The line-up for the men's 400 metres Prefontaine Classic is excellent but it isn't the best it could be. That's astounding but true. Even though fans in Eugene will watch Olympic Kirani James clash with World Champion Lashawn Merritt and Jamaican Invitational winner Yousef Ahmed Masrahi of Saudi Arabia, the Pre 400 is missing two key ingredients.
James, the lanky Grenadian, is the fastest man this year after his fine time of 44.22 seconds at the Drake Relays but the second and third fastest men of 2015 will be absent. World Junior Champion Machel Cedenio of Trinidad and Tobago beat Jamaica's Javon Francis in Cayman recently while moving his 400 metre personal best to 44.36 seconds.
On the same weekend, Cedenio's countryman Deon Lendore won the South Eastern Conference title for Texas A&M University in 44.41 seconds. Lendore who anchored Trinidad and Tobago to 4×400 bronze in the 2012 Olympics, was second to James at the 2010 Carifta Games.
Lendore has collegiate obligations to Texas A&M. After back to back race weekends, Cedenio is taking this Saturday off. That should make the Prefontaine race easy for James.
That would continue the domination he has enjoyed this season. When he ran 44.31 to take the top spot at the Sun Angel, he beat fellow Grenadian Bralin Taplin, Lendore's Texas A&M teammate, by 0.59. Masrahi was walloped by 0.48 seconds at Drake and he won at a canter in the Shanghai Diamond League race too.
There's nothing to indicate that today's race at the Prefontaine Classic will be any different. However, the Classic isn't a happy hunting ground for the Grenadian star. He was disqualified for false starts in 2012. He ran under protest but crossed the line behind Merritt. In 2013 and 2014, he lost thrilling duels in 2013 and 2014. His only win at Hayward Field, the track upon which the Classic is contested, came when he won the NCAA Championships for the University of Alabama in 2010.