What to Watch at the 2023 Prefontaine Classic

By David Melly

September 14, 2023

Pack your bags and clear your calendars; we’re headed to Eugene!

With World champions, world record holders, and more collective medals than you can count, the final lap of the Diamond League circuit is shaping up to be the best one yet. The Prefontaine Classic is always a barn-burner of a meet, but serving as this year’s Diamond League final only one year after hosting the World Championships has brought new levels of hype to Hayward Field and, by extension, American track and field.

Over two days of jam-packed action, all the Diamond League event finals will be contested and decided in one stadium over one weekend. In the past, the League has hosted a two-part final divided over two meets, which helps bring excitement to multiple countries’ premier track events but does dilute the concept of a “final.” And unlike the 4-day USAs or the 9-day Worlds, this championship meet happens in a tight, finals-only format that moves lightning-quick. With a $30,000 first prize for the winner of each DL discipline and newly-crowned World champions headlining the majority of events, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Here at CITIUS MAG, we’re excited to be offering a LIVE PRE-SHOW straight from the heart of Hayward both days, with Chris Chavez and Katelyn Hutchison getting you up to speed and in the know before the action starts. Tune in on YouTube live (and free!) from 12:30-1:30pm E.T. Saturday, September 16 and 1-2pm Sunday, September 17 to check it out.

Follow us for up-to-the-minute coverage of all the events on the website formerly known as Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to our YouTube channel for interviews and behind-the-scenes scoops, and keep reading below to see our top storylines and events to watch.

The TV window for Prefontaine is 3pm-5pm E.T. on Saturday, September 16 and 3pm-6pm E.T. on Sunday, September 17. All the action is available on Peacock with a subscription, and the meet will be shown on TV both days (full details on how to watch here) so your cousins, grandparents, neighbors, and friends have no excuse not to tune in as well!

Schedule of Events | Live Results | Streaming Day 1 | Streaming Day 2

World’s Fastest, Back In Action

For a while, it looked like the 100-meter finals at Pre would not feature the World’s Fastest Man as Budapest gold medalist Noah Lyles teased an early end to his season. But after Christian Coleman tied his world leading time in Xiamen, Lyles clearly wanted to quiet any doubts as to who’s the best sprinter of 2023 and threw his hat back into the ring. Lyles and Coleman will be joined by four other men who’ve broken 9.90 this year, as well as veteran Yohan Blake and last year’s World silver medalist Marvin Bracy-Williams, so the Pre Classic 100m will be just as stacked as the World final. When Coleman is on his game, the first 40 meters of his race are nearly untouchable, so Lyles will have his work cut out for him in the second half. But it’s entirely possible that someone like Ferdinand Omanyala of Kenya or Kishane Thompson of Jamaica rounds out their season with their best stuff yet and spoils the party for the Americans.

On the women’s side, World silver medalist Shericka Jackson will get another shot at champion Sha’Carri Richardson. The duo have raced head-to-head in 100m finals three times this year and Richardson is undefeated, but this is the longest the U.S. star’s season has stretched out as a professional, and it can prove challenging to maintain a peak for such a long spell. Then again, Richardson in front of a home crowd is a force to be reckoned with, and some of her most transcendent performances have come at Hayward Field, most notably at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials and the 2023 U.S. championship. There’s no Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in this one, unfortunately, but Marie-Josee Ta Lou and a resurgent Elaine Thompson-Herah should put up a strong challenge to the two World medalists.

Jakob Goes For Two

The two-day format of the Diamond League final works out well for stars looking to maximize their prize money. Jakob Ingebrigtsen won the Diamond League final in the 1500m in 2022, but this time out he’s looking to make it twice as nice with a repeat performance in the Bowerman Mile and an entry into Sunday’s 3000m for good measure. Neither is a standard Diamond League distance, but that shouldn’t be an issue for the world record holder at 2000m and 2 miles. With the benefit of pacers and no earlier rounds of racing, Ingebrigtsen should be the heavy favorite in the mile, but it will be interesting to see how fast he pulls his competitors. With both Yared Nuguse and Cole Hocker in the race, Alan Webb’s 3:46.91 American record in the mile might be in jeopardy.

