Ahead of the final Prefontaine Classic at Historic Hayward Field, former Ducks Matthew Centrowitz Jr. and Phyllis Francis participated at the pre-meet press conference among many other athletes set to compete in this weekend’s Diamond League meet.
“Not just being American, but a former Duck, it’s always exciting racing at Hayward,” Centrowitz said. “Obviously being the last Pre Classic at Hayward Field in this state is obviously going to be pretty exciting for me and memorable for me.”
For the former Ducks, Centrowitz — the 2016 1,500-meter Olympic gold medalist — and Francis — the 2017 IAAF World Champion — the feeling this weekend is bittersweet.
“I’m just a little bit sentimental, but more excited because who doesn’t love something new?” Francis said. “I still feel like they will retain the historic feel to the new designs of Hayward.”
While much of the conversation was geared toward Hayward Field, some of the discussion revolved around athletes who will not be in Eugene to compete this weekend.
American sprinters Justin Gatlin and Allyson Felix both dropped out of the races this weekend. Gatlin is out with a hamstring injury, while no explanation for Felix’s absence has been announced.
Gatlin’s absence from the 100 meters is disappointing for those excited to see the much-anticipated showdown between the world champion and the world indoor 60-meter dash record holder Christian Coleman.
“I have the same mindset going into the race no matter who’s in the race, who’s on the line,” Coleman said. “I just try and come out and compete for the win no matter who it is. … When you’re a professional, regardless of who’s in the race, it’s going to be a world-class field.”
In the bigger scope of track and field news, Asbel Kiprop, a Kenyan middle-distance runner and the 2008 1,500-meter Olympic gold medalist, tested positive for EPO — a banned substance. As doping continues to plague the sport of track and field, frustration for competitions grows.
“You want to think of everyone is on the same playing field,” Centrowitz said as he recalled his 2016 Olympic gold-medal race, which Kiprop finished seventh. “… Right after the race Nick [Willis] (bronze medalist) and I were walking to the medal ceremony and I remember he was like happy that [Taoufik] Makhloufi got second over Kiprop.
“When everything came out recently, that reminded me of what Nick said right after the race.”
The Prefontaine Classic begins on Friday night and carries on into Saturday for the majority of the events, which will feature more former Ducks including Devon Allen in the 110 hurdles and Raevyn Rogers in the 800.
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow