By David Melly
May 26, 2023
Make sure to carve out a little time in your Memorial Day weekend plans to watch some track and field, because Sunday’s Diamond League meet in Rabat is sure to be a barn-burner. Olympic champs, world medalists, old rivals, and rising stars are headed to Morocco for the Meeting International Mohammed VI de Rabat, the second Diamond League event of the season. So crack a cold Olipop, fire up the grill, and make the following races the highlight of your barbecue.
All the action kicks off Sunday, May 28th with the pro races and the TV window beginning at 2pm E.T. You can find entries, schedule, and live results here and stream the meet live on Peacock with a subscription.
The men’s 1500m is all about the showdown between the On Athletic Club vs. Jakob. The international (but Boulder, CO-based) middle-distance powerhouse training group is sending Australian Olli Hoare, Spaniard Mario Garcia Romo, and American Yared Nuguse to take on Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebrigsten. Over the last several years, Hoare in particular has closed the gap on his Norwegian rival but has never beaten him head-to-head, but he’s being pushed harder than ever in training by his talented teammates. After Nuguse’s stellar indoor season, the fans clamored to see the Notre Dame grad take on a higher caliber of international competition, and now he gets his chance.
It would be a shock to see Jakob taken down by this field, particularly in a fast, rabbitted race this early in the season, but Nuguse in particular is so under-tested on the elite level that anything is possible.
Of course, we also can’t forget about Abel Kipsang, who has the second-fastest PB in the field behind Ingebrigtsen at 3:29.56, but although he ran some blazing times on the circuit last year, he only managed a 7th-place finish at Worlds. Maybe with a little more experience under his belt, the 26-year-old, who’s already run 3:32 this year at altitude, can level up.
All too often, the great Shericka Jackson gets overshadowed by her Jamaican teammates, the ageless Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and 5-time Olympic champ Elaine Thompson-Herah. But the 28-year-old sprinter is quietly building a resume to match anyone in the sport, with 13 World/Olympic medals, a 4x100m Olympic gold, and the second-fastest 200-meter mark of all time with her 21.45 in Eugene last summer. In Rabat, she’ll be the star of the show as she opens up her season in what has become her specialty event.
Jackson has already run 10.82 in the 100m and 50.92 in the 400m this season, so clearly she’s showing up fit and ready to play. And although she shouldn’t be challenged too strongly by the field assembled, it will be great to get a sense of where she stands to match up in the 200m against the likes of Sha’Carri Richardson, Abby Steiner, Favour Ofili… and, of course, her Jamaican compatriots.
Any time either Devon Allen or Grant Holloway races, the performance is electric. When they both line up in the same race, the fans are surely in for a good time.
Holloway is riding a 10-race winning streak (including heats) so far in 2023 and is the world leader with his 13.03 from the Tom Jones Invitational last month. He and Allen are the only men to break 12.9 seconds in the event in the last decade, and his 12.81 personal best is only 0.01 seconds off the world record. Allen has had a quieter start to the season, winning his opener at the Penn Relays in 13.46- although that meet was held in downright awful conditions so his time is hardly an accurate indicator of fitness. Both men are consummate entertainers, and the latest round of their head-to-head battle (Holloway has a 7-3 record against Allen in the event) is bound to be a thrilling one.
In the first Diamond League meet of the year, reigning world discus champ Kristjan Čeh of Slovenia picked up where he left off, hauling a 70.89-meter throw that broke the meet record and is the second-longest throw in the world this year. He’ll surely threaten the Rabat meet record of 70.78m, set in 2019 by Fedrick Dacres, and be pushed by longtime rival Daniel Ståhl. Ståhl and Čeh are the only throwers in the field with seasons’ bests over 69 meters and personal bests over 71 meters, and though the Swede has the advantage in their 14-11 head to head record, Čeh won 10 of their 11 matchups in 2022.
Miss of the Meet
It was a bummer to see Olympic 100m champ Marcell Jacobs withdraw from his highly-anticipated matchup with World 100m champ Fred Kerley, particularly after all the trash-talking both athletes offered on social media. Jacobs, who is either quite injury-prone or competition-averse, depending on which fans you ask, has developed something of a habit of withdrawing from head-to-head races with Kerley, and his announcement was a huge blow to the hype surrounding the meet (although it made for an avalanche of quality memes).
Not to worry, the men’s 100 meters will still be a star-studded matchup, with Kerley, fellow American Trayvon Bromell, and Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala still slated to start. The 9.98 meet record is surely in jeopardy and Omanyala in particular has a habit of producing early-season heat that should keep the world champ honest.
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.