The highly-promoted world indoor record attempt in the 4x800m relay paid off with two all-US teams under the former best of 7:13.94 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, an IAAF Indoor Permit meeting, at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston’s Roxbury neighbourhood on Saturday (8).
The USA All Star team of Richard Jones (1:51.01), David Torrence (1:47.46), Duane Solomon (1:47.99), and Erik Sowinski (1:46.67) clocked a world indoor record of 7:13.11*, narrowly defeating a team from the New Jersey-New York Track Club by 0.11.
The previous record was set on this same Roxbury Community College track by Joey Woody, Karl Paranya, Rich Kenah, and David Krummenacker in 2000.
Woody, who stopped competing in 2008, now coaches Sowinski, very much the hero of the moment after an exciting duel with Mike Rutt on the last lap to just hold off his rival for the win and the record. "Coach Woody had it before me," said Sowinski. "I knew Mike raced yesterday, so I had to break him in the first 400." Coincidently, Kenah was one of the meeting organisers and among the brains behind setting up the record attempt.
Another to fall was the junior 1000m mark as the prodigious Mary Cain lowered her own record by more than three seconds to 2:35.80.
Unlike her previous record run of 2:39.25, set at the nearby Boston University track last month, Cain had company for most of the five laps of the track, with Chanelle Price chasing her to the line, but once she moved to the front nobody else was coming by.
"I knew this would be a fast pace," said Cain. “I made my move with 250m to go. If I had felt better I might have gone earlier. My biggest problem right now is that I need to be stronger at maintaining a fast pace."
Cain said she will run the mile at the Millrose Games in New York on Saturday and thinks she will feel much easier. "We’ll probably go through [800m] in something like 2:10, unlike today."
‘Windy’ conditions distract Gebrhiwet
A year ago, Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet set a world indoor junior 3000m record of 7:32.87 at this meeting. This time around, and now a senior although he doesn’t celebrate his 20th birthday until May, Gebrihiwet was again one of the stars of the show as he won over the same distance in a world-leading 7:34.13.
He finished ahead of his compatriot and Olympic 5000m silver medallist Dejen Gebremeskel, who finished second in 7:34.70, while the USA’s Ryan Hill was third in 7:34.87.
Gebrhiwet said afterwards that he had hoped to challenge his 2013 mark but, "It was a bit windy!" Speaking through an interpreter, he explained that by ‘windy’, he meant that the air in the stadium was relatively chilly, and he worked harder during the middle stages of the race than he had hoped to do.
The winning mark in the men’s shot put was just two centimetres off the best so far this winter, and not terribly surprising, but the name attached to it – Joe Kovacs – was somewhat more attention-grabbing.
With season leader Ryan Whiting opening at 21.18m, Kovacs was lagging behind all the way through the competition until he unleashed an effort that sailed out to 21.35m with his last throw, a 27cm improvement on his absolute best set when finishing fourth at the 2012 Olympic Trials.
Whiting noted that the loss represented, "A good opportunity to see these guys before the World Championships."
Also in the field, world indoor record-holder Jenn Suhr cleared 4.70m at her third attempt in the women’s pole vault in what she said might be her only indoor competition before the US Indoor Championships.
"I’m still getting my meet legs under me," she said after unsuccessful tries at both 4.75m and 4.76m. "Physically I felt good, but I was getting tired at the end. Mentally I had to be on top of things, and I think I followed through well there."
Also in the field, Tori Bowie came from behind to win the women’s long jump with her sixth and final effort of 6.67m.
After the men’s mile pack ignored their rabbit and split 2:04 for halfway, it was New Zealand’s 2008 Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis who took the lead ("earlier than I wanted," Willis said later) and, along with Lopez Lomong and Galen Rupp, pushed the pace.
"I was trying to pick up each lap,” said Willis. “I wound up really having to muscle it in."
Willis’s gradual acceleration not only left the pack behind, but it put Rupp, who was nursing a sore left leg, in an uncomfortable position, and the Olympic 10,000m silver medallist simply jogged off the track with two laps remaining.
"The win was my first goal," said Willis after his win in 3:57.41. "It’s a shame (Rupp) ended up pulling out. I wanted to see if I had enough to beat him."
Kipyego gets comeback win
Sally Kipyego, who missed all of 2013 until November with a foot injury, continued her return to form with a good win in the two miles over Jenny Simpson, the USA’s 2011 world 1500m champion, as Kenya’s Olympic 10,000m silver medallist crossed the line in 9:21.04.
Simpson suffered a lapse of concentration and kicked early, thinking she had one fewer lap remaining than she really did, and didn’t recognise the error until she was approaching the actual bell lap, which left her unable to hold off the now-fast-closing Kipyego.
"She surprised me with how hard she was running," said Kipyego, "and I wondered if she was going to run two laps at that pace."
Kipyego plans no more indoor races this year but said that her formerly problematic foot is now, "Fantastic. I am so happy to be up in the morning without thinking about it. 2014 is a comeback year for me."
Simpson, whose relentlessly positive outlook can survive even a race-damaging tactical error, laughed, “I’m OK, I’m just an idiot. Now I’ve given up the right to laugh at anyone else who’s ever done that.” Rather than the loss, Simpson was more disappointed that the error left her just under three seconds outside the US record for the distance after finishing in 9:26.19.
US sprinter Natasha Hastings ‘won the break’ in the women’s 400m, leading the pack to the halfway mark and then holding on to that lead to the finish in 52.05, but Nigeria’s Regina George came on strong in the closing homestretch and pressed Hastings to the line, taking second in 52.20.
Tianna Bartoletta (formerly Madison) won the women’s 60m in 7.17 over Bianca Knight in 7.22. Marvin Bracy took the men’s event in 6.53 with Joe Morris second in 6.55 and Mike Rodgers third in 6.56.
Kim Conley was the winner over 2000m in 5:41.10, a six-second margin separating her from steeplechaser Emma Coburn. Jarrin Solomon won a narrow victory over Rennie Quow in the rarely-run 500m, 1:01.84 to 1:01.90.
Parker Morse for the IAAF
*Subject to the usual ratification procedures.