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EUGENE (24-May) — As Phil Collins famously sang: “We wait and we wonder.”

That’s the mood here less than 24 hours ahead of the Bowerman Mile at Saturday’s Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field, the fifth stop of the 2024 Wanda Diamond League.  Tomorrow’s race features the world’s three top-ranked 1500m runners according to World Athletics: Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway (Nike), Yared Nuguse of the United States (On Athletics Club), and Josh Kerr of Great Britain (Brooks Beasts Track Club).

Ingebrigtsen is the reigning Olympic and European 1500m champion and is also the event record holder (3:43.73); Nuguse is the reigning USA 1500m champion and the American record holder for the mile (3:43.97); and Kerr is the reigning world 1500m champion and the 2021 Olympic 1500m bronze medalist.  It’s a match-up so good that even sprinters are excited about it.

“Yah I’m very excited to see this race!” reigning world 100m and 200m champion Noah Lyles posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.  “Idc if it’s fast.  I just want to see who will win.”

That seems to be the opinion of the three protagonists who spoke to the media this afternoon at a press conference.  All three hope to mount the top step of the Olympic 1500m podium in Paris in August, and are looking at tomorrow’s race more as a means to that end.  For an Olympic track season, it’s still early.

“For me, I’ve never run the Pre Classic or anything,” said Kerr, who won the world 3000m indoor title last March in Glasgow.  “So, I wanted to add that to the list of races I wanted to go after that I wanted to win.  It fit in the schedule really well this year, and I’m just excited to open up my mile/1500m debut of the 2024 season.”

At last year’s event –which was held in September and served as the Diamond League Final– Ingebrigtsen ran just steps ahead of Nuguse, and the pair posted the third and fourth-fastest mile times in history.  But this year’s race could be more tactical as all three men have to meter their effort prior to the Paris Olympics.  While Ingebrigtsen burned the last of his end-of-season fitness at last September’s race, this year’s is more of a rust-buster.  He hasn’t raced in 251 days.

“Winter’s not been perfect which is why I have not been in cross country or indoor,” Ingebrigtsen told reporters. “But, I’m definitely going to show up and try to do my best.  I think that’s a big part of this sport is to not be only showing up when you are one hundred percent, or whatever.  I think a big part of the sport is to do what we all love, which is to run, compete against each other.”

Nuguse, who set the world-leading times in the mile this year both indoors and out (3:47.83 and 3:51.06, respectively) is sure that his world lead will be broken, but he didn’t seem terribly concerned about putting up a super-fast time like last year.  He said that tomorrow’s race will give him a preview of the Paris Olympics and act as a confidence builder ahead of the nerve-wracking USA Olympic Team Trials which will take place here in Eugene next month.

“I feel like this race is really important because it’s kind of like in a place where I have a lot of my world’s best competitors that I’m going to be facing,” Nuguse said.  “I feel like once you face them, I feel like that… makes (the Trials) feel a little more manageable, I think.  Being able to come out and race against these guys will give me a lot of confidence going into the Trials.”

Perhaps lost in the emphasis on the Big Three is the depth of the field.  Fifteen men will be on the track (plus pacemakers) including 2022 World 1500m champion Jake Wightman of Great Britain (a Scotsman, like Kerr), 2022 Commonwealth Games 1500m champion Oliver Hoare of Australia, reigning world indoor 1500m champion Geordie Beamish of New Zealand, and reigning world road mile champion Hobbs Kessler of the United States.  Any one of them could win the race, something that was not lost on Kerr.

“You’ve got to give it up to the Pre Classic for being able to pull this together,” said Kerr.  “That’s what I’m excited about.”

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Athletes in the Bowerman Mile can also get credit for Olympic Games 1500m qualifying marks based on their mile times.  The Olympic standard for 1500m is 3:33.50, but is 3:50.40 for the mile.  Neither Hoare nor Wightman have the standard yet.  Hoare had hoped to get it last Sunday in Los Angeles, but only ran 3:34.73.

PHOTO: Yared Nuguse, Josh Kerr and Jakob Ingebrigtsen at a press conference in advance of the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene Oregon on May 24 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)