Luke Thompson | Yakima Herald-Republic - July 1, 2022
Two former Oregon Ducks and regular training partners highlight Saturday’s Downtown Yakima Mile men’s elite field a week after they competed in a wild sprint to the finish at the USA Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
Sam Prakel won his 1,500-meter preliminary heat and led for most of the last lap before seven runners passed him in the last 100 meters at Heyward Field. Johnny Gregorek crossed the line just .13 seconds ahead of Prakel, good enough for sixth place and a qualifying spot in the World Championships in Eugene later this month.
They’ll both be vying for Yakima’s $5,000 winner’s prize, plus additional prize money of up to $10,000 if they can set a state record or run faster than 3:48. Prakel won last year’s race in 3:54 and told Gregorek about the great community support along Yakima Avenue, which he’s eager to experience firsthand.
“I just wanted to do something fun, keep racing, stay race sharp,” Gregorek said. “This was already on my schedule. I just wanted to keep the same plan going.”
The Massachusetts native ran a 3:49.98 mile at Boston University in 2019, the second-fastest indoor mile in American history. He finished 10th in the 1,500 at the 2017 World Championships in London and said he enjoys running three to four road miles each year for a break from the track.
Prakel hopes his experience on the course with its early downhill might provide an advantage and believes the conditions could be good enough for someone to break the state record of 3:51.76. He plans to run at least a couple of other road miles later this summer, including Cleveland’s Guardian Mile on July 23 as he tries to build on a mostly promising weekend at the national meet.
“It’s more of just being a little more confident in my kick and more confident running up front,” Prakel said. “I’m hoping to practice that more throughout the summer and having opportunities like this helps in showcasing that speed and testing it out.”
Vince Ciattei, who showed plenty of early speed to take the lead before finishing third in Yakima last year, had to withdraw from Saturday’s race due to an injury. But Eric Jenkins, David Ribich, Zach Stallings and Matt Wisner all plan to race after competing in the 1,500 meters at nationals a week ago.
Mick Stanovsek represented Australia and finished second in a windy and rainy 1,500 meters at the Oceania Championships last month, with a time of 3:45.98. He’s feeling great about his fitness heading into just the second road mile of his career.
“I’m definitely chomping at the bit to race again now because it’s been a little while,” Stanovsek said. “I was rooming with Amos Bartelsmyer the year that he came down and won and he came back just beaming about it.”
The women’s field may be noticeably smaller than the men’s race, and defending champion Nikki Hiltz pulled out earlier this week after finishing 10th in the 1,500 at nationals in Eugene. Former Stanford runner Ella Donaghu appears to be a favorite with her personal-record of 4:09.66 in the 1,500 meters and she took 11th in the 5,000 at nationals.
Eugene-based Jenn Randall posted a personal-record mile time of 4:33 in late April and Seattle-based Allie Ostrander took 16th in the 5,000 last week in Eugene. Another competitor, former Oregon standout Susan Ejore thrives in the shorter 800 meters, with a personal-record of 2:02.26.
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