Sunday, May 29, 2016

2016 Prefontaine Classic

Like my chief umpire says, "Let's go play track!"

No better setting than the Pre, America's best one-day track meet, and one of the premier events in the world. 

On Friday night, UO hosted a reunion of the first 10 Oregon runners to run a 4-minute mile. How could I pass this up? 

Arne Kvalheim, Roscoe Divine, Archie San Romani

(Roscoe was the 2nd college freshman to go sub-4, after some guy named Ryan or something. Roscoe entered the lumber industry and had a respectable career, unlike that other guy who entered Congress).
All of them...

Later, at the track....who was the first man to run a sub-4 mile in America? (hint: it wasn't me).

Aussie Jim Bailey was given a scholarship by Bill Bowerman in 1955, then ran a surprising 3:58 while beating world leader John Landy at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Back then, Landy and Roger Bannister were vying to be the first man anywhere under 4 minutes. Also in the hunt was American Wes Santee, who ran under 4:01 twice in the months before Bannister's breakthru run.

Bannister ran 3:59.4 on May 6th of 1954, followed 3 weeks later by Landy's 3:58 flat. They both met for a 'rematch' at the British Empire Games in Vancouver that August, and also scheduled to run was young Mr. Bailey.

Last Friday night, I mentioned to Bailey that it would have been something if both he and Santee had run in that meet. He blanched, then said that Santee wasn't a Commonwealth citizen and therefore couldn't have run under any circumstances. I was taken aback, having remembered something different from my track geek history reading, something like him trying to get an invitational entry. But am I gonna argue with the man? Naw, though I did get the great selfie.

Mo Farah rips a 1:58 or so in the final 800 to win a quick 10,000m race. Then I head to Dave and Jeanne's house to crash for the night.

Look what I found in my bag...

A snack from work, I guess...Trader Joe's has great stuff
Dave and Jeanne have possibly the best runner's shrine I've ever seen!

And their new toy, which they are putting to good use for 10 days right after the meet:

All decked out, and plenty of places to go...I've been asked to train to replace the head referee, so I need to get used to laying down the law.

Is this a neat place for a track meet or what?
Lots of late scratches in the meet: Dibaba, Rupp, Centro, Allyson Felix. Would have been nice to see them, but the others filled in nicely.

Women's steeple: 2nd fastest of all time, a second off the world record of some Russian doper, and Emma Coburn gets the American record. Right before her post-race interview, she was sobbing on a cell phone, talking to her boyfriend. Who was in the stadium...

Really? She could have simply walked across the track and found him.

I'm such a dinosaur, but jeez...phones don't need to take over every inch of our lives, do they?

Boris Berian follows up his World Indoor victory with another big win. Unfortunately, it comes on the heels of Nike serving him with a contract violation lawsuit for shopping around when Nike has a right of first refusal clause. Awk-ward....and they even served him at a track meet! Could have been handled so much better.

Lashawn Merritt is a very large individual, even for a 400m runner.

Bernard Lagat made his 16th and final appearance. That's a lotta laps at Hayward Field. And even though he dropped out of the 5k, he took a bow and got a huge ovation.

I run under the stands for a quick trip to the (portable) head, only to find someone banging on the door outside. Uh, give me a minute, please. Turns out to be Canadian Cam Levins, and he had a race to run shortly. Wait your turn, buddy.

Renaud Lavillenie, (Air France), takes home another pole vault crown without breaking a sweat. I love watching this guy: he has so much fun out there. I guess that's easy when you win all the time. And he was sporting quite the outfit: a UO kit!  The guy can play a crowd...

Keni Harrison runs an insane 12.24 in the women's hurdles to blow up the American record, only 3/100 from the world record. And don't confuse her with Kenny Harrison, who won the 1996 Olympic Triple Jump crown.

Women's 1500m was run in 3:56, the fastest ever on American soil.

In the women's 400m, Ashley Spencer stumbles out of the blocks from the set position (before the gun fired). Oops. That's a DQ most days, and she knows it. She sports quite the long face, awaiting her sentence...

Except that a DQ is primarily when a runner gains an advantage or obstructs another runner. This was neither. And, like in baseball, the Pre management gives ties to the runner.

She is reinstated, and does quite the happy dance before getting back into the blocks.

Sanya Richards-Ross runs her last Pre race; she has done 49 races under 50 seconds. Beastly.

In the final race, the Bowerman mile, all 14 runners come in under 4 minutes, including HS senior Drew Hunter. He'll be attending the University of Oregon, thank you very much.

Some statistician up in the booth did some furious number crunching and found that Hayward Field has 'the fastest front straightaway in the world,' by virtue of cumulative sprint times. Ok, that's a stat even I wouldn't have known.

When i finished the 130 mile drive home, I immediately lunged for my copy of "The Perfect Mile" by Neal Bascomb. He did a marvelous job of detailing the efforts of Bannister, Landy, and Santee in chasing the 4 minute mile. My question: was Jim Bailey right about Santee not ever being considered for the Empire Games mile, or was I right in saying that he tried to get a provisional entry but failed?

After some furious searching....Mr. Bailey, you owe me a drink. Bascomb reports that Landy petitioned the Amateur Athletic Union, the Brits, and the US Marine Corps (his employer) for a chance to run against Landy and Bannister. All authorities turned down his request.

Smile. I would have been the best Olympics researcher on the planet. Actually, I am...

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