Tokyo Olympic track and field medalists descend in Oregon for Prefontaine Classic this weekend

·7 min read

EUGENE, Ore. — The Prefontaine Classic marked its return to Eugene, Oregon on Friday with a four-race preview under the lights at Hayward Field.

Saturday comes the main event.

There are 15 events on the schedule and 2020 Olympic medalists on every start list.

It’s a heck of a way to mark the Pre Classic’s return after a three-year absence due to the Hayward Field remodel in 2019 and a COVID-19 cancelation in 2020.

“You look at the fields and you have all these medalists from Tokyo and some pretty big names and that’s exciting,” said meet director Tom Jordan, who oversees the only World Athletics Diamond League meet in the U.S.

Here some storylines to follow Saturday:

Mu moved into prime time

The women’s 800-meters was originally scheduled to be held Friday, but with a field that includes American star Athing Mu and all three medalists from Tokyo, the race was moved into NBC’s broadcast window Saturday afternoon.

Mu is definitely must-see TV. The 19-year-old from New Jersey won gold three weeks ago when she ran an American-record 1:55.21. That came on the heels of her win during the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials and her NCAA 400 title as a freshman at Texas A&M, both of which were won in June at Hayward Field.

Gold medalist Athing Mu, left, and bronze medalist Raevyn Rogers celebrate after their finish in the women's 800 meters at the Tokyo Olympics.
Gold medalist Athing Mu, left, and bronze medalist Raevyn Rogers celebrate after their finish in the women's 800 meters at the Tokyo Olympics.

Mu will be up against former Oregon star Raevyn Rogers, who won Olympic bronze in a PR 1:56.81, Great Britain silver medalist Keely Hodgkinson, who ran 1:55.88 in Tokyo to set the national record, and Ajeé Wilson, who previously held the American record of 1:55.61 that Mu broke.

Bowerman Mile is loaded

The Pre Classic’s signature event is always the final race of the meet and there’s no reason to think this year’s version won’t be worthy of the grand finale.

Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen won gold in what was the fastest 1,500-meter final in Olympic history as he ran 3:28.32 to beat Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot (3:29.01).

Both are entered and Cheruiyot has won the last two Bowerman Miles.

Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's 1,500 meters at the Tokyo Olympics.
Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's 1,500 meters at the Tokyo Olympics.

"It feels great to be back here and compete again," Cheruiyot said Friday at the Pre Classic press conference. "I win twice here, so I feel good."

Those two plus four other Olympic finalists are entered — fourth-place finisher Abel Kipsang of Kenya; Australia’s Oliver Hoare and Stewart McSweyn; and Great Britain’s Jake Heyward, who trains with Eugene’s Oregon Track Club Elite.

However, the other big headliner is Matthew Centrowitz. The former Oregon star and 2016 Olympic champ didn’t make the final in Tokyo but is fresh and ran a PR 3:49.26 mile in the lead-up to the Olympics

"Although Tokyo wasn't the result I was looking for, it doesn't change the fact that I'm relatively fit enough to come out and have another PR (Saturday)," Centrowitz said. "That's kind of the main goal."

Richardson back on the track

A recreational-drug suspension kept Sha’Carri Richardson out of the Olympics and back home in the U.S.

Richardson is now ready to resume her season in style by taking on all three Jamaican Olympic 100-meter medalists.

Richardson won the Olympic Trials 100 but failed a drug test for marijuana soon after and was suspended for a month, keeping her out of Tokyo.

Sha'Carri Richardson, center, celebrates her win in the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials at Hayward Field in June.
Sha'Carri Richardson, center, celebrates her win in the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials at Hayward Field in June.

Saturday when she races for the first time since then she'll be facing a field that includes three-time 2020 gold medalist champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, who won the 100 — in an Olympic record 10.61 — 200 and 4x100 relay.

GOLDEN GIRL: Thompson-Herah sweeps 100, 200 for historic Olympic double

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was the silver medalist in 10.63 and Shericka Jackson took bronze in 10.76.

Richardson’s PR is 10.72. She’ll be joined in the field by Americans Teahna Daniels and Javianne Oliver.

