EUGENE – On a surface that’s proven to be one of the fastest main straightaways in the world, 8 men – all with sub-10 personal bests – will test their limits in the Prefontaine Classic 100 meters.
Every century-race since 2011 has been clocked at 9.90 or faster, making it one of the showcase sprint events on the annual athletics calendar.
Justin Gatlin, 35, earned Olympic silver in Rio – the oldest medalist in this event by some two years at 34 and the best by an American of any age since a 22-year-old Gatlin was gold medalist in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Gatlin has both the most Pre Classic wins (five) and Diamond League trophies (three) in this event. His career collection of major medals in all events totals 13, and his win in last year’s Pre Classic (a wind-aided 9.88) was over an incredibly tight field, as last place was only 0.16 seconds behind the winner. He has been the top-ranked American for the last five years by Track & Field News.
Andre De Grasse, 22, carved out a piece of Canadian Olympic history with a silver/bronze combination in the 200/100 at Rio with impressive PRs in both events – 9.91 in the 100 and 19.80 in the 200.
His all-conditions bests still stagger Eugene fans, especially when as a USC sprinter he won double NCAA titles in 2015 with wind-aided efforts of 9.75 and 19.58, among the fastest in Hayward Field history (the 19.58w 200 is the fastest under any conditions at Hayward Field).
De Grasse’s individual performances may be trailing his effect on relay teams. In Rio, he anchored Canada to bronze, the country’s only Olympic medal in that event besides the gold won in 1996. In April, he anchored Canada’s world-leading 4 x 100 team in 38.15 at the Florida Relays and ran third leg on his nation’s 4 x 200 squad to win the World Relays in the Bahamas later in the month.
It was the second straight year the De Grasse-led team won the World Relays 4×2 with a world-leading time.
American Ronnie Baker, 23, has twice PRed this year under 10 seconds, preceded in the winter by a pair of world-leading 60-meter times, including the U.S. title in Albuquerque.
He won NCAA Indoor 60 titles in 2015 and ’16 while at Texas Christian University, and his first full pro season has seen him run 9.99 at the Mt. SAC Relays and 9.98 at Saturday’s Jamaica Invitational.
Ben Youssef Meite, 30, joins Gatlin and De Grasse as another Olympic finalist, After winning the African Championships for the first time in 2010, he repeated last year and became his country’s first Olympic finalist, both with sub-10 performances.
Great Britain’s Adam Gemili, 23, was 4th in the Rio 200, just a whisker behind the bronze medalist with the same time. Gemili is a former World Junior (U20) Championships gold medalist in the 100. Chijindu Ujah, 23, is also from Great Britain. The 2013 European Junior champ anchored last year’s British 4 x 100 team that won European gold as Gemili ran the backstretch leg.
Mike Rodgers, 32, is the only American to run sub-10 every year since 2009, when he won the Pre Classic in a then-PR 9.94. He has been a force ever since, clocking sub-10 six times in seven Pre Classic centuries. The 2014 U.S. champ’s fastest times have come at the Pre Classic – 9.85 in 2011 and a wind-aided 9.80 in 2014.
China’s Bingtian Su, 26, finished 3rd in the 2015 Pre Classic, becoming the first from China to run sub-10 at 9.99. It was a time he equaled in the semifinals at the World Championships in Beijing, qualifying him for the final to the crowd’s obvious delight.
He later ran the third leg on the silver medal-winning 4×100 team in Beijing as well as last year’s 4th place in Rio, China’s highest finish in the Olympics. Earlier this month, he captured his first victory on the Diamond League circuit, winning in Shanghai.
|Men’s 100 Meters||Personal Best|
|Justin Gatlin (USA)||9.74|
|Mike Rodgers (USA)||9.85|
|Andre De Grasse (Canada)||9.91|
|Ben Youssef Meite (Cote d’Ivoire)||9.96|
|Chijindu Ujah (Great Britain)||9.96|
|Adam Gemili (Great Britain)||9.97|
|Ronnie Baker (USA)||9.98|
|Bingtian Su (China)||9.99|