Brad Walker celebrates breaking the American Pole Vault record in Eugene (Getty Images) © Copyright
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American record 6.04m for Walker - Mutola, Bekele other highlights - Prefontaine Classic REPORT

Eugene, USABrad Walker took a big step toward establishing himself as the Olympic favourite in the Pole Vault in the Prefontaine Classic on Sunday (8 June) part of the IAAF World Athletics Tour.

Walker cleared an American record 6.04m for the world’s highest clearance since 2001 in the IAAF Grand Prix meeting at the University of Oregon’s newly renovated Hayward Field.

Walker’s effort was among eight meet records in the 34th annual meeting before a record crowd of 14,221 that was also highlighted by Maria Mutola (MOZ), who won the women’s 800m in 1:59.24 for her 16th consecutive win in her final Prefontaine appearance.

Walker was awarded the inaugural Maria Mutola Outstanding Athlete of the Meet Award with a plaque of an autographed No. 1 bib by Mutola.

Meet records galore

Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) turned in the fastest 10,000m ever in the U.S. with a 26:25.97clocking for the No.4 mark of all time and compatriot Meseret Defar won the women’s 5,000m in 14:38.73.

Becky Heidler (GER) won the women’s Hammer Throw (73.93m). Meet records were also set by Torri Edwards in the 100m (10.94) and Geleta Burka (ETH) in the women’s 1500m (4:00.44) on a warm, sunny afternoon.

Alfred Yego (KEN) won the 800m in 1:44.01 in a Hayward Field record and Wallace Spearmon clocked 20.14 to round out the record rampage.

Walker passes Bubka on the All-Time Prefontaine list

Walker’s clearance in the Pole Vault surpassed Sergey Bubka’s meet record of 5.95m and Jeff Hartwig's American record of 6.03m set in 2000 on the same facility that will be used for the U.S. Olympic Trials on 27 June-July 6.

“Any time that you can get a big height, it’s a confidence builder,” Walker said. “I am confident but I am not going to over look the pressure and competition at Trials. I still need to focus on everything to make sure that is still in working order.’’

Everything was in place for the reigning indoor and outdoor World champion when he cleared 6.04m on his first attempt despite slightly brushing the bar. He looked up at the crossbar before flexing both arms in celebration to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd.

Walker and Hartwig, who tied for fourth at 5.60m on Sunday, embraced after Walker’s record clearance. The 26-year-old Walker called Hartwig, who turned 40 last September, a role model in his development in the Pole vault

“Jeff Hartwig had (the record) for a long time and I really looked up to him to be the next in line,” Walker said.

Walker called his technique on his record clearance far from perfect after coming in too close on his takeoff. He called his form on his previous PB of 6.00m set in 2006 as far superior to his vault on Sunday.

Walker took two attempts at a World record 6.16m. He was called on a time foul on his first attempt before deciding to pass on his third and final attempt.

“I was a bit exhausted emotionally and physically after that 6.04 so I waited it out to collect myself,” Walker said. “There are some minor technical things that turn into major flaws at those big heights. I felt that I controlled it early on…but at 6.04m, it got away from me and at 6.16m, I didn’t get as good a shot as I would have liked. I know what I did wrong and I know how to fix it.”

Mutola wins 16th 800m in a row in Prefontaine farewell

There was no event more emotional than Mutola’s victory in the 800m in her final Hayward Field appearance.

Mutola, 35, who first competed at Prefontaine as a high school senior at nearby Springfield High School, overcame a strong challenge from high school student Chanelle Price to keep her streak intact.

Price, 17, took the lead on the backstretch before Mutola pulled even with 200m to go. Mutola clenched both fists as she broke the tape and dropped to both knees to kiss the track.

“'I'm going to miss coming here,” Mutola said. “I'm going to miss the crowd, I'm going to miss the race. But sometimes you just have to say goodbye to good things.”

Alice Schmidt finished second in 2:00.01 and Hazel Clark-Rley was third in 2:00.51. Price finished sixth in 2:01.61 for the No. 2 time by a U.S. high school runner.

Mutola, who now lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, placed fifth in the 1500m in her first  Prefontaine Classic in 1991. She has competed at Prefontaine every year since except 2002. Her win streak has included 12 victories in the 800m, three in the 1000m and one in the 1500m.

“I've been running this for half of my life,” Mutola said. “It's like I know nothing else but the Prefontaine.”

Bekele sets U.S. soil mark in 10,000m

Bekele came up shy of his World record 26:17.51 set in 2005 but smashed the U.S. all-comer’s best of 27:04.20 set in 2001 by Abraham Chebii in a race where the first seven finishers broke Henry Rono’s Hayward Field record of 27:29.90 set in 1982.

Bekele, who passed the halfway point in 13:09.6 in his first U.S. outdoor appearance, ran the final 5000m alone in the specially assembled race for a World record attempt that was held in the morning before the meet’s main section.

Ethiopians swept the top three places with Gashu Jelian in second in 27:13.85 and Meregu Zwedie in third in 27:14.13. Abdi Abdirahman finished seventh in 27:16.99 for the No.2 mark in U.S. history.

