest the 10k at Rio, running an American record of 30:13.17 for 6th. She was then the first woman to hold ARs at both distances since Shalane Flanagan in 2008. Huddle would lose the 5k AR to Shannon Rowbury some three weeks later. (Rowbury will be running in the 1500 at Pre.)
Other Americans in the field are Kim Conley, Marielle Hall, and Emily Sisson. Conley, 31, made her second Olympic team last year in the 5k and is a former 10k U.S. champ. Hall, 25, was the 2014 NCAA champ while at Texas and made last year’s Olympic team in the 10k. The 25-year-old Sisson may the hottest of the group this year, PRing in the 5k at the Millrose Games in February before a half-marathon 68:21 debut in New York in March (2 seconds behind Huddle). She swept the NCAA indoor and outdoor titles in 2015 for Providence and last weekend was 4th in Stanford’s Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10k at 31:32.53.
Ethiopia’s Belaynesh Oljira, 26, was bronze medalist twice in 2013, first at the World Cross Country Championships, then at the Moscow World Championships. Oljira, who was 5th in the London Olympic 10k, has run in the last four Pre Classics, PRing three times.
Of the remaining entrants, only Eilish McColgan has previous Pre Classic experience. She ran the steeple in 2014, the last year she competed in the event. The 26-year-old two-time Olympian from Great Britain is the daughter of Liz McColgan, silver medalist in the 1988 Olympics in the 10k.
Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, 24, of Kenya was silver medalist in last year’s African Championships 5k.
Two 20-year-olds could make a big splash. Dere Dida of Ethiopia was silver medalist in the 2015 World Junior Cross Country Championships and in January was runner-up in the Houston Half-Marathon. Kenya’s Lilian Kasait Rengeruk was bronze medalist in the World Cross Country Championships in March. The World Youth gold medalist at 3k in 2013 was silver medalist at the 2014 World Junior Championships at Hayward Field. Rengeruk’s best in the 5k is 15:30.0, set last month in the high altitude of Mumias in southwestern Kenya. Altitude won’t be a problem at Hayward Field, which is at 139 meters (456 feet).
|Women’s 5000 Meters||Personal Best|
|Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia)||14:15.41|
|Senberi Teferi (Ethiopia)||14:29.82|
|Gelete Burka (Ethiopia)||14:31.20|
|Etenesh Diro Neda (Ethiopia)||14:33.30|
|Mercy Cherono (Kenya)||14:33.95|
|Belaynesh Oljira (Ethiopia)||14:42.57|
|Molly Huddle (USA)||14:42.64|
|Dera Dida (Ethiopia)||14:42.84|
|Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi (Kenya)||14:47.24|
|Emily Sisson (USA)||15:02.10|
|Eilish McColgan (Great Britain)||15:05.00|
|Marielle Hall (USA)||15:06.05|
|Kim Conley (USA)||15:08.61|
|Lilian Kasait Rengeruk (Kenya)||15:30.0|
Tickets for the 43rd annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held May 26-27 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., are available now at www.GoDucks.com as well as from 1-800-WEBFOOT. Sponsored by NIKE continuously since 1984, the Prefontaine Classic will be shown live to an international audience by NBC.
The Prefontaine Classic is the longest-running outdoor invitational track & field meet in America and is part of the elite IAAF Diamond League of meets held worldwide annually. The Pre Classic’s results score has rated No. 1 or No. 2 in the world in each of the last six years by All-Athletics.com, the official data partner of the Diamond League.
Steve Prefontaine is a legend in the sport of track & field and is the most inspirational distance runner in American history. He set a national high school 2-mile record (8:41.5) while at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon, that is the fastest ever in a National Federation-sanctioned race. While competing for the University of Oregon, he won national cross country championships (3) and outdoor track 3-Mile/5000-meter championships (4), and never lost a collegiate track race at any distance. As a collegiate junior, he made the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team and nearly won an Olympic medal, finishing 4th in the 5K at the 1972 Munich Olympics, at age 21. After finishing college in 1973 and preparing for a return to the Olympics in 1976, he continued to improve, setting many American records. His life ended tragically on May 30, 1975, the result of an auto accident, at age 24. The Pre Classic began that year and has been held every year since.