24 May, 2016

Big-Time Women's Steeple Talent Set for Pre Classic

  • Sofia Assefa - photorun.net

The Prefontaine Classic women’s steeplechase is a major stop on the road to the Rio Olympics, even for talented Kenyans, Ethiopians and the fastest American in history.

May 24, 2016
For Immediate Release 

Big-Time Women's Steeple Talent Set for Pre Classic 

(The 42nd Prefontaine Classic, a member of the IAAF Diamond League of elite international track & field meets, will be held May 27-28 at historic Hayward Field.)

            Eugene, Oregon – The Prefontaine Classic women’s steeplechase is a major stop on the road to the Rio Olympics, even for talented Kenyans, Ethiopians and the fastest American in history.

            This year’s Pre Classic race will be its deepest ever, as both the reigning world champion and IAAF Diamond League winner are among 7 of the top 9 runners in the Track & Field News world rankings.  All nine will run together for the first time anywhere since 2014, when one of them served as a pacesetter.

            History has shown the Pre Classic women’s steeple is always a fast race, especially the last two editions in 2014 and 2012, when the winner ran the fastest time ever recorded on U.S. soil, now at 9:11.39.  Depending upon race strategies, the field is more than deep enough to surpass the three sub-9:20 times accomplished in 2012 and 2014.
            Reigning world champion Hyvin Kiyeng, 24, of Kenya started this year faster than she has ever run, winning the Shanghai Diamond League meet in a personal best 9:07.42, nearly a national record and the fastest ever run before June.  The Kenyan record of 9:07.14 is held by Milcah Chemos, winner of the first two Pre Classic women’s steeples in 2010 and ’12, as well as the first four Diamond League titles (2010-14).

            Kiyeng, who is better known internationally by the last name Jepkemoi, will be running in the U.S. for the first time. She first gained global notice in 2012 when she came out of nowhere to compile an impressive season and rank No. 9 in the world by T&FN.  She has improved every year since and is one of four of Kenya’s nine fastest all-time racing in the Pre Classic.
            Virginia Nyambura, 22, is by far the youngest Diamond League winner in this event, taking the title last year at age 21 in dramatic fashion.  The Kenyan had much study material.  The 2010 Youth Olympic gold medalist in the 2000-meter steeple caught the eye of many meet directors and became the pacesetter of choice during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, pacing half the Diamond League meets to eventual sub-9:20 winners.

            In 2015, the pacesetter vest came off and Nyambura fired an immediate 35-second PR 9:21.51 in the Doha Diamond League meet, beating many she had paced the two seasons before.  In the summer she lowered her best to 9:13.85, then lost a thrilling Kenyan World Championships Trials to Kiyeng as both ran 9:33 at high altitude.  She finished the year at No. 3 in the T&FN world rankings – her first ever world ranking.  This will be Niyambura’s first race in the U.S.
            Defending Pre Classic winner Sofia Assefa, 28, is the Ethiopian record holder and the only runner to make the T&FN Top 10 world rankings in each year since 2009, all but once as the top Ethiopian and all but once in the top 5.  She was the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in London and repeated that honor in Moscow at the 2013 World Championships.  Assefa is the only runner to compete in all three Pre Classic women’s steeples, and her record is pretty stout – two 2nd-place finishes (2010, 2012) and a still-standing meet and U.S. All-Comers record in 2014.
            Emma Coburn, 25, is the dominant American steepler, owning 9 of the fastest 10 times by an American topped by 9:11.42.  She displayed dominance last year at Hayward Field in winning her record fourth U.S. title, running a world-class 9:15.59 to win by over 7 seconds.  Coburn has PRed in all three of her previous appearances at the Pre Classic, last year in the 1500 (4:05.10) after the steeple in 2014 and 2012.

