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Friends Don’t Let Friends Miss the Prefontaine Classic

It's basically the second Olympics. Here's everything you need to know about how, when, and who to watch.

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All those fun and games in Tokyo? They’re back, for two nights only, at the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

For the uninitiated, the Prefontaine Classic is the only U.S. stop on the Diamond League’s schedule. The Diamond League is an annual series  of 14 prestigious meets held mostly in Europe, where athletes gain points toward a final competition in September. The opportunity to compete on the circuit—and at Pre Classic—is big for these athletes.

The first Pre Classic was in 1975. It was originally called the “Bowerman Classic” to honor longtime University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman, however when University of Oregon distance runner and Olympian Steve Prefontaine died in an automobile crash just weeks before the inaugural event, the Oregon Track Club changed the name (with Bowerman’s approval, of course).

“Pre” as it’s widely referred to, was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but it’s back this year, with many decorated Olympians planning to race.

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6 Storylines to Watch

It’s a who’s who of many the world’s greatest competitors looking for chances for redemption or continued dominance in nearly every event. Her are our picks for can’t-miss women’s races:

1. Sha’Carri Richardson is back from her suspension.

After winning the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials in July, Sha’Carri Richardson, 21, accepted a one-month suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for marijuana use. She missed the Olympics, but this weekend she finally gets her shot to see exactly how she fares against the Jamaicans who swept the podium in Tokyo. Richardson will race gold medalist Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (silver), and Shericka Jackson (bronze).

You better believe Richardson is ready.

Richardson is also planning to race the 200 meters (keep reading, we’ve got more on that race below).

 

RELATED: Sha’carri Richardson Will Not Compete at the Tokyo Games

2. Sifan Hassan is going for a world record.

If you didn’t get enough of Hassan’s feats in Tokyo, we have good news. She didn’t get enough, either. She’s announced her intention to go for the 5,000-meter world record on Friday.

Hassan, 28, who races for the Netherlands, made history in Tokyo, becoming the first person to medal in three distance events at the Olympics, winning gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 and bronze in the 1500 meters.

And now, she’s wants to run faster than 14:06.62, the world record in the 5,000 meters set in October by Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey. It’s a tall order: Hassan’s personal best is 14:22.12, but she’s proven over and over again that she’s rarely misses the goals she sets for herself.

“A long time ago, I decided I want to attack 5,000m [world record] in Eugene,” Hassan wrote on Instagram. “It’s going to be hard after all the races in Tokyo, but In Shaa Allah [god-willing].”

RELATED: Sifan Hassan Wins Second Gold Medal in the 10,000 Meters

Hassan owns two world records already—the mile (4:12.33) and the longest distance ever run in one hour (18,930 meters or just more than 11.75 miles). She briefly held the 10,000-meter world record in June, finishing in 29:06.82, but two days later the record was reset by Gidey in 29:01.03.

She’s unlikely to find much pacing help from the field, but Hassan will probably help a number of women clock some personal bests. On the American side, watch for 2021 Olympians Rachel Schneider (14:52:04) and Alicia Monson (15:07.65), as well as 2016 Olympians Abbey Cooper (14:56.58) and Emily Infeld (14:54.09).

3. Athing Mu is heading back to Hayward.

Mu, 19, has raced a lot at Hayward Field but this is the first time she takes the track as an 800-meter Olympic gold medalist, which she won in an American record of 1:55.21 in Tokyo. Oh, and she also anchored the gold-medal winning 4 x 400-meter relay at the Games, along with Felix, Sydney McLaughlin, and Dalilah Muhammad.

In the 800 meters at the Pre Classic, Mu will race Keely Hodgkinson (1:55.88) of Great Britain, also 19, who won the silver medal in Tokyo. And American Raevyn Rogers (1:56.81), who brought home the bronze from the Games, is lining up. Ajee’ Wilson, who didn’t make the final in Tokyo, will likely be looking for a bit of redemption this weekend, along with Kate Grace, a 2016 Olympian who didn’t make the team this year but has been on a hot streak of performances ever since the Trials.

