Is the Prefontaine Classic the best track meet in the world?
America: we like being the biggest; we like being the best. Just ask a random citizen walking down the street in Anytown, USA what the largest mall in the world is. I bet you my lunch money they stand up straight, salute the flag and boldly declare, “THE MALL OF AMERICA, SIR OR MADAM.” Though they’d be wrong (it’s the 33rd largest in the world) this is exactly the type of micro-American exceptionalism that gives America its reputation.
We here at Citius Mag are not above this type of posturing. That’s why we’re here to tell you that this weekend’s Prefontaine Classic held in Eugene, Ore., is the greatest track meet on earth. Don’t believe us? We have proof.
Below are the meet records for a few other track meets that some might spout off while playing the classic party game, “Name The Best Track Meet.” Let’s see how they stack up to the Prefontaine Classic: WORLD’S GREATEST TRACK MEET.
I’ve only chosen a handful of races to consider, from sprints to distance races, and completely excluded field events. For this I’d like to issue a lukewarm apology. Let’s meet the contenders.
Lausanne Diamond League
Lausanne is a Diamond League meet. Therefore, it’s no surprise that you see some big time names and some big time performances. The weakest one up there is the 10,000m, and for pete’s sake that was run by the one and only GEB! If Haile can’t run a fast time on your track, then god help you.
There are two highlights up there. The first, are the 800m records–Maria Mutola and Wilson Kipketer are two of the greatest 800m runners of all time. The second is Yohan Blake and his 9.69, the second fastest 100m of all time. Good meet? Yes. Great? DON’T THINK SO.
Heusden – KBC Night of Athletics
Heusden is one of the best non-Diamond League meets out there. It’s a destination to chase fast times, especially during championships years–it’s one of the last places you can go to hit a standard before the qualifying window closes (except for this year. It’s one day outside the window. Don’t chase a time at Heusden). Despite all this, some of these times are SOFT. The men’s 100m meet record? Weak. The women’s 400m? Not tough.
However, this meet does earn some points for the 800m. We have one of Sir David Rudisha‘s sub-1:42 races, as well as the 8th fastest women’s time at the distance in Jolanda Ceplak’s 1:55.19.
The men’s 1500m is also nothing to poo poo. Hicham El Guerrouj put down a sub 3:30 in Heusden. But on the spectrum of fast El Guerrouj times, this doesn’t even crack his top ten. Show me sub 3:27, or you run the risk of earning the title NOT THE BEST MEET. Color me unimpressed.
The Prefontaine Classic
Let’s tackle the men’s records first: there’s the former world record holder Michael Johnson going sub 44; the fastest mile ever run on US soil; the fastest 5,000m ever run on US soil; and the world record holder running the fastest 10,000 ever run on US soil (it’s also number 3 all time). YIKES.
For the women, Carmelita Jeter’s 10.70 at Eugene is in a three way tie with Marion Jones and FloJo for the 7th fastest mark ever; Mary Slaney‘s 4:21.25 is the 2nd fastest on US soil by less than a second; then there’s the Dibaba sisters flexing their 5,000 and 10,000 muscles for a pair of the fastest times we’ve seen in Big Mall Country.
Even if fast times aren’t your thing, the meet is held in a place that goes by Track Town, USA. And for good reason. Pre’s fans are track literate, and if they like you enough they’ll even engage in some rhythmic clapping. Despite running the risk of sub-par air quality, the venue is historic, the weather (generally) amenable, and since it’s holding onto Diamond League status, the competition will always be stiff.