Pre Classic Roundup: Women’s Events
By Roy Stevenson
The 2013 Pre Classic was held in front of a sell out crowd of 12,816 on Saturday, who enjoyed a memorable, world-class day of track and field in perfect running conditions.
The women’s 800m was a crowd pleaser, with all but one competitor’s best times between 1:56.59 and 1:59.54. The exception was high-schooler Mary Cain with a 2:03.34 best, having slashed and burned high school distance records all season with alarming regularity. But although she didn’t win the race, she would have her well-deserved moment in the sun at the finish line.
Francine Niyonsaba won the 800m in the world leading time of 1:56.72–also a meet record–from USA’s Brenda Martinez (1:58.18). Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei placed third in a highly competitive finish in 1:58.71.
High school wondergirl Mary Cain delivered a marvelous time (1:59.51) to finish 5th in the women’s 800m, making her the first U.S. HS girl to break 2:00 minutes. Cain had the grit to challenge top U.S. half miler Alysia Montano near the finish, actually passing her briefly before Montano dug deeper to hold Cain off by 0.08 seconds at the line for 4th place.
Mary describes here emotions at the finish; “Just shocked. When I crossed the line, I knew I was going to be close. When they officially announced it I looked at the crowd and was like ‘Yes!’ I stayed calm (during the race) I knew as long as I followed the plan I could do it. Beforehand this was probably the most nervous I’ve been before a race. I’m so thrilled, I broke two minutes. That’s been my goal since 8th grade”.
Cain’s 5th place effort garnered a heap of records: American Youth Record, American Junior Record, and American High School record. One wonders exactly what this phenomenon will achieve in the next few years with some serious collegiate training and racing experience. Have we finally found a female runner who can go toe-to-toe with the Kenyans and Ethiopians? Remember, you read it here first.
The women’s classy 5000m field rivaled the men’s 5K; and the Eugene crowd hushed into silence at the start knowing this was going to be a battle royale between veterans Ethiopians Gelete Burka (PB 14:31.2), and Tirunesh Dibaba (PB14:11.5), and Kenyans Linet Chepkwemoi (PB 14:31.4) and Mercy Chirono (PB14:35.13)–plus 6 other runners with sub-15:00 minute bests. Only three starters had times over 15:00 minutes!
The 2K leaders were Dibaba (aka the “Baby Faced Destroyer”), Hiwot Alalew, and Mercy Cherono (Kenya), leading a pack of 9. At 2600m it was Dibaba, Cherono, Ayalew and Buze Diriba (Ethiopia), presiding over a hungry pack clustered within 1.5 seconds from beginning to end. Said Dibaba after the race, “The weather was very hot for me and as I mentioned the pacemakers weren’t up to my expectations so I couldn’t get the meet record”.
The 3K was reached in 8:49.3 with Cherono leading, and the 4k (11:56.22) was led by Ayalew, with the pack whittled down to 5 with 3 others hovering just off the back. With three laps to go, Alayew, Dibaba, Cherono, and Margaret Muriuki (Kenya) ratcheted up the pace as several runners dropped off the back. With one lap to go the contenders were Dibaba, Cherono and Muriuki. Dibaba started her sprint with 250m left with Cherono poised on her shoulder, but “the destroyer” prevailed down the home straight in a fast, world leading14:42.01 from Cherono (14:42.51) and Muriuki third in 14:43.68. What a race!
The women’s 1500m had a runaway win by Kenya’s Hellen Obiri in a meet record 3:58.58 from countrywomen Faith Kipyegon (4:01.08), and Nancy Langat (4:01.41). The first 12 finishers were under 4:05.54!
Botswana’s Amantle Montsho won the women’s 400m in 50.01, leading from the half way mark, easily holding off USA’s Francena McCorory (50.37) and Jamaica’s Noviene Williams-Mills (51.14). Sanya Richards-Ross, with a best of 48.70, was predicted by many to win, but her recovery from recent foot surgery clearly held her back. “My foot bothered me the whole way but it wasn’t so much my foot, I didn’t have my speed. . . . “When I got to the curve I still felt strong but I tried to kick it in but there was no speed there to make up the ground., she said afterwards.
Likewise, Allyson Felix looked a little short on speed sharpness in the women’s 100m, with her 7th place in 11.07. Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price’s convincing 10.71 win over Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare’s second place time of 10.75 and Jamaicans Veronica Campbell-Brown’s third place in 10.78 and Kerron Stewart’s 10.97 fourth showed that the Jamaicans are hot to trot right now, while the American women are still short on sprint work. “I felt OK, just trying to work on some speed but clearly it’s not really there yet, so just trying to put things together for nationals”, admitted Felix afterwards.