This has been a crazy week. The Nike Pre Classic, the WU20 Championships, and Lausanne Athletissima. I asked Matt Wisner to write a few pieces on the Nike Pre Classic, some of the events which we wanted a little more detail on.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen Wins Bowerman Mile at Pre Classic In Fastest Time Ever Run On US Soil: 3:47.24
By Matt Wisner
Fresh off his Olympic gold in the 1500 meters, Jakob Ingebrigtsen flew across the world to race the prestigious Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. Ingebrigtsen won the race in 3:47.24, the fastest time ever run on U.S. soil.
But his victory didn’t come easily. The field was stacked, and many of the men came to Eugene prepared to run hard from the gun.
America’s most beloved pacer, Craig Nowak, was through 400 meters in 55 seconds, and only Stewart McSweyn followed him closely. Getting out aggressively is characteristic of McSweyn’s racing style. It’s ultimately how he set the world lead earlier this year in Oslo. (After the race, McSweyn told me, “I don’t mind taking the lead and then just giving it everything.”)
By the halfway point, McSweyn was still glued to Nowak’s back. They came through in 1:52 low, one behind the other, right on the rail. But now Ingebrigtsen was now a clear third, just a few steps back of McSweyn, certainly within striking distance.
Ingebrigtsen, the 20-year-old Norwegian, has built a reputation for himself off of his phenomenal closing speed. To beat Ingebrigtsen, you have to get away from him. And that’s what McSweyn tried to do. And for all but 250 meters of the race, that tactic worked.
Ingebrigtsen made his pass around McSweyn on the backstretch of the final lap and pulled away, winning in 3:47.24 to McSweyn’s 3:48.40.
“His last lap is crazy good,” McSweyn says of Ingebrigtsen. “It takes something special to beat him.”
The other nine men in the field ran most of the race together, all packed up. They really strung out in the final 100 meters, though, and the Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot came out in the front, running 3:51.17 for third place.
In Tokyo, Cheruiyot earned silver after leading virtually the entire 1500 meter race, only to be passed by Ingebrigtsen down the homestretch.
Cheruiyot and Ingebrigtsen have now raced 14 times. Cheruiyot won the first 12, and Ingebrigtsen now has two victories to his name: Tokyo and Pre.
At Pre, Cheruiyot didn’t even give himself a chance to beat Ingebrigtsen. They were nowhere near each other anywhere in the second half of the race. “I decided to hang back,” Cheruiyot told me after the race. “My body did not react at all.”
In the press conference the day before the meet, Cheruiyot attributed his loss to Ingebrigtsen in Tokyo to a bad hamstring and sore lower back. In Eugene, though, he said his body was feeling better.
In 2019, at the World Championships in Doha, Cheruiyot got away from the field early and nobody ever caught him. In Eugene, the opposite happened. Cheruiyot couldn’t replicate his winning strategy, and Ingebrigtsen ultimately beat him at his own game.
Perhaps the tables have turned permanently. Ingebrigtsen is only 20 years old, and it’s probable that every day he ages grants him some kind of physiological advantage.
Ingebrigtsen is happy with the win, but he admits he has his eyes on grander goals. “My main goal is to win major championships and to beat records,” he told me. The next time he steps on the track at Hayward Field will likely be the World Championships in 2022, the first World Championships to ever be held on American soil.
Although his resume is becoming incredibly impressive, Ingebrigtsen thinks he’s just getting started. “I believed I was the best in the world since I was 10 years old,” Ingebrigtsen says. “Now it’s actually true.”