Five Key Moments from the Pre Classic, A view from the Eurosport Player, by Alex Mill

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Harrison_Keni1224-Pre16.JPGKendra Harrison after her 12.24! photo by PhotoRun.net

Our friend, Alex Mill, was unable to attend the Pre Classic this past weekend, but he did send in this piece, after viewing the meet on his Eurosport Player...

After two years of embracing the Prefontaine Classic and Hayward Field live in all its glory, this year I had to settle for following the action from my front room on Eurosport Player. Though my experience was nowhere near as epic, the competition remained outstanding. So while I was suffering all the withdrawal symptoms usually associated with a long term break-up, in my absence the world's greatest athletes were ripping up the track and field, producing yet more stunning performances to silence athletics' most exuberant audience, at least for a moment.

Undoubtedly the performer of the meet was Keni Harrison whose incredible time of 12.24 seconds not only earned her the American record but also within an inch of an incredible world record, yet behind her there was a supporting cast that achieved some pretty special stuff. Here are my five key moments from Eugene - warning, I could have written about 20.

Harrison_KeniA-Pre16.JPGKeni Harrison, photo by PhotoRun.net

1. Newsflash - Keni Harrison is a beast!

There's no way I could start this list without talking about arguably the best female performance of this decade. Sure, Harrison has been in blistering form this season, but there's no way she was expected to run the second fastest time in history. Before the race it was almost impossible to predict who would win and that remained the case for the first 30 metres, until Harrison cruised away from her rivals and turned her attention to the clock. Gliding over the hurdles with the fluidity of a ballet dancer and the speed of a boxer, this was as close to perfection as I've ever seen in a hurdles race. The only frustration, if there was one, will be that she didn't break the WR having got quite so close. Nevertheless having taken Brianna Rollins' AR in such style there can be few complaints, especially given the margin that she defeated her predecessor, who still ran an impressive 12.52 for second. After seeing her last two world championship challenges ruined by misfortune, Harrison has definitely recovered from both blows to peak at the best possible time.

Jebet_Ruth-Pre16.JPGRuth Jebet, photo by PhotoRun.net

2. Jebet holds on to continue incredible rise as Coburn makes American record official

Closely following Harrison on the girl power front was another athlete who's having a breakthrough season to remember, Ruth Jebet. The Bahraini steeplechaser held off world champion Hyvin Kiyeng by just .04 of a second to dip under 9 minutes and run the second fastest time in history. Just like in Shanghai two weeks ago, the youngster who came into 2016 with a PB of 9:30, flew off to the front of the field seemingly hoping to hold on this time, and she did just that. Even as Kiyeng began to claw her in, Jebet stayed strong to pump her way to victory in arguably the most epic close in steeple history.

10 seconds behind the race for the tape there was adulation for Emma Coburn as the American athlete ran 9:10.76 to become the certified national record holder. It was deserved reward for the athlete who was cruelly denied the record back in 2014 when USATF ruled that they wouldn't ratify her time after she didn't take a drug test after the race. It also marks a stunning turnaround for the athlete who wasn't even running at the start of the year.

Berian_Boris-Pre16.JPGBoris Berian, photo by PHotoRun.net

3. Berian serves Nike with a victory

A week after Nike served Boris Berian with a lawsuit for a breach of contract, the New Balance wearing, T-Mobile tatted runner replied with a victory at their premier event. Aside from the absence of world and Olympic champion David Rudisha, the 800m field was a who's who of the event this decade and yet Berian, the world indoor champion, who is yet to compete at a major outdoor championship made them look distinctively average. Making his move with 600m to go, the American pulled himself to the front of the pack and never looked back, staying strong in the home straight as his fast finishing rivals Ferguson Cheruiyot and Adam Kszczot tried to claw their way back to him. On this showing the legal threat from his former sponsors didn't affect him on the track, and as the star American athlete in the event this year he looks set to show them up again at the Olympic trials.

Gardner_English-Pre16.JPGEnglish Gardner, photo by PhotoRun.net

4. Gardner stakes claim for Olympic squad

When English Gardner burst onto the scene with a fourth place finish at 2013 world championships it looked as through the former University of Oregon standout would go on to rule American sprinting for many years to come. Things haven't all gone her way since. After a quiet 2014, she sprang back into the limelight by running 10.79 at the USA champs moving in the top twenty on the all-time list, easily making a second world championship team, only to go out in the semi-finals.

Despite finishing second at the Jamaica International, without any Diamond League form in 2016, Gardner came into Pre as an unknown quantity. Yet as she returned to her happiest hunting ground (Where she has run 4 of her top 5 times) we really shouldn't have doubted her. Exploding out the blocks, Gardener made light of her strong opposition, including global titan Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, to create a clear gap by the 50 metre mark before pushing on to take the victory in 10.81 seconds, her second fastest time ever, beating her nearest rival, Tianna Bartoletta, by .13 of a second. Afterwards she spoke about wanting to become the fastest women ever. While that still seems a long way-off, if Saturday's performance is anything to go then she has a great chance of making an impact in Rio. Alongside Tori Bowie (A now sub-22 200m runner and surprise victor at Hayward Field) America now have the two fastest women in the world.

Taylor_Christian-Pre16.JPGChristian Taylor, photo by PhotoRun.net

5. Taylor shows fighting spirit

After all his epic battles with Pedro Pablo Piccardo in 2015, up until the 6th round of the men's triple jump at Pre, this season must have felt a bit too easy for Christian Taylor. In the absence of his main rival, who appears to suffering from injury issues, the Olympic champion has found himself relatively unchallenged in the pit this year. Whilst on paper that won't have hurt his build-up to Rio, it has meant he hasn't jumped quite as far. Seemingly cruising towards another comfortable victory after leaping out to 17.46m, Taylor could have been forgiven for thinking that he had won, only for the enigmatic Will Claye to make an assault to his dominance. Claye, the double Olympic medallist from 2012, looked to have stolen victory after he flew out to a then world leading 17.56m in the 6th round, only for Taylor to show the grit that we have come to love and dig out a whopping 17.76m to maintain his 100% record in 2016.

While he is unlikely to be short of confidence, the win will have given Taylor assurances on his ability to react to the pressure. As for Claye, let's hope he can maintain a strong challenge into the Olympic trials and potentially Rio.

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