Jennifer Barringer Simpson of United States celebrating her gold medal in the women's 1500 metres final (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Eugene, Oregon

Deep middle distance fields announced for Eugene – Samsung Diamond League

Jenny Simpson impressed fans around the world with her gritty gold medal victory at last year’s World Championships 1500m. Now she’s looking for the Olympic variety. She has plenty of company as the 38th Prefontaine Classic – Samsung Diamond League meeting on 2 June has assembled world-class fields in the women’s 1500 metres and men’s and women’s 800 metres.

The Pre Classic, is a major stop on the road to the 2012 London Olympics, and is part of the 14 meeting Samsung Diamond League series.

While the men’s 800 will be held on Saturday (2), the women’s 1500 and 800 will be held as part of the Friday portion (1) of this year’s edition that has been named Hollister Night at Hayward, in tribute to the late Geoff Hollister.

Simpson’s victory last August in Daegu gave the U.S. its first gold in the women’s 1500 since Mary Decker in 1983, about three years before Simpson was born as Jennifer Barringer, her maiden name. A former steeplechaser with 3-time NCAA champion and 2008 Olympic experience, she has concentrated on the 1500 since graduating from Colorado in 2009. She is the fifth-fastest American ever with a best of 3:59.90.

Several others will contest with Simpson. One of the most prominent is American Anna Pierce, a fellow former steeplechaser who also has world-class credentials and is the third-fastest American in history with a best of 3:59.38.

Also looking toward London is another American, Shannon Rowbury, the 2009 World Championships bronze medallist and a 2008 Olympian. Rowbury, a teammate of Simpson on the 2011 World Championships team, has a best of 4:00.33, seventh-best in U.S. history.

A Canadian with impressive experience, Sheila Reid will enter the contest. Last June she became the first woman to sweep the 1500 and 5000 at the NCAA Championships while running for Villanova. She continued such winning ways in the fall by winning the NCAA cross country title.

An 18-year-old from Ethiopia, Tizita Bogale, will likely keep the race honest. She has a best of 4:03.94 and won the World Junior Championships gold in 2010 at age 16.

Kaki but do not discount Aman

The men’s 800 metres features great examples of the extremes of experience and youth, both from America and beyond. Abubaker Kaki of Sudan earned the silver medal at last year’s World Championships as a 22-year-old. With a best of 1:42.23, he is the fifth-fastest ever at 800.

Four other finalists from Daegu will be on hand for a pre-London reunion. The most decorated of the group is bronze medalist Yuriy Borzakovskiy of Russia. The 31-year-old is the 2004 Olympic gold medallist whose bronze last year in Daegu is just one of four World Championships medals (he also has two silvers and another bronze from that meet). His best of 1:42.47 makes him the eighth-fastest in history.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the entrants is the youngest, 18-year-old Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia. He opened the world’s eyes last year by making the Daegu final as a 17-year-old with a best of 1:43.37 in the semifinals. He made the world look even closer last September, when he ended World record holder and gold medallist David Rudisha’s 34-meet winning streak in Milan. He has started 2012 on a tear, winning the World Indoor Championships gold in Istanbul in March.

The two other Daegu finalists, Nick Symmonds of the U.S. and Adam Kszczot of Poland, fifth and sixth in Daegu are in the line-up. Kszczot has a PB of 1:43.30, while 2008 Olympian Symmonds’ best of 1:43.76 makes him the eighth-fastest American ever.

One of Symmonds’s U.S. teammates is Olympian Khadevis Robinson, who at age 35 is the clearly the most experienced in the field. But the veteran of seven World Championships is still world class. His best of 1:43.68, No. 6 in U.S. history, is the best of any American currently competing.

Robinson has company in the 30-plus club. Mbulaeni Mulaudzi is a 31-year-old South African with medals of all colours: gold (2009 World Championships), silver (2004 Olympics), and bronze (2003 World Championships). He has a best o f 1:42.86 and will be joined by yet another sub-1:43 runner, 2008 Olympian Boaz Kiplagat Lalang of Kenya (1:42.95).

American Tyler Mulder, a former NCAA Indoor champion who trains locally with the Oregon Track Club Elite, completes the field. He has improved every year of his career and owns a best of 1:44.83.

Montano and Vessey lead entrants

The women’s 800 metres brings together an elite field led by two world-class Americans who are the fastest since the turn of the century in Alysia Montano and Maggie Vessey.

Both Montano and Vessey were finalists at last year’s World Championships in Daegu. Montano was just out of the medals in fourth and Vessey a stride back in sixth. Montano, a three-time U.S. champion who earned bronze at the 2010 World Indoor Championships, has a best of 1:57.34, making her the fifth-fastest in U.S. history. Vessey, with a best of 1:57.84, is not far behind as the eighth-fastest American.

Several others with Olympic dreams are entered, including one attempting to repeat past success. Last year’s 3rd-ranked American Alice Schmidt is a veteran of the 2008 Olympics as well as three World Championships. Among those in the field are American Erica Moore, bronze medalist at this year’s World Indoor Championships, and Ethiopian Fantu Magiso Manedo, a 19-year-old who finished fourth at this year’s World Indoor Championships. Two other key entrants are Molly Beckwith, winner of the Penn Relays mile last week, and past NCAA champions Phoebe Wright and Geena Gall.

With the addition of the men’s and women’s 800 and women’s 1500 to the previously announced four events, 17 athletes in this year’s Prefontaine Classic have won a total of 43 Olympic or World Championships medals (22 gold, 9 silver, 12 bronze). The 17 medallists include 10 with at least one gold medal.

Organisers for the IAAF

Men’s 800m
Abubaker Kaki (Sudan)
Adam Kszczot (Poland)
Mohamed Aman (Ethiopia)
Nick Symmonds (USA)
Khadevis Robinson (USA)
Yuriy Borzakovskiy (Russia)
Boaz Kiplagat Lalang (Kenya)
Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (South Africa)
Anthony Chemut (Kenya)
Tyler Mulder (USA)

Women's 800m
Alysia Montano (USA)
Maggie Vessey (USA)
Molly Beckwith (USA)
Alice Schmidt (USA)
Erica Moore (USA)
Phobe Wright (USA)
Fantu Magiso Manedo (Ethiopia)
Geena Gall (USA)
LaTavia Thomas (USA)

Women’s 1500m
Jenny Simpson (USA)
Tizita Bogale (Ethiopia)
Anna Pierce (USA)
Shannon Rowbury (USA)
Brenda Martinez (USA)
Gabreile Anderson (USA)
Katie Follett Mackey (USA)
Jemma Simpson (GBR)
Lidia Chojecka (POL)
Bertukan Feyesa (ETH)
Sheila Reid (CAN)