• Curtis Anderson

Five OTC Elite athletes ready for Pre Classic

EUGENE, Ore. – Five athletes from Oregon Track Club Elite are entered in the 44th edition of the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field on Friday and Saturday.

The OTC Elite contingent features current Pre Classic record-holders in both the men’s and women’s 800 meters – Nijel Amos clocked 1:43.63 in 2014 and Francine Niyonsaba set the meet and stadium record of 1:56.72 in 2013.

Elsewhere, Ben Blankenship is expected to make his outdoor season debut in the highly competitive Bowerman Mile, while Hassan Mead joins a field of 18 runners in the 2-mile, many of whom will be chasing the U.S. record. Harun Abda is ticketed for pace-setting duties in the men’s 800m.

The schedule of events for the OTC Elite entrants at the Pre Classic is as follows:

Friday, May 25

- Men’s 800m (Amos), 7:52 p.m.

- Men’s 2-mile (Mead), 8:06 p.m.

Saturday, May 26

- Women’s 800m (Niyonsaba), 1:10 p.m.

- Bowerman Mile (Blankenship), 2:51 p.m.

Niyonsaba, 25, is the first woman from Burundi to win an Olympic medal after her silver-medal performance in the 800m at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Ranked No. 2 in the world the past two seasons, she successfully defended her World Indoor 800m title in Birmingham, England this past March.

“It will be nice to run in front of her home crowd,” OTC Elite coach Mark Rowland said. “Everything has gone well in workouts, and we’re looking forward to putting on a good show against a more intense level of competition.”

Amos, 24, won his third Diamond League trophy last year – the most by anyone in the men’s 800m – and earned his second No. 1 world ranking in that event by Track & Field News magazine. The native of Botswana is on the mend after being slowed by a calf injury earlier this year at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.

“Nijel has recovered much quicker than anticipated,” Rowland said. “We’re looking for a nice strong run.”

Blankenship and Mead are both coming down from a long stint of altitude training in Arizona. The Bowerman Mile will be Blankenship’s outdoor season debut, while Mead took third in the 1,500m at the USA Distance Classic last week.

“It will be good to get the ball rolling with Ben,” Rowland said. “He’s always entertaining. As for Hassan, his aim is still the 5K, but he’s excited to be in such a high-caliber field at Pre. We’re looking to be competitive.”

Admission is free to the Pre Classic on Friday night.

Tickets for Saturday’s meet are available at ticketmaster.com, by phone at 1-800-WEBFOOT, or in person at the Autzen Stadium ticket window. For more information on how to watch the meet, go to preclassic.com.