The Prefontaine Classic-The NBC Crew on top of their Game (As They Should Be!)

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Jeff Benjamin did this review of the Nike Pre Classic for RunBlogRun. The Pre in Exile was hosted in Palo Alto, CA, and it was fantastic!

Kipyegon_Faith-Pre19.JPGThe women's 1,500m was amazing! photo by PhotoRun.net

The Prefontaine Classic -The NBC Crew On Top Of Their Game (As They Should Be!)

By Jeff Benjamin

There always comes that time when athletes have to "Get the Kinks Out" and see where they are standing at certain times of their season. With the Doha World Championships looming in October, American athletes must be particularly careful in how they peak for their performances. So while this year's Prefontaine classic meet is a must-show event on the athlete's calendar, a not-so solid performance this early in the championship year is disastrous, and they can regroup or continue to be following their programs to be ready for the USATF Nationals and the Worlds.

Not so with the NBC Olympic TV Crew. Indeed Leigh Diffey, Ato Boldon, Sanya Richards-Ross, Lewis Johnson, Craig Masback snd Paul Swangard are not given any situation to get their "kinks" out, as such is the nature of sports television and what the viewers want. So, while the Prefontaine Classic might have served as a measuring stick where results can vary for the athlete, the NBC crew had to adhere to their expertise, knowledge and timing with their co-Hosts to still out on a top-notch production.

And it did not disappoint.

The opening enthusiasm of Leigh Diffey exhorting Stanford's Cobb stadium as the 1-year site layover added to an atmosphere of electricity at the meet.

Then the rest of the crew went to work.

Benjamin_Rai-Pre19.JPGRai Benjamin, photo by PhotoRun.net

Ato Boldon assessing Rai Benjamin and his belief as to why Kevin Young's 400 hurdles world record from 1992 (46.78) might be in danger. "Benjamin's a sub 20 second 200 meter runner and he's only 21 years old so I think we can see a world record this year." At Pre, Benjamin ran a new meet record of 47.16 seconds. Boldon later on called the 110 Hurdles, which was won by Spaniard Orlando Ortega 13.24.

Chepkoech_Beatrice-Pre19.JPGBeatrice Chepkoech, photo by PhotoRun.net

In the Women's Steeple Diffey described a deep field of world champions, medalists record holders and "3-sub 9 minuters!", a newly minted word for the English dictionary. Along with Craig Masback's commentary on the field and this year's progressions of Emma Coburn, viewers were not disappointed with the commercial breaks as the screen split into 2, showing both the commercials and the continuing steeple race which was won by Beatrice Kipkoech (8:55.58) who put on, according to Masback, "A Masters Class in the Steeplechase," although he praised Coburn's 9:04.90 despite tripping at one of the barriers late in the race.

Coburn_Emma1c-Pre19.JPGEmma Coburn, photo by PhotoRun.net

After commercial breaks NBC teased the viewers with some cool pics of the rebuilding construction of Oregon's Hayward Field.

In the women's 100, Boldon espoused the old "on the day" concept as Marie-Josee Ta Lou (11.02) & Aleia Hobbs (11.04) led the way in major upsets.

TaLou_JoseMarie-PreC19.JPGMarie Jose Ta Lou takes the Pre Classic, photo by PhotoRun.net

When Paul Swangard began covering the pole vault duel between Mondo DuPlantis and Sam Kendricks Swangard then led the viewers to watch an old home video of the tween (?) DuPlantis pole vaulting in the backyard against his brother! Swangard later called the Men's Shotput, which was won by Brazil's Darlan Romani (74-2 1/4) in what he called the "The upset of the day".

Romani_Darlan-Pre19.JPGDarlan Romani, photo by PhotoRun.net

During the Men's 2-Mile Masback asked a question on everyone's mind - "With Doha approaching, Who's going to replace Mo Farah?...A lot of pretenders to that throne in this race".

Cheptegei_JoshuaFH-PreC19.JPGJoshua Cheptegai, Paul Chelimo duel in the 2 mile, photo by PhotoRun.net

With the race progressing Diffey asked Masback about the IAAF Diamond League changes next year to exclude races above the 2-mile distance from the schedule. "They Made a decision to shrink the diamond league standard schedule from 2 hours to 90 minutes," said Masback. "The athletes are up in arms and they believe that this is a blow against the distance races and it's going to undermine the development of the event." Masback then pointed out that "Paul Chelimo said he may move to the road because he just doesn't feel the Track and Field Community is treating distance races seriously anymore"

Chelimo_Paul-Pre19.JPGPaul Chelimo, photo by PhotoRun.net

Chelimo didn't seem to be a factor in the 2-mile until the last 150 meters where he surged and almost caught Winner Jason Chiptegei (8:07.54) "Where did this come from?", said Masback of Chelimo's performance (8:07.59). In the Women's 3000 Masback marveled at the strong finish of winner Sifan Hassan (8:18.49), whose time Masback excitedly exclaimed was the "fastest ever in the United States!"