“It's gonna be an amazing race tomorrow," Richardson said Friday during a press conference with the three Jamaicans. "Two of the women sitting here are two of the fastest women to ever run this race before. … I'm eager to run against them and bring the best out of them and hope they bring the best out of me."

Richardson is also entered in the 200 where she’ll square off against Olympic bronze medalist Gabby Thomas and Olympic semifinalist Jenna Prandini, as well as Allyson Felix, who won bronze in the 400 and gold in the 4x400 relay. Prandini and Thomas also won silver on the 4x100 with Oliver and Daniels.

Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Côte d’Ivorie and Mujinga Kambundji of Switzerland are also entered in both sprint events.

HISTORY: World, American, Hayward and Prefontaine Classic record lists

Crouser returns to world-record ring

The Pre Classic men’s shot put has traditionally been one of the most entertaining events of the meet.

Expect no different Saturday.

Two-time Olympic champion, world-record holder and Oregonian Ryan Crouser returns to the venue where he produced the best throw of all-time just two months ago.

In June, Crouser won the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials at Hayward Field with a mark of 76 feet 8¼ inches to break a 31-year-old world record. He went on to win gold in Tokyo, breaking his own Olympic record with a mark of 76-5¼.

Ryan Crouser celebrates his huge throw U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field.
Ryan Crouser celebrates his huge throw U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field.

"I feel like I'm in pretty good shape," Crouser said. "I like how training's been going and anytime you step out into a facility like that with the energy that will be at the meet (Saturday) will be an opportunity for a huge throw."

The other two Tokyo medalists — American Joe Kovacs (silver) and New Zealand’s Tomas Walsh (bronze) — are also entered. Those three also were the medalists in 2016 in Rio as well.

Crouser brings a 20-meet win streak into the Pre Classic. They last time he didn't land at the top of a podium was at the 2019 World Outdoor Championships when Kovacs won on his final throw, bumping Crouser to silver.

Olympic champ Kipyegon highlights women's 1,500

Kenya's Faith Kipyegon competes in the women's 1500-meter final during the Tokyo Olympics.
Kenya's Faith Kipyegon competes in the women's 1500-meter final during the Tokyo Olympics.

The great Faith Kipyegon of Kenya is making the long trip to take on a field that looks very similar to the final in Tokyo when she won her second straight gold medal and set the Olympic record at 3:53.11.

Great Britain’s Laura Muir, who won silver in that race in a national record 3:54.50, will get another shot at taking down Kipyegon.

Also entered is former Duck star Jessica Hull and her Australian teammate Linden Hall. Those two finished 11th and sixth, respectively in Tokyo. Hull set the Australian record with her time of 3:58.81 in the Olympic semifinal. Canadian Gabriela DeBues-Stafford was fifth in the final, and Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo was seventh.

Norman (100) and Benjamin (200) in off events

There are a couple of intriguing entries in the men’s sprint races.

The 100 includes American silver medalist Fred Kerley and bronze medalist (and 200 gold medalist) Andre de Grasse of Canada. Also entered are Americans Ronnie Baker, a finalist in Tokyo; Justin Gatlin and former Duck Cravon Gillespie.

The surprise is the addition of American 400-meter specialist Michael Norman, the U.S. champion and fifth-place finisher in Tokyo.

No less of a surprise is American 400 hurdles silver medalist Rai Benjamin entered in the 200.

Rai Benjamin, center, clears the last hurdle during the  men's 400 meter hurdle to win the gold during the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field.
Rai Benjamin, center, clears the last hurdle during the men's 400 meter hurdle to win the gold during the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field.

Benjamin set the American record with his second-place finish in 46.17. It was a time that was also better than the previous world record, which was broken by gold medalist Karsten Warholm of Norway in 45.94.

Saturday, Benjamin will race against American medalists Kenny Bednarek (silver) and Noah Lyles (bronze), among others.

Follow Chris Hansen on Twitter @chansen_RG or email at chansen@registerguard.com.

This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Prefontaine Classic: Olympic track and field medalists race Saturday