Rai Benjamin, on Sunday (June 30), cemented the 400m hurdles as the event of the season at the Prefontaine Classic at Cobb Track and Angell Field at Stanford University.
His performance was way more than enough to cruise to a comfortable victory in 47.19 seconds, a World Lead time and meet record.
After going out in a relatively modest pace for the first 200m, Benjamin began to increase his speed on the second curve, and once he took the lead heading into the homestretch, he used his superior 200m speed to accelerate and separate from the field.
The result was his second-fastest time ever.
“My coaches told me to stay patient..coming down the backstretch there was a bit of a headwind, so I stayed patient and realized coming off the five I had to make a move,” said Benjamin to NBC.
The 21 year-old, Antiguan-rooted sprinter is one of the favorites for IAAF World Championships in Doha, Albeit, not a clear favorite, with the likes of Qatari Abderrahman Samba and reigning World Champion Karsten Warholm of Norway who have both been equally as impressive the last couple of seasons, with Samba defeating Benjamin in Shanghai earlier in the year.
Samba also broke 47 seconds, running 46.98s, last season, which is the second-fastest time ever.
It’s the concentration of elite athletes at the top 400-m hurdles this season that has many experts predicting a breaking of the 46.78 World Record set at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992 by American Kevin Young.
The Women’s sprints underwent plenty of drama. Favourites like Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce for the 100 m and Elaine Thompson in the 200 m were both upset by a pair of African sprinters.
Ivorian Marie- Josee Ta Lou seems to regain her 2017 form which ended in a silver medal in London. She won in 11.02 ahead of a trio of Americans & Michelle Lee Ahye of Trinidad who finished fifth in 11.23. Fraser-Pryce, still reeling from the gruelling Jamaica trials ran an 11.39 for eighth and second to last.
Nigerian Blessing Okagbare showed her strength down the stretch of the 200m as she took advantage of her lane eight assignment and blasted off the turn in the lead, holding off the Jamaican champion Thompson, 22.05-22.21.
Meanwhile, Benjamin’s former USC teammate and countrymen Michael Norman took advantage of the displaced California venue for this year’s Prefontaine, winning the Men’s 400m easily in 44.62.
Barbados’ Jonathan Jones finished 4th in 45.46. Trinidad and Tobago Star Machel Cedino finished sixth in 45.71 ahead of Grenadian Bralon Taplin’s 45.94.
Jamaicans Omar Mcleod and Ronald Levy finished third and fourth in the men’s high hurdles, in 13.29 and 13.30 respectively. Spanish hurdler Orlando Ortega won in a season’s best of 13.24.