Defar comes up short in bid to regain World record

Like Bekele, Defar won the women’s 5000m in a solo effort in which the top three finishers smashed the Hayward Field record of 15:06.53 set by Mary Decker Slaney in 1985.

Defar, who lost her World record of 14:16.63 to countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba’s stunning 14:11.15 in Oslo on Friday, said that a slight wind and tightness in her legs derailed a World record attempt.

Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) was second in14:57.43 and Kara Goucher finished third in 14:58.10.

Meet records for Burka in the women’s 1500m and Yego in the 800m
    
Burka defended her Pre title in the women’s 1500m in 4:00.44 to break her record of 4:00.48 when an anticipated duel against Maryam Jamal (BAH) did not materialized after the 2007 World Champion scratched.

In the 800m, Yego broke one of Hayward Field’s oldest records with his 1:44.01 clocking to eclipse the hand-time of 1:44.3 set by Dave Wottle in 1972. Yusef Saad Kamel (BAH) was second in 1:44.18 and Khadevis Robinson was third in 1:44.55.

Defending champion Nick Symmonds was fourth in 1:45.01 after coming from second to last on the final lap to battle for the lead on the homestretch.

Bernard Lagat won the 2-mile in 8:12.45 to turn back Rashid Ramzi (BAH), who was second in 8:13.16 and Paul Koech (KEN), who was third in 8:13.31. Chris Solinsky was a surprising fourth in 8:15.77. Craig Mottram (AUS), who set an all-time U.S. all-comer’s mark of 8:03.50 to win last year’s Pre, was fifth in 8:18.19 after leading for much of the race.

In the Bowerman Mile, Shadrack Korir (KEN) won a sprint to finish in 3:50.49 over Nick Willis (NZE), who was second in 3:50.66, and Daniel K. Komen (KEN), third in 3:50.95.

All nine finishers broke four minutes to bring the total to 208 in Prefontaine Classic history.

Dominating weight throw wins by Heidler and Nelson

In the women’s Hammer, reigning World champion Betty Heidler outdueled Ivana Brkjacic (CRO), 73.93m to 73.73m. Heidler surpassed the previous meet and facility record of 69.82m on all six attempts and Brkjacic was over it on all five of her legal throws.

In the Shot Put, Adam Nelson overcame fouls on his first three throws to win in a World-leading 22.12 with Reese Hoffa in second at 21.73m.

World-leader Stephanie Brown-Trafton won the women’s discus at 63.50m with Vera Cechlova (CZE) in second at 63.10m.


Edwards and Spearmon highlight sprints

Edwards was never challenged in the women’s 100m to win for the second year in a row in a meet and Hayward Field record 10.94 with the 2003 World champion, dipping  two hundredths under Gwen Torrence’s 1996 standard.

Jamaicans Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart were second and third, both timed in 10.99. Two-time 200m World champion Allyson Felix was fourth in 11.06, a hundredth ahead of 2007 World bronze medallist Carmelita Jeter.

In the 200m, Spearmon took a hundredth off of Michael Johnson’s 1995 meet record of 20.15, to defeat defending Olympic champion Shawn Crawford (20.25) and Xavier Carter (20.29).

Sanya Richards won the women’s 400m in 50.11 to lead four under 51 seconds with Mary Wineberg (50.32) and Jamaicans Shericka Williams (50.34) and Novlene Williams (50.92.)

Darrel Brown (TRI) won the 100m with Ivory Williams second in 10.10 and high school senior Jeff Demps in third in 10.19. LaShawn Merritt was a 44.65 to 45.14 winner over Angelo Taylor in the 400m.

Hurdle wins by Hayes and Moore - Liu false starts

Joanna Hayes won the women’s 100m Hurdles in a wind-aided 12.53 with training partner Dawn Harper in second in 12.59 after a false start disqualification by World yearly leader Damu Cherry.

Hayes clipped the last hurdle in scene reminiscent of the 2004 Olympic champion’s fall in the 2005 World championships final.

Hayes, who was coming off a win in the Reebok Grand Prix in New York City on 31 May, was out quick from the start wearing bright pink tape on her wrists but said the 3.1 mps tailwind caused her to lose her rhythm over the last barrier.

“I told myself to relax and not press it. I relaxed too much and hit the 10th hurdle,” Hayes said.

In the 110m Hurdles, Anwar Moore won in a wind-aided 13.09. World record holder Liu Xiang (CHN), who had been questionable because of tightness in his right hamstring in his trail leg, was disqualified after a false start.

Silnov wins High Jump

Andrey Silnov (RUS) won the High Jump at 2.31m in a jump off with Tora Harris (2.30m). Jesse Williams, the two-time NCAA champion from USC and a supplanted Eugene resident, was third at 2.25m.

Brazilians swept the horizontal jumps. Maurren Maggi won the women’s Long Jump in a wind-aided 7.02m and Jadel Gregorio bounded 17.26m in the Triple Jump to top Rafeeq Curry, who was second in a wind-aided 17.11m.

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Kirby Lee for the IAAF