Eugene: Phyllis Francis Leads Olympic-Sized Pre Classic Women’s 400
Francis is set for her 2018 outdoor debut on her former home track at Hayward Field. She will be joined by the meet’s best collection ever, as a field full of Olympians includes Rio gold medalist Shaunae Miller-Uibo and recent World Indoor Championships gold medalist Courtney Okolo.
The superb field will also include the most decorated athlete in combined Olympics and World Championships history – Allyson Felix – who owns 25 major medals, 17 of which are gold. Both she and No. 1-ranked Miller-Uibo are the only to have earned IAAF Diamond League Trophies in the 400 and 200 in the same year.
Francis is one of an impressive list of Oregon stars making triumphant returns to Hayward Field, joining Bowerman Award winner Raeyvn Rogers and Edward Cheserek, owner of a record 17 NCAA titles.
Phyllis Francis, 26, stunned the track world last August with a perfectly timed PR of 49.92 to win London’s World Championships over Felix and Miller-Uibo. It remains her only victory over either star who have combined to rank No. 1 in the Track & Field News world rankings the last three years.
Francis was a two-time national Junior Olympic 800 champ from New York with an impressive 2:04.83 PR before stepping foot on the Oregon campus. A move to the one-lapper resulted in four straight NCAA outdoor finals, plus an indoor title as a senior in 2014 when she set an indoor American record. Before her super season last year, Francis was on the U.S. team in 2015 and 2016, making the World and Olympic finals both times and earning medals on the powerful U.S. 4x400 team.
Four-time Olympian Allyson Felix, 32, is welcome anywhere, but perhaps nowhere like Hayward Field. She has been part of more memories to count, but certainly all three of her U.S. 400 titles are on the list. Felix also owns the fastest 200 PR in the field at 21.69 – the fastest ever on U.S. soil winning the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field.
At the 2012 London Games, Felix became the first women’s triple gold medalist since Florence Griffith Joyner in 1988, winning her first individual gold in her signature 200. Only a breathtaking finish by Miller-Uibo prevented Felix from a Rio 400 gold. Even with that Olympic silver, Felix has the most Olympic medals by a woman with nine along with Merlene Ottey. Including men, only Carl Lewis (10) has more Olympic medals in current events among Americans.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo, 24, was flag bearer for the Bahamas at the Rio Olympics and later won gold with a memorable finish over Felix in the 400. She continued carrying the torch last year, matching Felix as the only 200/400 winner of the Diamond League. Miller-Uibo won the 2016 Pre Classic 400, the last to include American record holder Sanya Richards-Ross. She preceded Francis as NCAA Indoor champion in 2013 for Georgia.
This year Miller-Uibo is untouchable, winning April’s Commonwealth Games and Friday’s Shanghai Diamond League 200s in meet records. In February, she equaled the 300 indoor world best of 35.45 at the Millrose Games in New York.
Courtney Okolo, 24, won her first U.S. title in February, then followed with her first individual gold medal at the World Indoors in England in an indoor PR 50.55, plus a gold-medal anchor in the 4x400. She led off the U.S. gold medal 4x400 team in Rio with a 50.2 split.
The Dallas native first world-ranked in 2014 as a Texas sophomore, but rocked the world in 2016 by setting a collegiate record 49.71 and sweeping the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor titles en route to winning The Bowerman Award.
Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain will turn 20 on May 23 and was the silver medalist in last summer’s World Championships. She will be competing in the U.S. for the first time, but it’s not her first invitation to Eugene. Naser was one of five athletes selected by decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton from the 2015 World Youth Championships to participate in an IAAF-sponsored special training camp in March 2016. Naser, a semifinalist at Rio, was unable to attend.
Shakima Wimbley, 23, earned silver at the recent World Indoors and was last year’s NCAA Indoor champ at Miami. She has PRed in the both the 400 and 200 this year and has gold medals for four U.S. teams, including the 2014 World Juniors at Hayward Field.
Jamaica’s Stephenie Ann McPherson, 29, earned the Commonwealth Games bronze last month after winning gold in 2014. She was ranked No. 3 in the world in 2016 by T&FN, the third time as the top-ranked Jamaican. A member of the 2015 gold-medal winning 4x400 team for Jamaica in the Beijing World Championships, she finished 4th in the recent World Indoor Championships.
|Women’s 400 Meters||Personal Best|
|Salwa Eid Naser||Bahrain||49.88|
|Stephenie Ann McPherson||Jamaica||49.92|
Tickets for the 44th annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held May 25-26 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., are available now at www.GoDucks.com as well as from 1-800-WEBFOOT.