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The Weekend’s Best Matchups for September 13-15

The Weekend’s Best Matchups for September 13-15

| On 12, Sep 2013

Mo Farah will get the lion’s share of attention at the Great North Run, but the women will have the best race of the weekend.

Several years ago, ESPN ran a promo for the Pro Bowl with the graphic “one, last, final game” over a fan shaking out the last few ounces from a gallon salsa jug. We’re in the “one, last, final meet” weekend of the track season–but it’s going to to be a heck of a lot better than any Pro Bowl. Track season has now bled over into road racing season too, and the roads offer up some tasty matchups. Let’s take a look.

1. Tirunesh Dibaba vs Meseret Defar

Half marathon, Great North Run
Newcastle upon Tyne to South Shields, ENG
Sunday, 9:00am local time (4:00am ET)

Webcast available at watchathletics.com

These two great champions have won nearly everything in the last decade–between them they have won 21 gold medals in Olympic and various World Championships competition–but they have met only once on the roads, at the Carlsbad 5000 some eleven years ago. Defar won their only head-to-head meeting this year with a scorching last-lap kick at the Zurich Weltklasse meet. Each are relative newcomers to the half marathon, as Defar has run only two (wins in 1:07:45 and 1:07:25) and Diababa just one (winning last year’s GNR in 1:07:35). Defar might appear to have the upper hand based on that Zurich victory, but the half marathon is a different race.

2. Mo Farah vs Kenenisa Bekele vs Haile Gebrselassie

Half marathon, Great North Run
Newcastle upon Tyne to South Shields, ENG
Sunday, 9:00am local time (4:00am ET)

Based on results of the last few years, I doubt either of the Ethiopian legends will mount a serious challenge to Farah. But when do you get to see this kind of matchup between two decades’ worth of the greatest athletes in their sport? It would be like Greg Maddux pitching to Albert Pujols with Pudge Rodriguez catching. Young runners should have a poster of these three on their bedroom walls.

3. David Oliver vs Ryan Wilson vs Aries Merritt

110 hurdles, Great North CityGames
Quayside, NewcastleGateshead ENG
Saturday, 2:05pm local time (9:05am ET)

Webcast at USATF.tv

This is the fifth year of the Great North CityGames, a multi-event city-center competition held the day before the Great North Run. Last year’s crowd of spectators was estimated at more than 25,000. There are a lot of good matchups in the competition but this is by far the best. World Champion Oliver had one of his best seasons ever, and journeyman Wilson had by far his best, winning the US title and silver at the Worlds. Merritt had one of the greatest seasons in hurdling history last year but injuries brought him back to the pack this year.

4. Milcah Chemos vs Hellen Obiri vs Hannah England

Mile, Great North CityGames
Quayside, NewcastleGateshead ENG
Saturday, 1:18pm local time (8:18am ET)

This is an interesting matchup. Chemos won the Worlds steeplechase but rarely runs the 1500 (and has apparently never run a full mile). Obiri won bronze in the Worlds 1500, followed closely by England in fourth. The Brit will, of course, have the partisan home crowd behind her. Can the steepler run with the 1500 specialists?

5. Hanna Melnychenko vs Brianne Theisen Eaton

Heptathlon, Decastar
Stade Municipal de Thouars, Talence FRA
Saturday and Sunday

Melnychenko won gold in the Worlds heptathlon with a massive 141 point improvement over her previous PR. Theisen Eaton had a breakthrough of her own, winning Canada’s first-ever World or Olympic medal in this event. There’s the rematch, of course, but there’s more on the line: the season-long IAAF Combined Events Challenge. Melnychenko leads but Theisen Eaton would steal the title if she beats the Ukrainian by at least 96 points. Other top competitors include Germany’s Claudia Rath, 4th at the Worlds, and American Sharon Day, who had been considered a gold medal contender going into the Worlds.

6. Sally Pearson vs Tiffany Porter

100 hurdles, Great North CityGames
Quayside, NewcastleGateshead ENG
Saturday, 1:10pm local time (8:10am ET)

Pearson was the world’s top hurdler for the last two years but was supplanted this year by young American Brianna Rollins. The Aussie suffered multiple early-season injuries and rallied to improve to Worlds silver. Porter took bronze in that race and poses the biggest threat to Pearson, but hardly the only one. Also running are Dawn Harper-Nelson, 4th at the Worlds (and second at last year’s Olympics) and Kellie Wells, last year’s Olympic bronze medalist.

7. Ashton Eaton vs Damian Warner

Decathlon, Decastar
Stade Municipal de Thouars, Talence FRA
Saturday and Sunday

As with the women’s competition, this matches up the Worlds gold and bronze medalists, but with much less chance for an upset. Eaton holds the world record and won the Worlds by 139 points, even with what seemed like a bit of a down performance (but was still the third best of his life). Warner was more than 300 points back of Eaton, and a more achievable goal might be the Canadian Record score of 8626 (which would be a PR of 114 points, a bit of a stretch). Speaking of records, 2013 is the first year without a world record since 1907…so far. Eaton has been a bit off this year but he’s so good that a world record never seems out of reach.

Other entrants include Holland’s Eelco Sintnicolaas, fifth at the Worlds, and a very interesting rookie: Diamond League pole vault champion Renaud Lavillenie.

8. Asbel Kiprop vs Leo Manzano

Mile, Great North CityGames
Quayside, NewcastleGateshead ENG
Saturday, 1:43pm local time (8:43am ET)

Kiprop is the 1500 meter World Champion while Manzano didn’t get out of the semifinals, so this looks one-sided. These are two of the most inconsistent milers on the circuit, though–remember, Manzano won Olympic silver last summer while Kiprop bombed out and finished twelfth. Anything can happen.

9. Ryan Bailey vs James Dasaolu

100 meters, Great North CityGames
Quayside, NewcastleGateshead ENG
Saturday, 2:12pm local time (9:12am ET)

Dasaolu, a Worlds finalist, will have the crowd behind him. Bailey was fifth at last year’s Olympics and missed the heart of the 2013 season with injury, but has been in action again over the last few weeks and is rounding into form. Strangely enough, this will be the first time the two have raced head-to-head.

10. Harvard vs Yale

Franklin Park
Saturday, 1:00pm ET

Points for NCAA Championships at-large qualifying cannot be earned until September 27, so nothing is at stake in this dual cross country meet besides pride. But in a series that dates to 1922 (and a rivalry that dates to 1875), that’s all you need. This should be pretty competitive too, as the men’s teams are ranked 6th (Harvard) and 8th (Yale) in the Northeast regional poll, and the women are ranked 4th (Harvard) and 9th (Yale). The meet is at historic Franklin Park, the site of the 1992 World Cross Country Championships, and the park has begun its 100th season of cross country racing.

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