RELATED: The Summer of Kate Grace Continues

4. Josette Norris is getting her big shot against the fastest in the world.

Josette Norris has been another breakout American star of 2021. Although she had high hopes of making the Olympic team in the 5,000 meters, she finished eighth in a disappointing performance. But after that Norris made it a mission to get an invitation to compete in the Diamond League 1500 meters. Mission accomplished—she’ll race this weekend at the Pre Classic after lowering her personal best to 3:59.72 in July.

RELATED: How Top Runners Handle Heartbreak

It’ll be a huge race for Norris with the 2021 Olympic gold and silver medalists on the starting line. Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon won in Tokyo in a Olympics record of 3:53.11 and Laura Muir of Great Britain finished second in 3:54.50. Also watch for Canada’s Gabriela Debues-Stafford, who placed fifth in Tokyo.

5. Courtney Frerichs is following up on that silver-medal performance.

Frerichs had the race of her life in Tokyo, breaking the 3,000-meter steeplechase field apart by making a big move with 1200 meters to go. Ultimately Peruth Chemutai of Uganda took the gold, but Frerichs’s bravery was rewarded with silver, her first Olympic medal. The two are back at the Pre Classic for a rematch, along with bronze medalist Hyvin Kiyeng of Kenya. For Frerichs it is perhaps an opportunity to achieve one more big goal this season: break nine minutes. She currently holds the American record of 9:00.85, but has been on the hunt for the sub-nine for a while now.

RELATED: How Courtney Frerichs Won the 3,000-Meter Steeplechase Silver Medal

Valerie Constein, who also competed for Team USA in Tokyo and made the final round (she placed 12th), is scheduled to compete. Emma Coburn, who was disqualified after a fall during the final in Tokyo, has decided not to race, she said on Instagram.

6. Allyson Felix isn’t done yet.

Tokyo may have been her fifth and final appearance at the Olympics, but don’t confuse that with any kind of formal retirement. After winning bronze in the women’s 400 meters in Tokyo, Felix is lining back up—this time in the 200 metrs.

She joins Team USA standout and 200-meter Olympic bronze medalist Gabby Thomas, who also won silver in the women’s 4 x 100-meter relay in Tokyo. Thomas’s relay teammate Jenna Prandini, a 200-meter semifinalist in Tokyo, is also part of the strong field which also includes Richardson and Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith.

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How to Watch Prefontaine Classic Track Meet

Follow along here—like any track meet, it seems, Pre requires multiple subscriptions and careful attention to which races are available via live stream or broadcast on three different platforms.

The meet begins on Friday with “Distance Night in Eugene,” starting at 8:50 p.m. Pacific/11:50 p.m. Eastern.  You can watch it live with a subscription to RunnerSpace +PLUS, which starts at $12.99 per month and can be canceled anytime. Note that these races are not part of the Diamond League program, but the competition will be worth the watch. All times are Pacific:

  • 9:02 p.m. Women’s 1500 meters (North American)
  • 9:22 p.m. Women’s 2-mile
  • 10:00 p.m. Women’s 5,000 meters

On Saturday  NBC’s Peacock will stream coverage beginning at 1 p.m.Pacific/4 p.m. Eastern. In addition to the main stream of the event, Peacock will feature three event-specific feeds.

NBC will also broadcast the meet beginning at 1:30 p.m. Pacific (check your local listings).

Here is the women’s competition schedule on Saturday (bold indicates Diamond League race):

  • 12:43 p.m. pole vault
  • 12:57 p.m. high jump
  • 1:12 p.m. 3,000-meter steeplechase
  • 1:41 p.m. 100 meters
  • 1:48 p.m. 800 meters
  • 2:12 p.m. 1500 meters
  • 2:24 p.m. 400-meter hurdles
  • 2:45 p.m. 200 meters