EUGENE, Ore. – The Road to Rio for many U.S. track and field athletes runs through legendary Hayward Field — twice.
Team USA athletes won seven events Saturday during the second and final day of the Prefontaine Classic. The only Diamond League event in North America, the Pre Classic also served as a sneak peek for the 10-day U.S. Olympic Trials in July, which will also be held at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.
“You can bounce here,” said Christian Taylor, 25, who led a U.S. sweep of the top three spots in the men’s triple jump. Taylor, the reigning Olympic and world champion, went 17.76 meters, besting Will Claye (17.56 meters) and Omar Craddock (17.15), who placed second and third.
“I just put it all together there,” Taylor said about his final jump, which set a new Prefontaine Classic and Hayward Field record. “It’s all about speed; that’s the biggest difference. Whoever runs fastest through the board, that’s going to make the difference. For me, I didn’t even touch the board, so that’s exciting. There’s a lot more left in the tank.”
Taylor sits No. 2 on the all-time triple jump list with his 18.21-meter mark at the 2015 world championships in Beijing. Great Britain’s Jonathan Edwards set the triple jump world record in 1995 with a jump of 18.29 meters.
“I’m chasing records,” said Taylor, who hopes to battle Cuban jumper Pedro Pablo Pichardo for gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August. They are two of only five men in history to clear 18 meters in the triple jump. “My sights are set on the world record; all my energy is going toward that.”
Hurdler Kendra Harrison highlighted the day for the American women, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 12.24 seconds, the fastest time in the world in almost 28 years. Harrison’s mark not only set a new American record but it tied for the second-fastest of all time, just 0.03 seconds off the world record of 12.21 seconds set by Bulgarian hurdler Yordanka Donkova in 1988.
“This year, being 100-percent focused on the 100 hurdles, it helps,” said Harrison, 23, who in the past also competed in the 400 hurdles. Her time Saturday shattered her previous personal best of 12.36 seconds.
Converted jumper Torie Bowie also set a new PR, winning the women’s 200-meter in 21.98 seconds. The reigning Pre Classic 100-meter champion, Bowie broke the 22-second barrier for the first time, shaving 0.2 seconds off her previous-best time of 22.18 seconds.
“I don’t know how fast I can run,” said the 25-year-old Bowie, who took bronze in the 100 at last year’s world championships. “I learn something new every day, every year. The sky’s the limit.”
Other U.S. winners Saturday were Michael Tinsley in the men’s 400-meter hurdles (48.74 seconds), Chanute Lowe in the women’s high jump (1.95 meters), Boris Berian in the men’s 800 (1:44.20) and the man Father Time forgot, 34-year-old sprinter Justin Gatlin, who won the men’s 100 in a wind-aided 9.88 seconds. Gatlin’s time was the fastest 100-meter mark so far this year.
“It always exciting to kick off (final preparation for the Olympic Trials) with Prefontaine,” said Gatlin, who has won 24 times during his career on the international Diamond League circuit. “Getting ready for the trials, the fans are really hyped. I was happy I was able to perform.”
Emma Coburn broke the American record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, finishing third in 9:10.76. The previous record was set in 2009 by Jenny Simpson, who finished the world championships in 9:12.50.
Beau Eastes is a writer from Oregon. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.