Eugene / Stanford: Women's 3k Clash of Titans: Obiri, Hassan, Dibaba, Ayana and Semenya
The greatest field of women distance runners ever assembled on American soil will step to the starting line for the Prefontaine Classic 3,000-meter race.
And the field includes an intriguing wild card in Caster Semenya, the 2-time Olympic gold medalist and 3-time world champion at 800 meters making a significant move up in distance to challenge the world’s best. Five runners in the amazing field have won IAAF Diamond League trophies and major gold medals – all in the 1500 or longer except for Semenya.
Hellen Obiri, 29, is the world’s dominant runner at 5k, winning a second-straight Diamond League trophy last year and duplicating a repeat No.1 at the top of the Track & Field News world rankings. She’s also the reigning world champion, winning her first outdoor global gold at the London World Championships after a silver in Rio.
The Kenyan began as a 1500 runner, a World bronze medalist in 2013 whose first Pre Classic races were meet records in 2013 and ’14, the latter in 3:57.05 – the second-fastest time ever recorded on U.S. soil.
Her first major gold came in the 3k (2012 World Indoor), and while the 3k might appear as a natural sweet spot for her – she owns the world’s fastest outdoor time since 1993 at 8:20.68 – her range is growing. She turned back all challengers in March at the World Cross-Country Championships at 10k. Obiri is undefeated this year, including winning the Doha Diamond League 3k in a world-leading 8:25.60 earlier this month.
Sifan Hassan, 26, won the Diamond League 1500 trophy in 2015 and a year later captured her first major gold at the 2016 Portland World Indoors. The Ethiopian-born Dutch runner returned to the U.S. to train with the Nike Oregon Project and the results have continued to impress.
Hassan world-ranked in the top 5 in three events in 2017, ranging from 800 to 5k and including an 800 PR of 1:56.81 and a London World bronze at 5k. She was similarly impressive last year, ranking No. 2 (5k) and No. 3 (1500) in the world by T&FN.
This year she has shown even more range with a February 5k road world record 14:44, April half-marathon 65:45 (fastest ever by a non-Kenyan), and a 10k debut to win Stanford’s Payton Jordan Invitational earlier this month in 31:18.12.
No one may capture more attention than Caster Semenya, the 2018 T&FN Woman of the Year. She extended her 800-meter winning streak to 30 meets – dating back to 2015 – with a convincing 1:54.98 world leader at the Doha Diamond League earlier this month. The 28-year-old South African has won three Diamond League trophies in the 800 (2016-18) and won the Continental Cup 400 in 49.62 last September.
While Semenya earned 1500 bronze at the London Worlds (and owns a best of 3:59.92), she’s taken a major step up in distance this year. In March she ran her first 5k and won the South African Championships in late April at 16:05.97 at high altitude, winning by almost 8 seconds on the last lap over former NCAA champion Dominique Scott Efurd.
Semenya’s only races in the U.S. have been Pre Classic 800s – winning in 2017 and 2018 (the latter in 1:55.98 the fastest ever on U.S. soil) after a 2nd-place in 2011.
Genzebe Dibaba, 28, owns seven world records or bests and her Pre Classic record is unblemished – undefeated in three races. All of her Pre Classic races have been in the 5k, including 2015 – the year she was named Woman of the Year by T&FN – when she outran the pacesetters and clocked 14:19.76, the fastest ever run in the U.S.
Last year, the Ethiopian became the first 1500/3k double gold medalist at the World Indoors. This year she ran a 3:59.08 1500 in February to win by 9 seconds and clocked 8:26.20 for second in Doha Diamond League 3k.
Genzebe is not the only Dibaba family member to be T&FN Woman of the Year or to appear at the Pre Classic. Her older sister, Tirunesh, earned the same title in 2008, the year she set the still-standing 5k WR of 14:11.15. Both sisters are part of the Pre Classic magic – neither has lost in a combined six appearances.
Almaz Ayana, 27, is the 10k world record holder at 29:17.45, set winning the Rio Olympics where the first 13 finishers amazingly all set PRs. She won the 2016 Diamond League 5k trophy and has two other major golds – 2017 London Worlds 10k and 2015 Beijing Worlds 5k.
