The New Balance Indoor Grand Prix kicks off the USATF Championship Series on Saturday (2) in Boston, the first and only IAAF Indoor Permit meeting in the United States this year.
This will be the 18th edition of the yet-again sold out meeting at the Reggie Lewis Track Facility where fans cheer so loudly that attending the meet has been dubbed “Rockin' the Reggie”.
“Track and field fans should see some great action on Saturday night,” said meeting director Mark Wetmore of Global Athletics in Boston. “As has become tradition for the meet, they will see some great middle distance action on the oval as well as Jenn Suhr returning to the place where she has already set three American records.”
Suhr, the reigning Olympic Pole Vault champion who also won the silver medal in Beijing in 2008, is undefeated at the meet, recording five victories since 2007. She jumped 4.82m in 2009, then improved on that American record performance to 4.88m at last year’s meeting. That mark was the second highest in the world last year behind only Yelena Isinbayeva’s 5.01m World indoor record in Stockholm.
“My first big performance of 2012 was in Boston and the year turned out to be my best ever,” said Suhr earlier this month. “So I can’t wait to come back to Boston and start off this World Championships year with one of my favourite crowds.”
Americans Becky Holliday, Mary Saxer, April Steiner-Bennett and Janice Keppler will also be in action on the runway in Boston.
Rupp takes on Gebremeskel over 3000m
On Reggie’s banked 200m oval, the close to 5000 spectators will see a loaded 3000m race led by Olympic medallists Galen Rupp and Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia. Rupp, 26, who ran a world-leading indoor mile of 3:50.92 at a different track in Boston last Saturday, is in incredible shape and could challenge Bernard Lagat’s American indoor record of 7:32.43.
“Everything came together great,” said Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Rupp after his mile in Boston. “The people here were really incredible.”
Gebremeskel, 23, won the silver medal behind Mo Farah in the London Olympic 5000m. He has a personal best of 7:34.14. World junior 5000m record-holder Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia, Andy Baddeley of Great Britain and Donn Cabral of the United States are also in the race.
Dibaba going for seventh Boston victory
The long event on the women’s side will be the two miles, and three-time Olympic gold medallist Tirunesh Dibaba is the odds-on favourite for victory. She’s competed at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix eight times, scoring six victories and setting the World indoor 5000m record twice, in 2005 and 2007. Arch-rival Meseret Defar holds the World indoor record for two miles with her 9:06.26 from 2009.
“I’m looking forward to launching my 2013 season in one of my favourite cities,” said Dibaba, who will make her marathon debut at the Virgin London Marathon in April.
Also in the two-mile will be the record-breaking American high schooler Mary Cain, 16, who set a world youth indoor best for the mile last Saturday in New York City with a time of 4:32.78. She will be aiming for Melody Fairchild’s American high school records at both two miles (9:55.92) and 3000m (9:17.4+). She used her formidable closing speed at last week’s race to secure the record, running the final 200m lap in 31.2.
“It’s all up to the kick,” said Cain. “I’m a kicker and that’s what I do.”
But Cain might not be the fastest junior in the race. Ethiopia’s World youth 3000m champion Gotytom Gebreslase, 18, is also in the field, looking to break her 8:46.01 PB set in this race at last year’s meeting. USA’s Brenda Martinez and Canada’s Sheila Reid are also entered.
The men’s mile will also be a crowd-pleaser, led by World 1500m bronze medallist Matthew Centrowitz who, like Rupp, is coached by Alberto Salazar and has been training with Rupp. His key challengers will be compatriots Dorian Ulrey, Will Leer, and Ethiopia’s Henok Legesse.
Finally, the men’s 60m Hurdles lost Olympic champion Aries Merritt yesterday due to a worrisome leg cramp. “At the beginning of yesterday’s workout, I experienced a cramp as I went over a hurdle during one of my drills,” said Merritt. “I hate to disappoint Boston track and field fans, but my physios think it is best if I withdraw to ensure I stay healthy for the rest of this World Championship year. I hope everyone understands.”
Americans Ty Akins (7.60 PB) and Dominic Berger (7.67) will now contend for victory in that event.
David Monti for the IAAF