By Julia Lobaina
Jamaican Omar McLeod earned his third consecutive win at the Prefontaine Classic Saturday afternoon, beating the deepest field of 110-meter hurdles ever assembled in meet history.
His time of 13.01 seconds put him ahead of last year’s Diamond Trophy winner, Sergey Shubenkov, who ran 13.08 for second place, and Hayward favorite Devon Allen, who was third in 13.13.
“This is a special crowd,” McLeod said. “I’ve been racing here since high school, and I knew I wanted to make it extra special by doing the three-peat.”
Shubenkov was stunned by his own performance. The runner-up has been preparing differently this season by doing more running exercises and burst trainings, and believes that he, too, can run a 13.01.
“I’ve never run so fast in May before,” he said. “I’m always prepared to race everybody, and I can’t say what Omar is doing is unreachable.”
Former Duck Allen feels the pressure of coming back to Hayward Field and the expectations the fans have for him, but he takes it as an advantage because for him, receiving the loudest cheer is pretty cool. He felt good about his performance, even though he eight-stepped the first hurdle.
“Rhythm wise, my head wasn’t there,” he said. “I’m strong enough to do a seven step, but the rhythm wasn’t there today. So I just went back to my old start.”
McLeod is the youngest ever to win both the Olympic and world championship high-hurdle gold medals in the same cycle. But this year, he is working toward breaking Aries Merritt’s world record of 12.80.
“I really want to break the world record this year,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of setbacks in my career, but I know this is the year to have them, and I’m going after it.”
McLeod came into the race knowing he’d be competing against a world-class field, including Allen, whom he’s raced against since high school, but McLeod took care of his own business.
“I always envision myself winning, so it comes naturally,” he said.
Coming off of a three-peat win in the 110-meter hurdles, McLeod is finding it difficult to remain motivated when it’s not a championship year, but his love for the sport and wanting to win the Diamond League keeps him going.
“I have a child-like spirit, and I don’t want to change that,” he said. “That’s what makes me so successful, and it’s what sets me apart.”