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Merritt, Martinez impress on second day at Nike Prefontaine Classic

EUGENE, ORE. – Lashawn Merritt made a statement by winning the men’s 400m, while Brenda Martinez ran the second fastest time in the world in the women’s 800m on the second day of the Nike Prefontaine Classic Saturday. Held at historic Hayward Field, the Nike Perfontaine Classic is the fourth stop for the Diamond League and fourth stop in the Outdoor USATF Championship Series.
Merritt ran a strong race from start to finish in the one lap event, pulling away from Olympic gold medalist Kirani James of Grenada to win in a season best time of 44.32. Fellow American Tony McQuay finished third in 45.31.
While Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba won the women’s 800m race in a meet record and world leading tie of 1:56.72, American Brenda Martinez improved her world #2 ranking with a fine 1:58.18 personal best to finish second. Olympian Alysia Montano placed fourth in 1:59.43, while Mary Cain broke the U.S. high school and junior women’s 800m records with her fifth place time of 1:59.51. Cain’s performance broke Kim Gallagher’s record of 2:00.07 from 1982. You can read more about Cain’s performance here.
The high jump was one of the most exciting events of the day, which saw the meet record go down. Olympic bronze medalist Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar won in a world leading mark of 2.40m/7-10.50, while American and Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard placed second with a new best leap of 2.36m/7-9, which broke the previous record as well.
In the women’s 400m hurdles, U.S. Olympian Georganne Moline finished a strong second, as Olympic bronze medalist Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Repbulic finished in a world leading time of 53.70.
Justin Gatlin and Walter Dix led the deep and talented American sprinters to success in the men’s 100m and 200m events. Gatlin led an American 1-3 sweep in the 100m dash, placing first in 9.88, while Michael Rodgers and Ryan Bailey finished second and third in 9.94 and 10.00, respectively. Dix placed second in the 200m event, finishing in 20.16.
David Oliver and Ryan Wilson ran strong in the 110m hurdles. Oliver finished in third a U.S. leading time of 13.10, while Wilson finished fourth in 13.18. Hansle Parchment, the Olympic bronze medalist from Jamaica, won in a world leading time of 13.05.
Theatrics played into the men’s 3,000m steeplechase event, which saw Evan Jager place fourth in 8:08.60, finishing just barely off his American record set last summer. In the final 50 meters of the race, Conseslus Kipruto and Ezekiel Kemboi threw jabs, which results in Kemboi, the Olympic gold medalist, being disqualified and Kipruto winning in a new meet record of 8:03.59.
In the men’s 5,000m event, Edwin Soi of Kenya won in a world leading time of 13:04.75, with Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah of Great Britain second in 13:05.88. The American quartet of Bernard Lagat, Galen Rupp, Chris Derrick and Dathan Ritzenhein ran one of the most impressive group performances in U.S. history, with all four athletes breaking 13:10.
Complete results from the 39th Nike Prefontaine Classic can be found on the Diamond League’s website. The Diamond League will continue June 6 at the Golden Gala in Rome, while the Outdoor USATF Championship Series concludes at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Wednesday, June 19 – Sunday, June 23.

Athlete Quotes

Justin Gatlin, 1st place Men's 100m
"My whole race was my start...I came up and started lifting toward the end of the race and felt him coming up on me...I told them the longest part of my race is the victory lap....Last year I had indoor worlds so I had a sharper start and stronger beginning. This year I'm working on the
finish. Last year was start hard and hold on. Going against guys like Blake, Bolt, Tyson, I had to work on my finish. This year was a more calm race and a strategizing race. I felt like I had a pretty good start. I had a good transition....The name of the game is just to stay healthy."

LaShawn Merritt, 1st place Men's 400m
"There wasn't a lot of wind out here like usual so I took advantage of it. So I'm pleased about that performance. I kept charging forward and ran through the line. I wanted to come back and run a clean race from start to finish...Last year was a disappointing year for myself. I wanted to win another Olympic gold medal but it didn't turn out that way. I believe I can go out and win."

Kirani James, 2nd place Men's 400m
It's just another race. You win some, you lose some...It's the fastest I've ever run at Hayward Field so that's such a positive. Only two guys broke 45 seconds so that was OK. It was a great competitive race, it doesn't change anything. I know I have to execute better. I'm going to go back and look at the tape.

Zuzana Hejnova, 1st place Women's 400m Hurdles
It's beginning of the season so it doesn't matter if I'm first or fifth for example, so there's plenty of time before World Championships and everything will change...It's what I expected but it was very windy so I was happy with the time...I'm happy to be world leading now. It's the beginning of the season so everything will be changing...My goal is to be the world champion. I would like to run my best."

Renaud Lavillenie, 1st place Men's Pole Vault
"I'm very happy and the good thing is that's how I opened so now I can be focused on the next steps in preparation for the worlds. I'm very happy because it's my first competition and full approach so that's a really good thing for me and for the pole vault....The competition was very hard because I wasn't thinking more about four guys jumping over 5.84 but when I saw this competition and everyone jumping very well it was tough because everyone wants to beat me,
the Olympic champion. That's the pressure I get to win. Yeah, it was kind of difficult for me....It was a very good performance. I'm very happy. Today was a good preparation for Moscow."

Contributed by Scott Bush.

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