Why the 2024 NIKE Pre Classic was the best ever!

The recent NIKE Pre Classic was held on May 25, 2024, in the stadium that Phil and Penny (the Knights, who co-founded the NIKE brand) built in Eugene, Oregon.

The NIKE Pre Classic is named after the late Steve Prefontaine, one of the most charismatic track and field stars of any era. He died at the age of 25 on May 30, 1975. He had just run one of his fastest 5,000 meters at the Hayward Restoration Meet, which soon was renamed in his honor. At the time of his death, Steve Prefontaine owned the American records at 2,000 meters, 3,000 meters, 2 miles, 3 miles, 5,000 meters, six miles, and 10,000 meters.

Over the years, especially in the 1990s and 2000s, the NIKE Pre Classic was one of the few ways American fans could see a meet similar to a European summer athletic event, especially one held in Scandinavia. In fact, at the time of his death, Steve Prefontaine, who was working with the late Geoff Hollister in NIKE sports marketing, had just finished a series of meets held in Oregon that welcomed athletes from Europe.

2024 was a very special year—just how special? The crowd of 12,000, not the largest at a NIKE Pre by any means, was boisterous and enthusiastic. The TV audience, 1.166 million on NBC, was the second-largest audience for track and field of the year (only behind the NB Indoor Grand Prix).

The NIKE Pre-Class always had one race after another, for nearly three hours, featuring many of NIKE’s top athletes. In recent years, some of the top stars have included the very finest from every running brand. Tom Jordan was the meet director until two years ago, and now the meet direction is under three

Here are my six takeaways that this attendee of the 2024 NIKE Pre had (this is my 36th NIKE Pre Classic):

1. The Women’s 10,000m was an era-breaking event. Held with the expectation that Gudaf Tsegay (5,000m WR holder) would break the WR, it was Beatrice Chebet, with a PB of thirty-three and one-half minutes (at 8,000 feet), who not only ran away from Tsegay at 8,700 meters but destroyed the world record with her 28:54.14, becoming the first Women to run under 29 minutes. Her new WR was as fast as the great Emil Zatopek ran in his career (28:54.54).

Beatrice Chebet wins NIKE Pre 10,000m Women in 28:54.14, photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

2. Joe Kovacs of the US gave a shot put clinic at the NIKE Pre, with any of his six throws being long enough to win. His two longest throws, 23.03m, and his massive 23.13m throw in his last throw, or 75 feet, 6.69 inches, and 75 feet, 10.69 inches, for those who do not convert to metric, were the two longest throws of the year. Kovacs and Ryan Crouser will meet in Eugene during the June 21-30 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Joe Kovacs entertains with six strong throws in the shot, including 23.03m and 23.13m, the longest two throws of 2024! photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

3. The sprints teased at the journey to Paris.  Women’s 100 meters had fast sprinters and the only Sha’Carri Richardson, who blasted away from the field and ran 10.83, the world leader, for the 100 meters. Her entertainment of the crowd and jubilant antics with the media afterward kept the crowd enthralled.

Christian Coleman won the 100 meters in 9.95, dominating a field that was okay by past Pre standards but showing that Coleman was ready for his bid for a berth on the 2024 Olympic team. In the furlong, Kenny Bednarek won, going away, continuing his impressive running in the 2024 outdoor season!
Christian Coleman, May 24, 2024, warming up, photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

4. The women’s 800 meters had everyone but Athing Mu, who pulled out, per her coach, Bobby Kersee, with a slight niggle. Mary Moraa went out fast, and she looked to be in winning form, until Keely Hodgkinson took over, going from sixth at the 600m to the lead, and taking control of the race, as Robert Griffin III noted on social media, “arguing that Keely is the favorite for the Paris 800 meters.”

5. The Mile of the Century was the highlight. Assembling the best field this writer has seen in a Bowerman Mile in decades, Josh Kerr, Jakob Ingebrigtsen, and Yared Nuguse battled with Jake Wightman, 2022 World Champ, in tow. Kerr took the lead with six hundred meters to go, a long run to home, and held off his rivals with a new British record of 3:45.34, breaking a record dating from July 1985, set by one Steve Cram, who was co-hosting the BBC commentary of the NIKE Pre Classic.

Josh Kerr, the winner of the Bowerman Mile, photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

6. The meet, as always, had great middle-distance races, from the women’s steeplechase to the women’s 1,500m. The second 10,000m was the Kenyan Men’s Olympic Trials, held for the second time in over a decade in Eugene. Daniel Mateiko, winner of the RAK half marathon and pacemaker for the late Kelvin Kiptum in his London 2023 and Chicago 2023 wins, took a highly competitive 25-lap, running a world lead of 26:50! The battle in the women’s steeplechase between Beatrice Chepkoech and Peruth Chemutai was epic, as two women broke nine minutes in May.

Peruth Chemutai wins the steeplechase, Pre Classic, photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun.

How the late Steve Prefontaine would have liked this meet!