Jenny Simpson leads the Prefontaine Classic women’s 1500 meters at Hayward Field, a track where she and legendary Mary Slaney are the only Americans ever to crack the 4-minute barrier.
Simpson, the silver medalist from last year’s World Championships, will have no trouble recognizing this year’s Pre Classic field as every other entrant competed in Rio, where she became the first-ever American to medal in this event, capturing the bronze.
Simpson, 31, has been a world-ranking force since 2011, when she won gold at the Daegu World Championships. It began an amazing 1500-meter career after giving up the steeplechase, where she crafted a dominant stretch as American record holder while winning three NCAA titles at Colorado.
In the 1500 she has few rivals among Americans. Her eight sub-4 races matches Slaney for the most by an American and she remains the only U.S. athlete to have run sub-4 twice at Hayward Field – her 3:58.28 in 2014 still the fastest by an American on U.S. soil.
Simpson’s championship career includes a second World silver medal from 2013 in Moscow, giving her four major medals (only Regina Jacobs can claim as many as two among Americans). She added the 2014 Diamond League Trophy and last year became the second-fastest U.S. miler at 4:19.98 behind Slaney’s 4:16.71 in 1983.
Laura Muir, who will turn 25 on May 9, is the fastest in the field with a British record 3:55.22. She made two finals last year in London, taking 4th in a wild 1500 finish (just .07 seconds short of a medal) before a 6th in the 5k. The 2016 Diamond League 1500 winner is coming off a double-medal performance at the World Indoor Championships in March, earning the 1500 silver and 3k bronze.
Winny Chebet is one of the most exciting athletes in the field. The 27-year-old Kenyan only took up 1500 racing at the international level in 2016, when the former 800-meter specialist lowered her best from a 4:14.4 at altitude to 4:02.66. Last year she joined the sub-4 club at 3:59.16 and made her first Track & Field News world rankings at No. 3. A former World Junior 800 silver medalist in 2006, she was 5th in the World Indoor 1500 in March.
Dawit Seyaum of Ethiopia is no stranger to Oregon fans. The 21-year-old won gold at the 2014 World Junior Championships held at Hayward Field. In 2016, she was the silver medalist at the World Indoor Championships in Portland. Runner-up in the 2016 Pre Classic, Seyaum was a finalist in Rio and the 2015 Beijing World Championships, where she was 4th, and is Ethiopia’s third-fastest ever at 3:58.09.
Poland’s Angelika Cichocka, 30, was silver medalist at the 2014 World Indoor Championships in the 800. Last year she made both the 800 and 1500 finals in the London World Championships and her first T&FN world rankings at No. 9 in the 1500. She is the reigning European champion in the 1500 and Polish mile record holder at 4:19.58.
Rababe Arafi, 27, of Morocco is also experienced at both the 800 and 1500. She made both finals at the 2015 World Championships, just missing a medal in the 800 at 4th. She set her 1500 PR of 4:01.75 in last year’s Pre Classic and was ranked No. 10 in the world by T&FN, the same position she earned in 2015.
Laura Weightman, 26, is about as close to sub-4 as one can get at 4:00.17. The Briton was 6th in last year’s crazy finish at the World Championships for her best major finish after also making the Rio and London Olympic finals. Earlier this month she took bronze in the Commonwealth Games in the 5k.
Brenda Martinez, 28, was last year’s top ranker in the U.S. behind Simpson, a year after joining her on the U.S. Olympic team in the 1500. She finished 5th in the 2016 Portland World Indoor 1500 and is a former NCAA runner-up while at UC Riverside. But the 10th-fastest American 1500 runner ever at 4:00.94 has had more success in the 800. In fact, the bronze medal Martinez earned in the 800 at the 2013 World Championships was recently elevated to silver – the best by an American in the two-lapper. Her 800 PR of 1:57.91 is fastest in the field.
Kate Grace, 29, was on the last two U.S. major teams, the World 1500 last year and as a finalist in the Olympic 800 in 2016 after winning her first national title at the U.S. Olympic trials. She was a six-time Heptagonals champ while at Yale and last year lowered her 1500 PR to 4:03.59 in the Pre Classic.
Shelby Houlihan, 25, is a former NCAA 1500 champ from Arizona State who set her 4:03.39 PR in the 2016 Pre Classic. Last year’s U.S. 5k champ made her second-straight major final and nearly cracked the 15-minute mark in the London heats. In March, she made two finals at the World Indoors, finishing 5th in the 3k before coming back for 4th in the 1500. She had qualified for the Worlds by winning both races at the USATF Indoor Championships.
Australian Linden Hall, 26, was 4th in the Commonwealth Games after winning her first national title in February. The three-time NCAA finalist for Florida State finished as high as 3rd at Hayward Field and she set her 1500 PR of 4:01.78 in the 2016 Pre Classic.
|Women’s 1500 Meters||Personal Best|
|Laura Muir (Great Britain)||3:55.22|
|Jenny Simpson (USA)||3:57.22|
|Dawit Seyaum (Ethiopia)||3:58.09|
|Winny Chebet (Kenya)||3:59.16|
|Laura Weightman (Great Britain)||4:00.17|
|Brenda Martinez (USA)||4:00.94|
|Angelika Cichocka (Poland)||4:01.61|
|Rababe Arafi (Morocco)||4:01.75|
|Linden Hall (Australia)||4:01.78|
|Shelby Houlihan (USA)||4:03.39|
|Kate Grace (USA)||4:03.59|
Tickets for the 44th annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held May 25-26 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 seven 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 18 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.