17 May, 2018

Eugene: Gatlin & Coleman Lead An American 1-2 Punch In Pre Classic 100

  • Justin Gatlin © Kirby Lee

Who will the world’s top sprinter be this year? With a track friendly to fast times and eight lanes filled with prime contenders, the Prefontaine Classic will go a long way towards deciding that honor.

Christian Coleman was last year’s fastest on the watch at 9.82 and this year obliterated the indoor world record at 60 meters. He was a whisker behind Justin Gatlin at last year’s World Championships, where legend Usain Bolt was just a bronze medalist in a dazzling finish.

Christian Coleman, 22, is lightning quick and ready to make his 2018 debut in the century after thrashing the 60 meters indoors with the three fastest times ever plus winning the World Indoor gold. The Georgia native won The Bowerman Award last year as the nation’s top collegian. He won a rare sprint double/double of NCAA titles – the 60/200 indoors and 100/200 outdoors. The only other man to do so was Gatlin, who saw Coleman break all of his Tennessee school records.

Justin Gatlin, 36, is a rarity in sprinting, racing with the best at an age when most are retired. He dialed a perfect race last year in London, winning the World Championships with his fastest of the year at 9.92 to become the oldest gold medalist in the event by two years. A year earlier in Rio he was silver medalist – the oldest medalist again by two years 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 15. He has been the top-ranked American for the last six years by Track & Field News.

Great Britain’s Chijindu Ujah, 24, won last year’s Diamond League Trophy in Zürich and was ranked No. 4 in the world by T&FN – the highest by a Briton since Dwain Chambers was No. 1 in 2002. “CJ” missed making the London 100 final by one spot but a week later led off the British 4x100 with a lead they wouldn’t relinquish en route to a national record 37.47 that was just ahead of the American team featuring Gatlin and Coleman.

Reece Prescod, 22, didn’t even make the UK 4x100 quartet last year, but the national champion was the only Brit in the 100 final in London. He PRed in the heats at 10.03 and nearly matched it last week in Shanghai, winning the event’s first Diamond League race at 10.04 in the rain.

China’s Bingtian Su, 27, is the closest anyone has come to catching Coleman this year, earning his first individual medal with a silver in the World Indoor 60. In 2015, he finished 3rd in the 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 4x100 team in Beijing as well as the 4tg place teams in Rio (China’s highest finish in the Olympics) and last year’s Worlds. He looked like a repeat winner in the Shanghai Diamond League 100 last week but was edged by Prescod.

Ben Youssef Meité, 31, was a finalist in the Rio Olympics, Côte d’Ivoire’s first in the 100. He was runner-up to Ujah in the Diamond League final last year as both ran 9.97. He was world ranked No. 8 last year by T&FN after being No. 7 in 2016, the year he set his national record of 9.96.

American Ronnie Baker, 24, won last year’s Pre Classic with a wind-aided 9.86. This year he is the world’s fastest with a PR 9.97 win at the Mt. SAC Relays a week after joining Gatlin and Coleman on the season’s best 4x100 team thus far at 38.08. Baker, a two-time NCAA Indoor 60 champ while at Texas Christian, won the U.S. Indoor 60 title last year and was bronze medalist in March behind Coleman at the World Indoor.

Isiah Young, 28, is better known in the 200, in which he made his first major final at last summer’s World Championships and his first U.S. national team for the 2012 Olympics, also in London. This year the former NCAA All-American at Mississippi has focused more on the 100, clocking a wind-aided 9.92 and winning the Drake Relays. He set his legal best of 9.97 in the heats of last year’s U.S. championships.

Men’s 100 MetersPersonal Best
Justin GatlinUSA9.74
Christian ColemanUSA9.82
Chijindu (CJ) UjahGreat Britain9.96
Ben Youssef MeitéCôte d’Ivoire9.96
Ronnie BakerUSA9.97
Isiah YoungUSA9.97
Bingtian SuChina9.99
Reece PrescodGreat Britain10.03

Tickets for the 44th annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held May 25-26 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., are available now at www.GoDucks.com as well as from 1-800-WEBFOOT.