May 19, 2015 Matthew Sonnenfeldt

Hill and Barrios in Prefontaine 5k

Men’s 5K a Pre Classic Specialty
(The 41st Pre Classic, a member of the IAAF Diamond League of elite international 
track & field meets, will be held May 29-30 at historic Hayward Field.)

Eugene, Oregon – The Pre Classic 5000-meter race has a history of producing fast races, including the only sub-13:00 times—five and counting–recorded on U.S. soil.

Fast, competitive races were one of Steve Prefontaine’s loves in track, and meet organizers have assembled a field with the top available runners in the world.  This year’s meet will mark 40 years since Prefontaine’s last race on May 29, 1975.

Two of America’s greatest are among the stars in the field, U.S. record holders Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat.  Combined, they own every AR at a championship distance from 1500 to 10k.

Galen Rupp is America’s top-ranked 5k runner, No. 4 last year in the Track & Field News world rankings, breaking a streak of nine years by Lagat as the top American.  Rupp’s prime jewel last year was a No. 1 world ranking in the 10k, mostly due to his American record at last year’s Pre Classic that was the fastest in the world.  Rupp’s 2012 Olympic 10k silver medal was the best by an American since Billy Mills won gold in 1964, and his London Olympic 5k 4th matched the best by an American since 1972 – run by 21-year-old Steve Prefontaine.  Last year Rupp won his sixth U.S. title at 10k, most in the post-World War II era.

Bernard Lagat is the only American to win major golds in the 1500 and 5k in the same year (2007).  He owns more Pre Classic titles at men’s distances above 1500 meters (5) than anyone except steeplechase Hall of Famer Henry Marsh (7).  Lagat won his seventh U.S. 5k crown last year, giving him the most in history.  Lagat has competed in the Pre Classic in 13 of the last 14 years.

Yenew Alamirew is Ethiopia’s top ranked 5k runner over the last two years, ranking No. 2 in the last two world rankings by T&FN.  The 2013 IAAF Diamond Trophy winner has improved each year since his first Pre Classic appearance as a 21-year-old in the 2011 Bowerman Mile (7th).  He was runner-up in last year’s Pre 5k.

Edwin Cheruiyot Soi of Kenya has run sub-13:00 in each of the last six years, a career streak exceeded only by world record setters Haile Gebrselassie (9) and Kenenisa Bekele (8).  The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, Soi won the 2013 edition of the Pre Classic, beating Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah, who set the U.S. all-comers best of 12:56.98 in winning Pre a year earlier.

Kenya’s Isiah Kiplangat Koech was a teammate of Soi’s on the last two major track teams, winning bronze at the 2013 World Championships after a 5th in the 2012 Olympics as an 18-year-old.  He has been world ranked by T&FN in each of the last four years, including as the top Kenyan in 2011 and 2012 (only 17 and 18, respectively, at the time).  The fastest runner in the field at 12:48.64, Koech also owns the fastest time ever at high altitude (13:09.80 at the 2012 Kenyan Olympic trials).  He won the IAAF Diamond Trophy in 2012 at age 18.

Kenya’s Lawi Lalang is a training partner of Lagat in Tucson, Ariz.  Lalang will be making his first Pre Classic appearance, and his range includes NCAA titles in cross country, outdoor 10k and indoor mile (8 titles total).  He won the world-class Carlsbad 5k road race in March, beating Lagat.

Albert Rop of Bahrain set an Asian record 12:51.96 in 2013, still No. 3 on the all-time world junior list.  He earned bronze at last year’s Asian Games and was fourth in last year’s Pre Classic.

Ryan Hill of the U.S. has only lost once thus far in 2015, by 0.20 in the Millrose 5k.  His victories include the U.S. indoor 2-mile title.  He is a former NCAA indoor runner-up to Lalang, and he won ACC titles in both the indoor mile and 10k (twice) while at North Carolina State.

Australia’s Collis Birmingham is the only man to compete in all of the Pre 5ks in the IAAF Diamond League era.  He twice set PRs at the Pre Classic before his all-time best at his second Olympics at London.

Juan Luis Barrios is undefeated on the track thus far in 2015, including a 5k victory at Stanford’s popular Payton Jordan Invitational.  A two-time Olympian, he has Mexico’s best Olympic 5k finishes (7th in 2008, 8th in 2012) since the 4th by Juan Martinez in the 1968 Mexico City Games.  He is Mexico’s second-fastest 5k runner, trailing just the 13:07.79 of Arturo Barrios (no relation) set 36 years ago.

Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia won gold at last year’s World Junior Championships in Eugene, matching the 3k title won in the 2013 World Youth Championships.  Kejelcha is still just 17 years old and has already won the African junior 5k title.  Ethiopia’s Birhan Nebebew, now 20, was a Junior when he finished 5th in the 2013 Pre 10k.

Mohammed Ahmed is the highest finishing Canadian ever in the World Championships 10k, taking 9th in 2013.  The Wisconsin grad has Big Ten titles in cross country (2011), indoor track (2014 5k) and outdoor track (2010 10k, 2012 & 2014 5k).

Cornelius Kangogo of Kenya was silver medalist at the 2014 African cross country championships.

All in all, it’s a field that Pre would have loved to match himself against.

Men’s 5000 Meters Personal Best
Isiah Kiplangat Koech (Kenya) 12:48.64
Yenew Alamirew (Ethiopia) 12:48.77
Edwin Cheruiyot Soi (Kenya) 12:51.34
Albert Rop (Bahrain) 12:51.96
Bernard Lagat (USA) 12:53.60
Galen Rupp (USA) 12:58.90
Lawi Lalang (Kenya) 13:00.95
Collis Birmingham (Australia) 13:09.57
Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) 13:09.81
Cornelius Kangogo (Kenya) 13:11.14
Ryan Hill (USA) 13:14.22
Birhan Nebebew (Ethiopia) 13:14.60
Mohammed Ahmed (Canada) 13:18.88
Yomif Kejelcha (Ethiopia) 13:25.19