In the 3000m, three Olympic champions go head-to-head as Ingebrigtsen is joined by Joshua Cheptegei and Selemon Barega. Any of the six Ethiopians in the race have sub-7:30 potential, but Barega, Berihu Aregawi, and Yomif Kejelcha are probably the most likely to give Jakob a scare. On the domestic side, Grant Fisher’s year-old American record may not live much longer if Fisher himself or Woody Kincaid has a good day, and U.S.-based Guatemalan Luis Grijalva will surely stand to take a big chunk off his 7:38.67 outdoor PB or even his 7:33.86 overall PB, set earlier this season indoors.

Shericka Chases History

Shericka Jackson has made no secret of her desire to take down Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 21.34 world record in the women’s 200m, and this weekend may be her best shot yet to do it. Conventional wisdom was that the stadium in Budapest was not as favorable to sprints as Hayward Field, and yet Jackson ran 21.41 in still conditions to claim her second World title. If a long season of racing (and the 100m final the day before) hasn’t taken its toll, this could be the perfect opportunity to capitalize on her fitness with a long-awaited breakthrough. The field isn’t the strongest, with Jackson the only entrant to break 22 seconds this year, but that hasn’t been much of a factor in the past – the World champ has been racking up shocking margins of victory regardless of competition.

Crouser Loves A Home Crowd

If Ryan Crouser can get within 5 centimeters of his own world record with limited training and blood clots in his leg, as was the case leading up to Budapest, what can he do now that he’s gotten healthy and is back in front of his home crowd. The sky (and the back wall of the throwing sector) is the limit for the Oregonian, and though his victory is almost certainly assured, every single attempt will bring all the eyes in Hayward Field to the ring as a world record can happen at any time. The World and Olympic champ has already broken his own world record twice this year, improving the mark to 23.56m back in the spring, with his new “Crouser slide” technique, but all indications point to the 30-year-old not being anywhere near the ultimate limit of his potential.

Can Faith Make It Four?

Faith Kipyegon’s dominance in global championship finals is well-documented and broadly appreciated, but did you know she was also the Diamond League champion in 2017, 2021, and 2022 in the 1500m? Unlike Budapest, there’s no historic double at stake for the 1500m GOAT, but adding another item to her long list of accolades is a worthy pursuit in and of itself. No matter what time barrier Kipyegon targets, she’ll only be chasing ghosts of herself: she owns both the world record at 3:49.11 and the facility record at 3:52.59. The U.S. duo of Sinclaire Johnson and Cory McGee will have another shot at fast times after Brussels didn’t quite pan out the way they’d hoped (Johnson ran a season’s best 3:59.19 but missed her PB, and McGee is still in pursuit of her first sub-4). And with Australians Linden Hall and Jessica Hull, Brit Laura Muir, and Irishwoman Ciara Mageean in the race, the likelihood of one or two national records falling is fairly high – which seems to be the norm these days when a pack is pulled along by Kipyegon.

American Throwers Keep Rolling

It’s safe to say that 2023 has been good to American women in the throws. For the second year in a row, Americans picked up an astonishing five medals across these disciplines, including two gold medalists in Laulauga Tausaga-Collins (discus) and Chase Ealey (shot put), both of whom are back in action in Eugene. While the hammer throw was unceremoniously booted off the Diamond League program a few years back, there is still plenty of opportunity for U.S. athletes to pick up a little more hardware, with worthy competitors Valarie Allman and Maggie Ewen also capable of picking up titles should the World champs falter. And while she hasn’t quite been there this season, U.S. javelin champ Maggie Malone has the farthest personal best in the field at 67.40m. She’ll face a serious challenge from Japan’s Haruka Kitaguchi, the World gold medalist who’s been on absolute fire this year.