She is history’s second fastest ever in the 5k at 14:12.59 and her 3k PR (8:22.22) is the fastest an Ethiopian has ever run outdoors.
Ayana was world-ranked No. 1 by T&FN in 2015 (5k), 2016 (5k and 10k), and 2017 (10k) before missing all of last year with a knee injury. She is reportedly training well and looking forward to her first race on U.S. soil.
Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi, 24, will also be running her first track race in the U.S. She has been world ranked by T&FN in each of the last four years in the 5k, where her best of 14:23.33 is No. 9 on the world all-time list (No. 6 by an Ethiopian). In 2015, she was silver medalist at the Beijing Worlds, part of a 1-2-3 Ethiopian medal sweep in between Ayana and Dibaba. Earlier this year she ran a 65:45 half-marathon.
21-year-old Letesenbet Gidey was bronze medalist at the World Cross Country Championships in March after winning the 2015 and ’17 Junior (U20) editions. On the track, she is No. 8 on the world all-time 5k list with a best of 14:23.14. She was runner-up in last year’s Pre Classic 5k and earlier this month debuted in the 10k with her first national title at 32:10.2, the fastest ever run in Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa (altitude 2346m above sea level – just 3 feet shy of 7,700 feet).
Fantu Worku, 20, is the reigning Ethiopian 5k champ, running 15:53.3 at Addis Ababa earlier this month. She won the 2017 1500 national title as an 18-year old and has a best of 4:05.81, set in the London World heats. In 2016 she earned 1500 silver at the World Juniors. Worku was 6th in last year’s World Indoor 3k.
Kenya’s Caroline Chepkoech Kipkurui, who will turn 25 on May 26, was runner-up in the 2017 Diamond League 5k final and has world ranked No. 7 in each of the last two years. Last August she won a third-straight Falmouth Road Race 7-miler, a feat matched only by the legendary Joan Benoit Samuelson (1981-83) and course-record holder Lornah Kiplagat (2000-02). Her half-marathon best of 65:07 makes her No. 6 on the world (and Kenyan) all-time list.
Lilian Kasait Rengeruk, 22, has world-ranked in the top 10 by T&FN the last two years. The Kenyan was runner-up in 2017’s Pre Classic 5k and earlier this month lowered her 3k PR to 8:29.02 with a 3rd-place in Doha Diamond League. She was bronze medalist in the 2017 World Cross Country Championships and won World Youth gold at 3k in 2013.
Beatrice Chebet, 19, won the World Junior cross-country championships in March and also last summer’s World Junior 5k title in Finland for Kenya. This will be her first race in the U.S.
Another member of the Nike Oregon Project training in Portland, Konstanze Klosterhalfen, 22, set a German record winning the Women’s Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games in 4:19.98 before a silver at the European Indoor 3k in March.
Yasmin Can, 22, won her third-straight European cross-country title in December. The Kenyan-born runner became the second-fastest Turk ever in the 5k and 10k at the Rio Olympics while making her first T&FN world rankings in both events.
Laura Weightman, 27, captured her second Euro 1500 bronze last summer. The 2014 Commonwealth Games 1500 silver medalist was a finalist in both of the last Olympic 1500s, as well as the London Worlds.
Rachel Schneider, 27, recorded an early-season world-leading mark in the 5000 last week at the USATF Distance Classic in Eagle Rock, CA. The Georgetown grad knocked 9 seconds off her personal best with a 15:06.71 clocking.
Karissa Schweizer, 23, won 6 NCAA titles while at Missouri – 5 on the track plus one in cross-country. Last year the Iowa native broke an almost 9-year-old collegiate indoor 3k record at 8:41.60 (previously held by Jenny Simpson).
|Women’s 3000 Meters||Personal Best|
|Lilian Kasait Rengeruk||Kenya||8:29.02|
|Caroline Chepkoech Kipkurui||Kenya||8:29.05|
|Laura Weightman||Great Britain||8:43.46|
|Caster Semenya||South Africa||9:36.29|
Tickets for the 45th annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held June 30 at Cobb Track & Angell Field in Stanford, Calif., are available now by clicking here or at gostanford.com/tickets. Customers may select their exact seats using the pick-your-own map. Tickets can also be ordered over the phone by calling 1-800-STANFORD.