04 June, 2019

Eugene / Standford: Fireworks Ready in Star-Studded Pre Classic Women’s 1500

  • Faith Kipyegon at the 2017 Preclassic in Eugene © Kirby Lee

Olympic gold medalist Faith Kipyegon, IAAF Diamond League winner Laura Muir and reigning World No. 1 Shelby Houlihan will race against each together.

Stanford, California – The rulers of the women’s 1500 meters will come together in a rare meeting at the Prefontaine Classic.

This match-up will be just the second time that Olympic gold medalist Faith Kipyegon, IAAF Diamond League winner Laura Muir and reigning World No. 1 Shelby Houlihan will race against each together. Their only previous meeting was at the 2017 Pre Classic 1500, a race won by Kipyegon.

The field is so elite that the only 1500 world-rankers missing have opted for a challenging 3000 meters, and both races – not to mention the stellar steeplechase – will combine to make this year’s Pre Classic the best-ever one day display of women’s distance racing in the U.S.

Laura Muir, 26, won her second Diamond League trophy last year and has yet to lose outdoors on the track in 2019, her talent extending beyond the 1500. In March, she repeated with double European Indoor golds in the 1500 and 3k.

With a British record of 3:55.16, Muir is the second-fastest 1500 runner since the turn of the century. At the 2017 London Worlds, she made two finals, taking 4th in a wild 1500 finish (just .07 seconds short of a medal) before a 6th in the 5k.

Big kicker Shelby Houlihan, also 26, broke new ground last year and the world took notice when she dominated the loaded Pre Classic with a 4-second PR at 3:59.06.

She wasn’t anywhere near done. The former NCAA champ at Arizona State went back to her native Iowa and won U.S. titles at both 1500 and 5k, the first to do so in almost 20 years. Houlihan continued, setting an American 5k record in July at 14:34.85.

Her world No. 1 ranking last year by Track & Field News was the first by an American woman who also rated in the 5k in the same year. This year she added her first U.S. cross-country title in early February.

Faith Kipyegon, 25, is the ultimate championships performer, earning gold at the Rio Olympics and London Worlds – and ranking No. 1 in the world both years by T&FN.

Her Rio performance was one for the ages, covering the last two laps in a stunning 1:57.2. The Kenyan record holder set her best at the 2016 Pre Classic – 3:56.41 is still the fastest ever recorded on U.S. soil.

Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay, 22, leads the world outdoors this year at 3:59.57. She was world ranked No. 4 last year and is the third-fastest Ethiopian ever at 3:57.64. Tsegay earned World Indoor bronze in 2016 after setting the still-standing world Junior (U20) indoor record of 4:01.81.

Rababe Arafi, 28, ran her first sub-4 in last year’s Pre Classic. Later in the summer she lowered the Moroccan record to 3:59.15 – just a week after anchoring her country’s 4x400 national record 3:33.91 in the Mediterranean Games. Arafi was world-ranked No. 5 in the world last year by T&FN, plus No 7 in the 800, where she ran 1:57.47. Last month she won the Shanghai Diamond League 1500 over Tsegay with a then-world leading 4:01.15.

Winny Chebet, 28, won African Championships gold and her first Kenyan title at 1500 meters last year after specializing in the 800 until 2017, when she joined the sub-4 club at 3:59.16.  She was 5th in last year’s Pre Classic at 4:00.60. She lowered her 800 PR to 1:57.47 last summer.

Ethiopia’s Axumawit Embaye, 24, world-ranked last year for the first time at No. 9. She earned silver at the 2014 World Indoors and just missed medaling in 2016, finishing 4th. Her outdoor racing has broken new ground, PRing twice in May, topped by a 4:00.17.

Australia’s Linden Hall, who will turn 28 the day before this year’s race, ran the fastest ever by anyone from Oceania in last year’s Pre Classic – 4:00.86. The previous PR for the three-time NCAA finalist from Florida State came in the 2016 Pre Classic.

Kate Grace, 30, was on the last two U.S. major teams, the World 1500 in 2017 and as a finalist in the Olympic 800 in 2016 after winning her first national title at the U.S. Olympic trials. She was a six-time Ivy League champ while at Yale and ran her 1500 PR 4:03.59 at the 2017 Pre Classic.

Two 22-year-old Americans have plenty of Pre Classic experience, but for another 22-year-old this will be her first foray at the senior international level.

Dani Jones won last year’s Pre Classic National race in a PR 4:07.74, which she lowered two weeks later to 4:07.33 during a redshirt year at Colorado. The Arizona native won the NCAA cross-country title last fall and this year has PRed in her first two 5k track races. In 2015, she was a close runner-up in the Pre Classic high school mile.

Alexa Efraimson has raced four times in the Pre Classic National race, and her first in 2015 resulted in an American Junior record 4:03.39. This May, the Washington native ran her two fastest times since the AJR, topped by a 4:04.06.

Jessica Hull has never competed at a Prefontaine Classic, but she is very familiar with winning big races. The Australian won the NCAA 1500 for Oregon in 2018 and the indoor 3000 in 2019. She is undefeated in 12 races this year, indoors and out. So far this season, Hull has set a personal best in the indoor mile and 3k and the outdoor 5k. Her 1500 PB of 4:08.75 is next on the list.

Watch out for two super youngsters from Ethiopia.

Alemaz Samuel, 19, won the World Junior 1500 last year and set her PR of 4:01.78 at the Doha Diamond League meet.

18-year-old Lemlem Hailu won gold at the 2017 World Youth (U18) Championships as well as at last year’s Africa Youth Games. Last month she won the Ethiopian national 1500 title (any age) a week after running 8:34.03 for 3k (No. 4 world Junior all-time).

Overall, the Prefontaine Classic 1500s have seen 10 different women break the 4:00 barrier on 15 occasions. So far.


Women's 1500 MetersPersonal Best
Laura Muir (Great Britain)3:55.22
Faith Kipyegon (Kenya)3:56.41
Shelby Houlihan (USA)3:57.34
Gudaf Tsegay (Ethiopia)3:57.64
Rababe Arafi (Morocco)3:59.15
Winny Chebet (Kenya)3:59.16
Axumawit Embaye (Ethiopia)4:00.17
Linden Hall (Australia)4:00.86
Alemaz Samuel (Ethiopia)4:01.78
Alexa Efraimson (USA)4:03.39
Kate Grace (USA)4:03.59
Dani Jones (USA)4:07.33
Jessica Hull (Aus)4:08.75
Lemlem Hailu (Ethiopia)4:08.90