The Prefontaine Classic has one of its best catches in the women's 200 meters – the World Champion-and its best and most unique half-lap field in history, set for Saturday, 28 May.
It is a dream matchup that a year ago would never have made world headlines. But now a medal-winning heptathlete will race a first-time Jamaican world ranker and an American whose fastest time came in lane 1 at Hayward Field.
It will be their first collective meeting at any Olympic distance, as each is prime double material in the 100 meters in Rio as well. Can it but help that all three have already clocked world-leading times?
The world has rarely seen an athlete quite like Dafne Schippers, 23, of the Netherlands. A blossoming world-class sprinter and bronze-medal heptathlete at the 2013 World Championships, she struggled to choose between the two event areas. Last year she finally made a choice that affected both events – to the delight of heptathletes and the horror to her sprint competitors.
It was a magical decision. Last August in Beijing, Schippers scorched the tracks in a manner rarely seen, winning gold in the 200 meters at the World Championships after a silver in the 100 with eye-opening times of 21.63 and 10.81.
The half-lap mark has only been bettered at low altitude by world record holder Florence Griffith Joyner – in 1988, four years before Schippers was born. This year Schippers has the early world 200 lead at 22.02 (her second-fastest ever) and a near-PR 10.83 in the 100.
Jamaican Elaine Thompson, 23, had her first world-class season last year, earning the silver medal at Beijing a few eyelashes behind Schippers. Her time of 21.66 was nearly a half-second PR and rocketed her to the No. 2 Jamaican ever, 0.02 seconds behind legendary Merlene Ottey.
Last year at the Pre Classic, she lost by a literal eyelash in the International 100 in 10.84 (her only loss of the year at the distance). Thompson has the fastest all-conditions 100 this year with a wind-aided 10.71 and this will be her 2016 debut in the 200.
Tori Bowie, 25, has been the highest-ranking American in the 100 the last two years and has the early 2016 world lead at 10.80, winning the Doha Diamond League meet over Schippers. She is undefeated outdoors in all distances, her only 200 race in early April at 22.26.
Bowie shocked the world with a world-leading 22.18 to win the 2014 Pre Classic 200 out of lane 1 in the meet’s fastest time since 1999. Bowie is also a former NCAA indoor and outdoor long jump champion from Southern Mississippi. Her last long jump also came at the 2014 Pre Classic, and she owns a best of 22-9¾ (6.95).
Jenna Prandini, 23, will return to Hayward Field for the first time since winning last year’s U.S. title with her PR 22.20. She will be welcomed to the track that was her home while winning three individual NCAA titles in the long jump and 100.
Prandini was a prime member of three national championship teams at Oregon, and her lifetime bests in the 100 (10.92) and long jump (22-3¾/6.80) were also set at Hayward Field.
American Candyce McGrone, 27, nearly joined the sub-22 club with her 22.01 at last summer’s World Championships, finishing 4th in her first major final.
She is a former NCAA champion from Oklahoma who ran her fastest last year in the U.S. Championships at Hayward Field – 11.00 in the heats before a wind-aided 10.91 in the semifinals.
Kaylin Whitney is just 18 and returning to the site where she ran her fastest in the 200 and 100. The Florida prodigy won the World Junior Championships in 2014 a few weeks after a national high school record in the 100 at the U.S. Junior Championships.
She lowered her 200 best to 22.47 last year at the U.S. Championships, just 0.03 seconds from making the World Championships team. Whitney won the Pan-American Games gold in Toronto last summer.
Kimberlyn Duncan, 24, is the field’s most prolific world ranker, making the Track & Field News top 10 in 2012-14. The 2013 U.S. champion won The Bowerman Award as the nation’s top collegian in 2012 while at LSU.
American Joanna Atkins, 27, has the best range in the field as a former NCAA 400-meter champion while at Auburn, running 50.39.
She is also nearly a member of the sub-11 club with a 100 best of 11.02 in 2014, the same year she ran her best 200s of 22.27 and a wind-aided 22.19.
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.