Saturday, June 4, 2011

2011 Prefontaine Classic

Awesome meet.

Had a friend flying in from Nashville on Friday night, but she was all in to see her first track meet. So I roused everyone at 0530 Saturday so we could hit the road (I needed to be there at 0900 to get lined up with the other officials).

Sat at a McDonald's for 15 minutes with no one in front of us while the help tried to harvest the last remaining McMuffins remaining in the world. Put us behind schedule.

Normally not a big deal except this is a huge meet on international TV. In the US, the Pre is second only to the Olympic Trials. So I call the head umpire and tell him I'll be about 10 minutes late, but still 20 minutes early for the march-on. "No problem," he says. "Now we're going on after the National Anthem, not before. Plenty of time." So I decelerate from warp speed and enjoy the drive.

Also wanted to get there early so 8-year-old Zoe could get a front-row seat. Last year, she and Kristen were way up in the nosebleed section. This time, 3rd row from the track. Not much better than that. And the head umpire positioned me directly in front of her, about 15 yards away. Since this meet was so important, I had to be subtle while making faces at her. Didn't want to cause an international incident, you see.


Mo Farah (GB) held the lead into the last lap of the 10,000, when the Ethiopians and Kenyans were poised to pounce. Then Mo just ran away from them, smoked 'em good. Something like 6 or 7 guys under 27 minutes, just insane.

Oscar Pistorius finished last in the men's 400, not notable except he's a double lower leg amputee. His time was under 47 seconds. No wonder they call him the Blade Runner. The winning time by a double Gold Medalist was slower than OU freshman Mike Berry ran this season. Disclaimer; it's early in the pro season, and it's not an Olympic year, so the pros are using this meet as a tune-up. But still....

Carmelita Jeter took the women's 100m, convincingly beating the Jamaican Olympic gold medalist and running close to Flo-Jo time.

Can't say enough about David Oliver (110HH):  he was undefeated last year while running all over the world. Today he was head to head with the 2004 Olympic gold medalist Li Jiang and took him down. David was 0.07 off the world record in an awesome race. He's built like a linebacker, shoulders as wide as a car. And he sounds like a genuinely nice guy who is grateful to have such an opportunity. Go get it, DO.

China's Li Jiang is a HUGE celebrity in his country, and today he had a rowdy group of countrymen and women cheering him on, complete with indecipherable banners.

After Beijing, I had thought that Bernard Lagat was pretty much done. He was 34 or 35 in 2008, didn't have a good Olympics, and Father Time appeared to have him sewn up. So all Bernard does is hang close during the two mile, get into perfect position going into the last turn, and hit the jets while running smooth like butter to finish with a 54 second lap. He made it look easy, like he erased 8 years from the calendar.

But the story of the race was in last place. 18 year old Lukas Verzbickas, an incoming UO freshman, tore 5 seconds off the national high school record with an 8:29. He looked as smooth as Bernard did, no visible strain until the last lap. Lukas was a world junior triathlon champion or some such thing, but has evidently decided to do all his talking on the track. Lucky for us local folk.

The final event, the Bowerman Mile, is named after the former head coach at UO and co-founder of that little shoe company that sounds something like Nicky. Bill B was also the guy who convinced Steve Pre to run at Oregon back in 1969 or so, and Pre's mother received a huge ovation at the meet. In the Mile, pretty much everyone finished under 4 minutes. Nice way to finish.

Friend of a friend worked on the restoration of Hayward Field back in '74 (The Pre Classic began as the Hayward Restoration Meet). The friend remembers sawing away while Pre was doing a Bill Dellinger workout. Namely, 12 x 400m in 60s with 15s rest.  Pre would cross the line, jog a small circle, then hit it once more.

Read that again, track fans.

We found out that our daughter's second grade teacher Kay was at Pre's last meet, the night he died. And her husband was at the party where Pre was last seen alive. Surreal.

RIP Steve Prefontaine

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