Hassan_SifanFH-PreC19.JPGSifan Hassan, photo by PhotoRun.net

When it was time for the Women's 800 and South Africa's Caster Semanya, Masback's talents as both distance running commentator and international law student and practitioner showed. After Diffey went over the current legal status of Semanya's struggles to compete, he then deferred to Masback, who studied law in Switzerland. "I think the most likely outcome is given the fact that arbitration is a big business in Switzerland that the Swiss Supreme Court will NOT overturn the "Cas" ruling which means that Semanya will have to follow the rules as set out by the IAAF," said Masback. "In Switzerland they'd have to find corruption or fraud or some kind of unfairness in the process to overturn the decision..they normally would never even get to the merits of the case and the reason they wouldn't want to overturn it is it would undermine faith in Switzerland as a site for arbitration so with this in mind we might be witnessing the last 800 meters that Caster Semanya ever gets to run and I'm told she's asked for World Record pace."

Semenya_CasterFH-PreC19.JPGCaster Semenya takes the 800m, photo by Photorun.net

Semanya's dominant 1:55.70 was not a world record but a meet record and she discussed with Lewis Johnson postrace her situation. "I really don't think about that being my last 800 meters," said Semanya. "It's 50-50...the IAAF wants to win and I want to win...We focus on what we control like training and racing."

Cunningham_Vashti1a-Pre19.JPGVashti Cunningham, photo by PhotoRun.net

In the Women's High Jump, Swangard And Richards Ross both profiled Vashti Cunningham Who was looking to jump 6-6 3/4 (2 meters) which is "Like breaking 50 in a 400!"

Richards Ross then discussed how Cunningham (Coaches by her dad, NFL Quarterback legend Randall Cunningham) doesn't jump a lot but relies on visualization. Cunningham then successfully cleared the height, setting a new personal best.

Norman_Michael1a-Pre19.JPGMichael Norman, taking the 400m, photo by PhotoRun.net

In the Men's 400 Richards-Ross gave major attention to Michael Norman. "What I love most about sports is that it's the Gift that keeps on giving and what a gift we have in Michael Norman". She then compared Norman's talents to "fast at 200" like Michael Johnson & "holds his form" like Wayde Van Niekerk, traits that did not disappoint as Norman clocked a time of 44.62, afterwards telling Johnson that he woke up with a cold that day.

Okabare_Blessing-Pre19.JPGBlessing Okagbare leads and wins the 200m, photo by PhotoRun

The women's 200 coverage was split by Boldon and Ross, Diffey Praised "Coach Boldon" on his Athlete Brianna Williams' placing 3rd in the 100 at the Jamaican Championships. Blessing Okagbare (22.05) upset the field.

Muir_Laura1b-Pre19.JPGLaura Muir, photo by PhotoRun.net

In the Women's 1500 Masback made the focal point Scottish Miler Laura Muir, as he discussed her studies to become a veterinarian which, according to Masback, "she'll get back to that after Tokyo." He then discussed how her first race prize was 100 pounds and she used it to buy a cage for her pet rat! Uncaged, Muir took the lead in the race just before the bell In a loaded field and held on for second as Faith Kipyegon, in her first race in 2 years, took the victory (3:59.04). American Shelby Houlihan kicked to 3rd with Masback saying "you can't spot the best milers in the world 10 meters "

Coleman_Christian-Pre19.JPGChristian Coleman, photo by PhotoRun.net

The men's 100 was explosive as Boldon technically and accurately called the race, seeing Christian Coleman's 9.81 beat Justin Gatlin for the first time in his career. "You want to know who you're favorite is for the Doha World Championships?", asked Boldon. "There he is on your screen!"

Cheruiyot_TimothyLeds-PreC19.JPGTim Cheruiyot leads the Bowerman Mile, photo by PhotoRun.net

As always the Prefontaine meet concluded with the men's Bowerman Mile. After quick cameos which included Americans Matt Centrowitz and Johnny Gregorek, the viewers were treated to a tightly knit pack which went out quick but then slowed in the 3rd lap. Diffey mentioned the headwind on the backstretch which led the field to get bunched up from 600 to go right to the Bell. "They only ran 60 seconds on the third lap", said Masback. Leading the pack Timothy Cheruiyiot won from the front in a time of 3:50.49, with Masback stating that, "He was in the right place when the hard running started".

Cheruiyot_Timothy1-Pre19.JPGTimothy Cheruiryot, photo by PhotoRun.net

Masback then praised the performances of The Ingebrgtsen brothers (Filip- 3:51.28 & Jakob- 3:51.30) as well as pointing out the PR of Craig Engels (3:51.60) and the excellent performances of Matt Centrowitz (3:52.26 - his first race in over a year!) and Ben Blankenship (3:52.51).

Centrowitz_Mathew-PreC19.JPgMatthew Centrowitz, photo by PHotoRun.net

But the Moment of the Meet was given to the 9.81 performance of Christian Coleman. Also, with 13 facility records and 6 world leads set at the Pre Meet, not only was the NBC Crew at the top of their game, but many athletes were as well.

Coleman_Christian1c-Pre19.JPGChristian Coleman, photo by PhotoRun.net

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