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May 26, 2017

What2Watch: Prefontaine Classic Day 1

The Nike Prefontaine Classic just might be the best invitational on the planet and it gets started tonight.

Friday’s coverage will begin at 11:00pm EDT. US fans can watch via NBC Sports Network or online via NBC Sports Gold (subscription required). Canadian fans with a RunnerSpace Plus subscription can watch at AthleticsCanada.tv.

Friday night is dedicated to Joan Benoit Samuelson, arguably the greatest American long-distance runner of all time, who just turned 60 years old. The evening’s action will be all women’s competition.

Below I have an event-by event preview, along with a start list. I have developed my own “power rankings” for each event and those are included, along with each athlete’s best marks in 2017.

Women’s Javelin
7:34 local time (10:34 ET)
This is the first major competition of the year so it’s hard to tell much yet. Liu has the best marks but could have jet-lag issues. Khaladovich has had a solid start to her season too. Kolak was the surprise winner at last summer’s Olympics and is still just 21 years old in an event where athletes typically peak around age 30, so she just might be the next javelin star.

Women’s Long Jump
7:37 local time (10:37 ET)
All the top jumpers save Ivana Spanovic (CRO) are in the competition (and she had been announced as part of the field but has since scratched). Reese and Bartoletta have combined to win every World or Olympic gold medal since 2009, and have staged some tremendous head-to-head battles over the last few years. Ugen beat Reese at the Drake Relays in truly horrible weather. Klishina was the lone Russian allowed to compete at last summer’s Olympics.

Womens’ 800 meters (National heat)
8:06pm local time (11:06pm ET)
This is the B-heat of the women’s 800 and is comprised of the best Americans not good enough to get into tomorrow’s A-heat. For this reason the “power rankings” in the far-left column reflect how these athletess ran in North American (USA and Canada). Martinez is just coming off a meet record at the USATF Middle Distance Classic. Lipsey ran faster than that meet record during the indoor season, and Roesler is rounding into form after a difficult 2016 season. High schooler Watson is running her first major 800 of the outdoor season, and the number to watch is 1:59.51 – that’s the national high school record, set by Mary Cain four years ago at the Pre Classic.

Women’s 1500 meters (National heat)
8:14pm local time (11:14pm ET)
This is nominally the “National” race but includes a significant number of foreign athletes, and so I’ve reverted back to worldwide “power rankings” in the far left column. Reid is finally over some injuries that slowed her for years. She won last week’s USATF Middle Distance Classic and beat Shannon Rowbury, who will be in tomorrow’s A-heat. Also in that race was Gollish, Pen Freitas, Schneider, Sutherland, and Efraimson. Grunewald is bravely racing while battling cancer for the fourth time in eight years.

Women’s Steeplechase
8:25pm local time (11:25pm ET)
This is not an official Diamond League race and will not count in the season-long points race. Despite that fact, it’s still a great field featuring ten of the world’s top 13 (according to my power rankings). Three of them have run 9:05 or faster this year (Jebet, Chepkoech, and Chespol) while Coburn is the best of the rest at 9:14, suggesting that this will essentially break into two races.

Women’s 5000 meters
8:41pm local time (11:41pm ET)
Dibaba is supposedly chasing the world record (14:11.15) but that may be more of a stretch than we realize. Her only PRs set in 2016 or ’17 are at distances she rarely runs (mile and 2000 meters). In the event that this becomes a bona fide race to the finish, look for Kipkemboi, Hassan or possibly even Huddle to be factors.

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