Portland Track Festival Preview - Saturday Edition

Men's 800m


No race in track and field captures the pure adrenaline of a sprint race and the tactics of a distance race quite like the 800m. Running a near all-out sprint for two laps, against other talented competition, is a sight to behold and the Portland Track Festival is proud to announce that one of the marquee races this year is the men's 800m.


Headlining this year's field are Olympians Matt Centrowitz and Andrew Wheating. Centrowitz, who lives and trains in Portland, placed second in the 1,500m at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, on his way to a fourth place finish in the 1,500m event at the London Olympics. Wheating, who trains in Eugene, Oregon, is a two-time Olympian, qualifying for Team USA over 800m in 2008, then again over 1,500m in 2012.


Current US#2 800m standout Charles Jock and US#4 Mark Wieczorek are also entered. Jock, the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field champion over the two lap distance finished eighth in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials 800m final, while Wieczorek placed seventh. Both are having strong seasons in 2013 and are looking to improve their1:45.01 and 1:45.36 seasonal bests.


U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials top five finishers Tyler Mulder and Ryan Martin will challenge for top three finishes. The Eugene-based Mulder finished fifth at the Trials in 2012 and currently ranks US#9 after his 1:46.29 performance at the Doha Diamond League meeting in May. Martin, who finished in fourth at both the Olympic Trials and NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2012, is poised to run a breakout race in Portland.


Not to be overlooked, Santa Monica Track Club standout Felix Kitur will challenge for the win. Coming off a big 1:45.87 victory at the Jim Bush Invitational this past weekend, where he beat both Jock and Martin, Kitur is showing he's having a breakthrough season.


Rounding out the fast heat is Joe Abbott, who currently ranks US#13. The former Washington State University All-American will eye a sub-1:46 clocking.


In the second heat, keep an eye on Prince Mumba. The former Oral Roberts All-American ran to a second place finish behind teammate Felix last weekend at the Jim Bush Invitational, where he ran 1:46.20. Oregon Track Club star Ben Blankenship will challenge for the win in the second heat, as well. A sub-1:46 clocking here won't be a surprise.


Women's 800m


An evenly matched field means an exciting race in the women's 800m event. Middle distance standout Katie Mackey leads the way, testing her talent over the two lap event. Mackey, who currently ranks US#4 over 1,500m with her 4:04.64 best, looks to prove her speed is in the right place heading into the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.


Challenging Mackey will be 2008 Olympian Jemma Simpson. The Eugene-based runner is looking to regain her 1:58.74 800m form she showed in 2010 and is having a good season leading up to Saturday's event.


Bay Area Track Club standout Brett Zorich, is coming off of a 2:07.44 third place performance at the Jim Bush Invitational this past weekend. She has a 2:04.54 personal best and will look to challenge that mark in Portland.


Other notable entries include 2:07.82 Georgetown runner Becca DeLoache, as well as University of Oregon redshirt freshman Annie LeBlanc. LeBlanc could steal the show, having run 2:03.41 over 800m and is the reigning Canadian junior 800m champion.


Bowerman Athletic Club standouts Laura Carlyle and Junia Limage add some additional local flavor to the field. Carlyle is an Oregon State University graduate, while Limage was the 2012 NAIA 800m champion at Concordia University in Portland.


Men's 1,500m


The deepest field in this year's Portland Track Festival, all three heats of the men's 1,500m will be mighty competitive. In the top heat, the University of Oregon is well represented, with Ducks Brett Johnson, Matt Miner, Jeremy Elkaim and Trevor Dunbar all in the field. Johnson is having a breakout season, having run 3:58.62 for the mile indoors, while running a best of 3:38.91 at the Oxy meet for 1,500m.


Miner and Elkaim both broke four minutes during the indoor season. Miner ran a best of3:59.01, while Elkaim ran 3:59.18. Both are having strong seasons and should look to improve their 1,500m personal bests. Meanwhile, Dunbar, who was an All-American during the cross country season, tests his speed over the 1,500m distance. More of a 5k/10k runner at the collegiate level, Dunbar should push the 3:40 barrier.


NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship qualifier Grant Pollock (Virginia Tech) is entered. The ACC 1,500m champion is having a wonderful 2013 and will look to improve his 1,500m time similar to the University of Oregon runners.


Veteran Michael Coe enters with much momentum on his side. The former University of California All-American won the Platnum Performance State Street Mile this past weekend in a course record time of 3:49.


Other notable entries in the fast heat are 3:39.77 1,500m runner Eric Harasyn, as well as former Baylor University runner Chris Gowell, who has a personal best of 3:41.6.


Women's 1,500m


U.S. Olympian Bridget Franek and Canadian Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff headline the women's 1,500m event. Stellingwerff, who ran 4:10 at the Oxy High Performance meet, and a sixth place mile finish at Re:RUN San Diego, looks to lower her seasonal best and push for the win on Saturday.


Meanwhile, Franek, who competed in the London Games in the steeplechase, is working on her speed this season, running a 1,500m best in 2013 of 4:14.48. She'll be looking to push the 4:10 barrier.


Giving chase is Re:RUN San Diego mile runner-up Brie Felnagle. The Seattle-based pro ran 4:28.90 in the mile at Re:RUN, showing she's rounding into prime shape as the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships near.


Also in contention is former Florida State University All-American Violah Lagat. Lagat, who ran 4:09.17 for 1,500m at the Payton Jordan Invitational earlier in the season, and continues to make headway as a pro.


Two intriguing storylines rotate around two prep athletes in the field. Colorado's Elise Cranny shocked the nation with her 4:15.07 1,500m effort earlier in the season. After coming up big at the Colorado State Track and Field Championships, the Niwot High School junior looks to lower her 1,500m best once again. She'll have plenty of competition and should be eyeing the 4:12 barrier.


Camas High School sophomore Alexa Efraimson is also entered. Efraimson has proven herself to be one of the nation's very best prep middle distance runners. Currently ranked US#2 over 1,600m and US#3 over 800m, there is no reason why Efraimson can't lower her 1,500m best of 4:19.54.


Men's 3,000m Steeplechase


2008 Olympian and current University of Colorado assistant coach Billy Nelson leads the men's steeplechase field. The 2011 USA steeple champion is running well in 2013, running a seasonal best of 8:29.10 and showing he'll once again contend to make the Team USA roster for the IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He'll look to improve his US#4 time in the event, while taking home the title in Portland Saturday.


A handful of competitors will look to challenge Nelson, including 8:37 steepler Luis Ibarra. The Los Angeles-based professional looks to improve on his fourth place finish at the Portland Track Festival in 2012.


Other key contenders include sub-8:45 steeplers Carl Stones and Michael Jordan. Stones has a seasonal best time of 8:41.63 and will look to lower that mark significantly. Jordan, who runs for the University of Southern Indiana, ran a best of8:42.63 at Stanford earlier in the season, while finishing third at the NCAA DII Outdoor Track and Field Championships two weeks ago.


Keep an eye on David Adams and David Goodman, too. Both athletes are capable of pushing sub-8:45 times and will contend for top three finishes.


Women's 3,000m Steeplechase


One of the highlight events of this year's Portland Track Festival, intense and talented competition takes to the women's steeplechase, which will provide some big performances and big momentum shifts in the event nationally as the sport heads into the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.


Leading the way is US#7 Alexi Pappas. The former Dartmouth star and University of Oregon All-American is having another terrific track season, running a season best of9:46.73. She'll undoubtedly look to improve on that time and position herself as a top three contender at nationals in a couple weeks.


Not to be overlooked, 2012 Olympian Shalaya Kipp will be hoping to reestablish herself as a favorite heading into the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Last summer, Kipp took a big leap forward, showing herself to be one of the very best at the NCAA level, while pulling off a big-time top three finish at the Olympic Trials. While she's slowly worked her way into the 2013-racing season, having redshirted at the University of Colorado this spring, she'll certainly challenge for Saturday's win.


2012 Olympic Trials qualifiers Aisha Praught and Mary Goldkamp look to improve their rankings nationally in the event. Both are running strong this season and will give Pappas and Kipp a run for the win.


