Athletes ready for final Pre at historic Hayward Field
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — South Africa’s Caster Semenya is preparing to defend her 800-meter title at the Prefontaine Classic amid controversy over international track and field’s impending rule that could limit her from competing at the distance in the future.
Semenya won the 1,500 in a South African-record time earlier this month in Doha. She’ll attempt to defend her Diamond League 800 title on Saturday at Eugene’s historic Hayward Field.
On Friday night Selemon Barega of Ethiopia won the men’s two-mile in 8 minutes, 20.01 seconds. American Sam Kendricks won the pole vault at 19 feet, 3/4 inches, while German Thomas Rohler won the javelin with a meet-record throw of 296-10.
Organizers announced earlier Friday that Allyson Felix had withdrawn from Saturday’s 400 for undisclosed reasons. Justin Gatlin had been scheduled to run in the 100 on the men’s side, but withdrew on Wednesday because of hamstring tightness.
Christian Coleman, who was expected to double in the 100 and 200, has decided only to run in the 100. Coleman, who holds the world record in the 60 meters, won both the 100 and 200 last year at the NCAA championships at Hayward Field.
“I’m feeling really good in practice, and hopefully that can transition into the competition and kick my season off, and I can continue to keep running fast,” he said.
Tori Bowie, the reigning world champion, and Jamaican Elaine Thompson, who won gold at the Rio Olympics, highlight the women’s 100.
Semenya, the two-time Olympic and three-time world champion in the 800 will face a challenge in Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, who trains with the Oregon Track Club, and American Ajee Wilson.
Semenya and Niyonsaba could be impacted in the future by a new rule that has drawn criticism.
The IAAF, track and field’s international governing body, has maintained that women with unusually high testosterone levels have a competitive advantage over other women. On Nov. 1, the IAAF will limit entry for all international events from 400 meters through the mile to women with testosterone below a specified level.
South Africa has said it will challenge the rule in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Prefontaine Classic is named after Oregon native Steve Prefontaine, an Olympian killed in a 1977 car accident at 24. The meet is in its 44th year, but this will be the last at Hayward Field as it is currently configured.
The University of Oregon will replace Hayward Field with a new track and field stadium that will host the 2021 world championships. It will seat 12,900 but will be expandable to accommodate 30,000 spectators.
Built in 1919, Hayward Field has hosted seven U.S. Track and Field championships and six Olympic trials, as well as the annual Pre. The 2014 world junior championships were also held at the track.
Meet organizer Tom Jordan said Friday that he hopes the Pre will remain in the region in the coming years.