by RENALDO DORSETT
In the second Diamond League meet of the season, a trio of Bahamian athletes will take to Tracktown, USA in the most star studded event of the young season.
Steven Gardiner, Shaunae Miller and Jefferey Gibson will compete in the 42rd edition of the Prefontaine Classic, hosted May 27-28 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon as one of several stops in the Diamond League series.
In his first major test of the season, Gardiner, the 400m national record holder will compete against the top quartermilers in the world with many track and field pundits expecting a sub 44 run and a chase for the meet record.
Gardiner, 20, will race against what event organisers called “its fastest ever” bolstered by a record five runners who have run sub-44.
Gardiner (44.27 secs) has run a season’s best time of 45.83 secs turned in at the Chris Brown Invitational.
Leading the field will be another chapter in the rivalry between American LaShawn Merrit (43.65 secs) and Kirani James (43.74 secs) of Grenada.
Merrit the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the event and James the reigning Olympic champion, have raced against each other 18 times thus far with James leading the series 11-7.
James has had the most recent success in the Pre Classic as the two time defending champion.
Other include Isaac Makwala (43.72 secs) of Botswana, Abdalleleh Haroun (44.27 secs) of Qatar, Machel Cedenio (44.36 secs) of Trinidad and Tobago, Youssef Ahmed Masrahi (43.93 secs) of Saudi Arabia and Rusheen McDonald (43.93 secs) of Jamaica.
The record in the event is the 43.92 secs set by American Michael Johnson in 2000 in his final race at Hayward Field.
James is the season leader in the event at 44.08 secs.
The women’s 400m has also been critically acclaimed as one of the best fields assembled in meet history.
Despite the recent withdrawal of American Allyson Felix due to a lingering ankle injury the remainder of the field six of the confirmed runners have at least one major gold medal and seven have run sub-50.
Miller has posted the world leading time this year, 49.69 secs, run at April’s Chris Brown Invitational. She has also posted the fourth fastest time in the world with a time of 50.45 secs at her first Diamond League meet of the season in Shanghai, China.
Felix’s absence from the event leaves Miller without her greatest challenger for what many believe will be a clash between the two for a 200/400m sprint double in Rio.
Felix won gold at the 400 meters at the 2015 IAAF World Championships with a personal best of 49.26 secs.
The Pre Classic is the second Diamond League meet that Felix will miss after suffering the ankle injury in late April and withdrawing from a meet in Doha.
Other in the field include Americans Sanya Richards –Ross (48.70 secs), Francena McCorory (49.48 secs), Natasha Hastings (49.84 secs), Quanera Hayes (49.91 secs), Ashley Spencer (50.28 secs) and Jamaican Stephenie Ann McPherson (49.92 secs).
Miller, unbeaten so far this year over any distance has the world’s top wind assisted time in the 200m, 22.14 secs (+2.2) at the Kingston Invitational earlier this month.
A lot of people have been asking me what I’m going to do in Rio, but I don’t know right now.
“My coaches have told me that they will have the final say, so I’m going to wait until we sit down and make that decision. Right now I’m just having a lot of fun and trying to see how things will work out,” she told the Tribune following the Jamaica Invitational.
She still has the option of competing in the 200m/400m double or just one of the two events, Miller said her heart is leaning more towards her specialty in the 400m.
“The 400m is my favourite event right now,” she insisted. “I just love it. The pain after running the event is crazy, but it’s definitely my best event right now.”
In the 400m hurdles, Gibson will face a similarly talented field in his signature event.
The race features five of the six IAAF Diamond League winners and own at least one individual medal from each Olympics and World Championships for the last decade, as well as eight No. 1 world rankings from Track and Field News.
Gibson (48.17 secs) has run a season’s best time of 48.96 secs at the Kingston Invitational and will face a strong challenge from Kenya’s Nicholas Bett.
Bett (47.79 secs) won gold and Gibson took bronze at last year’s World Championships in Beijing. The remainder of the field includes Javier Culson (47.72 secs) of Puerto Rico, Yasmani Copello (48.46 secs) of Turkey, Kariem Hussein (48.45 secs) of Switzerland and Americans Kerron Clement (47.24 secs), Bershawn Jackson (47.30 secs) and Michael Tinsley (47.70 secs).
The Prefontaine Classic is the longest-running outdoor invitational track and field meet in America. 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. 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.