Other notable veterans such as Lindsay Allen, Marie Lawrence and Julia Webb will vie for top five.


One of the more intriguing storylines in the field is prep standout Amy-Eloise Neale. The Washington-state star is eyeing a spot on the British junior national team and will look to make her mark in Portland. Neale, who ranks as one of the best 1,600m and 3,200m runners in the country this year, is headed to the University of Washington in the fall.


Men's 5,000m


Similar to a handful of other fields at this year's Portland Track Festival, the men's 5,000m offers competitive balance, with a tightly packed group entering the race, all looking to lower seasonal bests as they head into national championship races.


The pre-race favorites in the field have to be Portland-based Luke Puskedra and 13:23runner Aron Rono. Puskedra, who ran 13:31 for 5,000m at the Oxy High Performance Invitational looks to lower that mark, while getting in a nice tune-up race prior to the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Rono, who's been somewhat quiet in 2013, will push an early pace which should lead much of the field to seasonal best performances.


One runner who's really stepped up his game in 2013 is Forest Braden. The former Boise State runner ran 13:37.93 at the Oxy High Performance meet and will look to break13:30. Braden finished fourth at the Portland Track Festival in 2012.


Not to be overlooked, Santa Monica Track Club athlete Tony Okello looks to build on his3:47.50 third place 1,500m finish at the Jim Bush Invitational this past weekend. Okello will be joined in the race by Adams State star Kevin Batt. Batt, who finished second in the NCAA DII Cross Country Championships enters with a 5k personal best of 13:44.


Notable veterans Jordan Horn, Kenyon Neuman, Michael Crouch, Scott Smith, Jonathan Peterson and Alexander Soderberg are also entered in the field and should challenge for top five finishes.


Women's 5,000m


Where do we begin? The women's 5,000m is shaped to be a memorable one. With numerous storylines and being the last event on the track Saturday evening, this is a can't miss race.


The most intriguing storyline is that of Oregon Distance Project athletes Treniere Moser, Mary Cain and Tara Erdmann. It remains to be seen how these three will run the Portland Track Festival 5,000m, but Moser currently ranks US-top five in the event with her 15:11 performance at Oxy, while Erdmann looks to improve upon her 15:47 best, getting back to her sixth place Olympic Trials 10k form of 2012.


Cain, who is simply on a tear in, ran an incredible 1:59.51 800m effort at the Nike Prefontaine Classic this past weekend, while running 4:04.62 at Oxy earlier in the season. Cain has yet to challenge herself over 5,000m on the track, as fans wait to see if she'll challenge yet another high school and junior record, as she builds towards the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.


Another top three challenger in the field is Laura Thweatt. Ranked in the U.S. top 20 over 5,000m, Thweatt enters the Portland Track Festival with a 2013 best of 15:36.85. The Boulder Track Club athlete is having a dynamite season and will undoubtedly push for a sub-15:30 clocking.


Kellyn Johnson, who finished tenth in the Olympic Trials 10k last summer should be a fan favorite, hoping to run a strong race prior to the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Another fan favorite, UC Davis All-American Sarah Sumpter, who ran 33:18.51 for 10k at the Payton Jordan Invitational earlier this season, will look to lower her personal best in this event.


Other veterans who should challenge for top five marks are New Jersey-New York Track Club veteran Frances Koons, Jessica Tebo, Nicole Aish, Team USA Minnesota's Meghan Peyton, former NCAA champion Angela Bizzarri and 2012 Olympic Games qualifier Beverly Ramos.


Another prep star tests her talents against the pros. North Central H.S. (WA) senior Katie Knight, who currently ranks US#5 over 3,200m, looks to challenge the top prep time in the event of 16:18, while showcasing her strength in what could very well become her best event at the collegiate level, where she'll compete for the University of Washington.



The sixth annual Portland Track Festival is set to take place on Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8 at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. The distance-only event hosts a collection of races, giving America's best distance runners the opportunity to run fast and compete towards the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships.


For more information on the Portland Track Festival, please visit:www.portlandtrackfestival.com.