            Coburn ranked No. 2 in the world in 2014 and last year was in the lead on the bell lap in the World Championships in Beijing.  In a frantic finish and despite appearing to be cut off, she finished 5th, equaling the best by an American since her training partner, Jenny Simpson, was 5th in 2009.  She ranked No. 7 in the world last year by T&FN.
            Gesa-Felicitas Krause, 23, of Germany was bronze medalist in last year’s World Championships, setting her PR of 9:19.25.  She won her first national title last year and ranked No. 6 in the world by T&FN.  Krause has made every Olympic or World Championships final since 2011, when she was 19.
            Lidya Chepkurui, 31, of Kenya is the silver medalist from the 2013 Moscow World Championships and ranked No. 2 in the world that year by T&FN.  She is the third runner in the field to rank that high, joining Kiyeng (2015) and Coburn (2014).

            Purity Kirui, 24, of Kenya won the All-Africa Games last year and in 2010 was World Junior gold medalist.  She has world ranked in each of the last three years.
            The fifth Kenyan in the field is Beatrice Chepkoech, 24.  Last year she won the All-Africa Games 1500 after earlier setting a PR of 4:03.28, fastest in this field.  In early April she ran her first 3k steeple in five years, clocking 9:41.1 at high altitude.
            Two runners who represent Bahrain are the youngest in the field.  Tigest Getent, 18, was born in Ethiopia and won Ethiopian titles in 2014 and 2015 at ages 16 and 17.  Ruth Jebet, 19, was born in Kenya.  She won the 2014 World Junior Championships in Eugene and was a finalist in the World Championships in Beijing last summer.
            American Ashley Higginson, 27, is a former All-American from Princeton who won the Pan-American Games last summer in Toronto.  She is a two-time U.S. runner-up who made the U.S. team for the 2013 Moscow World Championships.

            Leah O’Connor, 23, is a former NCAA champion while at Michigan State in the steeple and indoor mile.  She ran her fastest in her first U.S. Championships at Hayward Field.

            Genevieve Lalonde, 24, was the Pan-American Games bronze medalist for Canada in Toronto last summer.

Women’s 3000m SteeplechasePersonal Best
Hyvin Kiyeng (Kenya)9:07.42 
Sofia Assefa (Ethiopia)9:09.00 
Emma Coburn (USA)9:11.42 
Lidya Chepkurui (Kenya)9:12.55 
Virginia Nyambura (Kenya)9:13.85 
Ruth Jebet (Bahrain)9:15.98 
Purity Kirui (Kenya)9:17.74 
Gesa-Felicitas Krause (Germany)9:19.25 
Tigest Getent (Bahrain)9:20.65 
Ashley Higginson (USA)9:27.59 
Leah O’Connor (USA)9:31.03 
Genevieve Lalonde (Canada)9:35.69 
Beatrice Chepkoech (Kenya)9:41.1h 

            Fans can follow the event lineups on eugene.diamondleague.com.  The direct link to current start/entry lists is posted HERE and will include updates to all announced fields.  Additional news, photos, and videos may be found on PreClassic.com, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
            Tickets for the 42nd annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held May 27-28 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., are available now at www.GoDucks.com as well as from 1-800-WEBFOOT.

            The Prefontaine Classic is the longest-running outdoor invitational track & field meet in America and is part of the elite IAAF Diamond League of meets held worldwide annually.  The Pre Classic’s results score has rated No. 1 or No. 2 in the world in each of the last five years by All-Athletics.com, the official data partner of the Diamond League.  Sponsored by NIKE continuously since 1984, the Prefontaine Classic will be shown live to an international audience and by NBC and NBC Sports Network.

            Steve Prefontaine is a legend in the sport of track & field and is the most inspirational distance runner in American history.  He set a national high school 2-mile record (8:41.5) while at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon, that is the fastest ever in a National Federation-sanctioned race.  While competing for the University of Oregon, he won national cross country championships (3) and outdoor track 3-Mile/5000-meter championships (4), and never lost a collegiate track race at any distance.  As a collegiate junior, he made the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team and nearly won an Olympic medal, finishing 4th in the 5K at the 1972 Munich Olympics, at age 21.  After finishing college in 1973 and preparing for a return to the Olympics in 1976, he continued to improve, setting many American records.  His life ended tragically on May 30, 1975, the result of an auto accident, at age 24.  The Pre Classic began that year and has been held every year since.