June 2, 2013, EUGENE, OREGON (Competitor) — Kenenisa Bekele won the 10,000m on Friday night on the first day of the Prefontaine Classic, but his face showed no joy as he walked slowly off of the track at Hayward Field. Not only was he denied the chance to race against fellow Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah –who switched to Saturday’s 5000m– but his winning time of 27:12.08 may not be fast enough to earn him selection to the Ethiopian team for the IAAF World Championships.
“He wanted to run 26:50,” said his long-time manager Jos Hermens, adding that the pacemaking wasn’t as good as he had hoped.
Indeed, the three pacemakers — Ethiopia’s Degefa Deriba, Eritrea’s Kidane Tadasse, and Kenya’s Leonard Korir — were only able to get the race through 3,000m in 8:05.71, some seven seconds slower than planned, despite the favorable temperatures and low humidity. Bekele stayed tucked in the front of the group with his younger brother, Tariku, compatriot Imane Merga, Kenya’s Bedan Karoki and others. Bekele began to get frustrated.
“We decided to run under 27,” Bekele told reporters after the race. “But, from the beginning the pace was slow, and nobody pushed after. It’s very tough; I’m only one person.”
By halfway (13:33.51), there were still 12 men in contention, and for the next 3,000 meters nothing changed. But a lap after the group split 8,000m in 21:55.50, Karoki made a big move, breaking open the race. Tariku Bekele fell back (he had been sick for several days before the race and would finish 12th), but Kenenisa quickly responded with Merga, Vincent Chepkok and others.
With a smaller pack of eight, the contenders decided to wait for the final lap to sort out the top placings. Bekele surged past Karoki just before the bell and Merga, one of the best closers in the sport, followed. It came down to a two-man race, and Bekele closed in about 56 seconds to get the win. He thought that his was a solid finish given the circumstances.
“Only we sprint from 200,” Bekele explained. ”To run 56 is OK time.”
Merga finished just behind in 27:12.37, and compatriot Abera Kuma got third in a personal best 27:13.10. Karoki, who had made the race, finished fourth (27:13.12).
Bekele said he now had to wait for the Ethiopian federation to decide his fate. He explained that the team would be selected on time (maybe).
“I don’t know, you know?” he said. “They say they decided to select by time, but this time was not fast. Maybe people will run other places for faster time, then maybe they will select. You never know.”
In other races here tonight, Garrett Heath won the 1,500m in a sprint finish over Kenyan junior Jonathan Kiplimo (b. 1995), 3:38.54 to 3:38.61. Heath had hoped to get his IAAF World Championships “A” standard of 3:35.00, but conditions were a little too windy, he said.
“Not really the way you like to do it, closing from 600 out,” said Heath, the reigning USA road mile champion. “It was windy on the backstretch, definitely. You could really feel it slow there. We went out pretty hard that first lap, then kind of slowed there. That second time coming around at 800, we really slowed there.”
The international mile went to James Magut, a training partner of world champion Asbel Kiprop, who defeated European 1,500m champion Henrik Ingebrigtsen of Norway, 3:55.24 to 3:55.50. Daniel Kipchirchir Komen of Kenya, who holds the meeting record for the mile, finished third.
Phoebe Wright won the women’s 800m in 2:00.85 after a too-fast first half of 57:58. World junior champion Ajee’ Wilson finished third in 2:01.24.
The Prefontaine Classic continues here Saturday with the meet’s marquis events, including 800-meter and 5000-meter races for both men and women, and the Bowerman Mile for men.