Karsten and Femke vs. The Clock

There are two pretty heavy favorites in the men’s and women’s 400m hurdles this year, as both world leaders Karsten Warholm and Femke Bol toe the line. Bol will almost certainly dominate, and even though the Dutch superstar has been competing since early February, she hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and could threaten her 51.45 personal best with a strong performance. Warholm is a more interesting case: as the fastest man in both 2023 and in history, he should have no problem picking up his third Diamond League trophy in the event, but he lost his first race of 2023 just two weeks ago in Zurich, with World silver medalist Kyron McMaster of the British Virgin Islands nipping him at the line, 47.27 to 47.30. Warholm hasn’t lost two 400m hurdles races in a row since 2018, and barring a technical screwup or bad weather he has the capacity to run over a second faster than his Zurich performance. But McMaster is here to try and deny him, alongside 2022 World champion Alison Dos Santos and three-time medalist Rai Benjamin. Warholm still has to be considered the favorite, but as always, anything can happen. If he is in top form, however, the all-time list may get some rewriting as he showed earlier in the season he’s capable of at least 46-mid or faster this year.

Mondo vs. Mondo

With so many current world record holders at the top of their game, one pervasive theme of the Pre Classic will be all-time greats shooting to beat their past selves before the 2023 season wraps up. Mondo Duplantis is no exception to the trend; the Olympic and World champ and inarguable greatest pole vaulter in history heads to Eugene trying to add another centimeter or two to his own PB. The outdoor best is 6.21m set in Hayward Field at last year’s World championships, so hopefully he’ll be able to recapture the good vibes of 2022 one more time. In both Budapest and Brussels, Duplantis took cracks at 6.23m (the overall world record is 6.22m, which he set indoors earlier this year), and his third attempt in Brussels was probably his closest yet at the unprecedented height. So with another week of tapering and hopefully no major jet lag issues, perhaps Mondo finds the extra percent of a percent of effort needed to once again soar to historic heights.

A Wide-Open Hurdles Race

The women’s 100m hurdles has been one of the most intriguing events of the year: the U.S. champ, World champ, Olympic champ, world record holder, and 2023 world leader are actually five different women, and all of them are on the start list in Eugene. Jamaican Danielle Williams came up big in the final in Budapest to claim her second World title – her first since 2015 – but can she recapture the magic against the same competition here? It’ll be tough with a season’s best of 12.43 and six women who’ve run under 12.40 this year in the race. The single-race format may best suit Keni Harrison, the 2023 World bronze medalist, who looked phenomenal in the early rounds of racing in Budapest but faltered just a bit in the final. But she’s lost to Tokyo gold medalist Jasmine Camacho-Quinn and U.S. champ Nia Ali in other races this year, and you can’t count out controversial world record holder Tobi Amusan of Nigeria. Who comes out on top is anyone’s guess in the closely-matched and unpredictable event, but it’ll make for fantastic racing.

One Mu Race

One name many were surprised to see on the starting list was Athing Mu. The 2022 World champion over 800m hasn’t contested a single Diamond League race this year and was eagerly talking to media about her postseason vacation plans following her bronze-medal performance in Budapest last month, but thanks to a home-country “wild card” entry, she appears to be planning a rematch against World champion Mary Moraa and silver medalist Keely Hodgkinson. The benefit of a home crowd and fresher legs (remember her insane come-from-behind performance in the World semifinal after being tripped up with 350m to go?) may prove the magic combination Mu needs to come out on top here. But Moraa is a savvy racer and has won 10 straight races (counting heats) with a variety of tactics this outdoor season. Either way, Mu’s addition to the Pre Classic entries presents an exciting narrative: either she gets revenge after a rare loss, Moraa gets to prove her win wasn’t a fluke, or – perhaps least likely but most interesting – someone else entirely beats them both.

David Melly

David began contributing to CITIUS in 2018, and quickly cemented himself as an integral part of the team thanks to his quick wit, hot takes, undying love for the sport and willingness to get yelled at online.