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Gatlin and Simpson torch the track as 15 world leads set at Nike Prefontaine Classic


EUGENE, Oregon -- The 41st Nike Prefontaine Classic did not disappoint, as 15 world leads and six meet records went down over two days of action at Historic Hayward Field.

Justin Gatlin (Clermont, Florida) set a new world lead and tied his personal best, cruising to a win in the men’s 200 meters in 19.68, a new meet record. Gatlin was the only man to turn in a sub-20 200m and matched his scorching performance from last year’s Brussels Diamond League meeting on September 5. In that matchup, Gatlin ran 9.77 and 19.68 in the 100m and 200m within an hour of each other. Matching his previous 19.68 keeps Gatlin as the sixth-fastest American man over 200 meters.

In an impressive field in the women’s 1,500 meters, Jenny Simpson (Boulder, Colorado) reigned supreme. Pushing the pace early, Simpson held off Kenya’s Mercy Cherono and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands down the homestretch, kicking to a new world lead of 4:00.98. The time goes down as the fastest season opener of her career. Setting a pending American junior record in the event, Alexa Efraimson (Camas, Washington) finished seventh in 4:03.39 to eclipse Mary Cain's previous record of 4:06.63.

English Gardner (Voorhess, New Jersey) made her triumphant return to Historic Hayward Field after an injury-plagued 2014, setting a brief world lead given the Diamond League 100 meters 10 minutes later, with her 10.84 win in the women’s international 100 meters. On the men’s side, it was Tyson Gay (Los Angeles, California) getting the win over compatriot Michael Rodgers (Round Rock, Texas) in 9.88 over Rodgers in 9.90. Both times were season’s bests for the Americans.

Allyson Felix (Los Angeles, California) stormed to the win in the women’s 400 meters, going hard in her first and last 100 meters to win easily in 50.05. Sanya Richards-Ross, who was going for her 50th sub-50 400m, just missed with her second-place time of 50.29. Felix now leads the head-to-head with Richards-Ross (Austin, Texas), 17-9, with Felix’s last defeat coming in August of 2009.

The men’s 400-meter hurdles race worked in the Americans’ favor, as U.S. athletes went 1-2-3 all with sub-49 finishes. Johnny Dutch (Clayton, North Carolina) shocked the field by defeating world leader Bershawn Jackson, edging his countryman at the line with a time of 48.20. Jackson (Raleigh, North Carolina) was right behind Dutch in 48.22. Also scoring Diamond League points was Michael Tinsley (Round Rock, Texas), who crossed third in 48.79.

Both the Bowerman Mile and the men’s international mile were tremendous, as a combined 23 men ran sub-4:00 and 18 men were under the previous world lead of 3:57.09. Matt Centrowitz (Portland, Oregon) battled with Ayanleh Souleiman, just getting beat out at the finish by a tenth of a second, 3:51.10-3:51.20. Souleiman is now the world leader in the men’s 800 meters and the mile.

Ben Blankenship (Eugene, Oregon) proved his name belongs in the conversation for America’s best milers as he dusted off his stellar kick to win the men’s international mile in 3:55.72. Blankenship just edged Sawe & Cheruiyot of Kenya, who crossed in 3:55.76 and 3:55.80 respectively.

Kara Winger (Colorado Springs, Colorado) just missed out on the Diamond League title in the women’s javelin, turning in a toss of 62.85m/206-2 on her third attempt to miss eventual winner, Christina Obergfoll of Germany, by just nine inches.

The men’s 110-meter hurdles saw three times under the previous world lead, as Aries Merritt (Bryan, Texas) and David Oliver (Kissimmee, Florida) both surpassed Oliver’s previous 2015 best of 13.15 with times of 13.12 and 13.14, respectively. However, their season’s bests weren’t enough as defending champion Pascal Martinot-Lagarde of France took the title in 13.06.

The women’s 800m was a photo finish with reigning world champion Eunice Sum and defending USATF champion Ajee’ Wilson (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) finished within five hundredths of a second from each other. Sum just edged Wilson in a race that saw four women run under 2:00, including Brenda Martinez (Rancho Cucamonga, California) in third in 1:59.06.

Erik Kynard cleared a season best in the men’s high jump, jumping 2.35m/7-8.50 for his best performance since May 9, 2014 and tying his third-best performance of his career. Kynard made attempts to surpass the American record of 2.40m/7-10.25 but couldn’t make it over 2.41m/7-10.75.

The next stop of the 2015 USATF Championship Series is the adidas Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island. The second domestic Diamond League meeting, the adidas Grand Prix will be live on NBC from 1-3 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 13.

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