By Kylee O’Connor
This year’s Prefontaine Classic has arguably the most competitive field of athletes in the event’s vast history. Even with recent dropouts of premier competitors such as Allyson Felix and Genzebe Dibaba, this year’s meet will likely produce high-caliber and possibly record-breaking performances.
Here are four events to look out for on Saturday.
Women’s 200 meters – 2:04 p.m.
The women’s 200-meter dash is lead by Dutch heptathlete-turned-sprinter Dafne Schippers. Schippers won bronze in the heptathlon at the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, but has since transitioned to purely sprints. She placed second in the 60-meter dash at the World Indoor Championships in Portland and won gold in the 200 at the 2015 Beijing World Outdoor Championships.
In her first time competing at Hayward, Schippers leads a field including former Oregon standout Jenna Prandini, 2014 U.S. outdoor 200-meter bronze medalist Joanna Atkins and 2015 world outdoor 100-meter bronze medalist Tori Bowie, the 2015 U.S. champ.
“It’s a new world of new competition, and [I’ll] take it step by step now to see what happens here,” said Schippers. “I know [how] to compete with all the other girls — that’s not a new world. A track is a track, and I hope that [Hayward is] a fast track.”
Men’s 100 – 2:13 p.m.
The men’s 100-meter dash is made up of America’s top sprinters, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay; Jamaican Asafa Powell; and the reigning NCAA 100- and 200-meter champion, Canadian Andre De Grasse, now a professional. Gatlin is the favorite and looks to improve his season-best time of 9.94 seconds.
“My times haven’t been, obviously, as fast as last year, but I feel so much more left in the tank,” Gatlin said. “My coach has said, ‘Let’s just go out here and let’s just win the race and get the job done.’ So, let’s go out here and execute from the first half of the race, finish the race off and we don’t really need to make a time statement. Just go out here and win—just get the W.”
Women’s High jump – 1:09 p.m.
World indoor champion Vashti Cunningham, an 18-year-old from Las Vegas who just turned pro, is looking to make a splash in her first Pre Classic. Among a field of veteran jumpers, Cunningham isn’t timid.
“I’m very comfortable with where I am right now and who I’m going against,” Cunningham said. “Because in Vegas, a lot of when I was high jumping, I would be high jumping in competitions by myself. … I’m kind of just thankful to be in a competition where people are jumping higher than me or as high as me—I just like the competition.”
The field includes the 2013 outdoor world bronze medalist Ruth Beitia of Spain.
“I look forward to just another opportunity to go and PR, hopefully, God-willingly, to win,” said Cunningham.
Men’s pole vault – 12:18 p.m.
The United States’ Sam Kendricks leads the field with a season best of 19 feet, 5 inches (5.92 meters), the highest clearance in the world this year. However, the favorite for the pole vault is Olympic champion and world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie of France.
Lavillenie looks to get back to his record-breaking heights as he attempts jumps from a full approach for the first time all season.
“Training is going pretty well, so I’m pretty excited about being in Eugene,” Lavillenie said. “The good thing is that last year I did a very good performance here. I’m pretty excited about trying to make the best—maybe the same thing. I jumped 6.05 (last year).”