An early-season meeting is bound to have a raft of world-leading times, but at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Saturday (26) there were more than a few hotly-contested events and a few upsets to make the season interesting as the 2019 IAAF World Indoor Tour got underway.
Yomif Kejelcha crowded the pacemaker’s shoulder from the gun in the men’s mile, and when the pacemaker stepped off after three laps and let Kejelcha into the lead, he barely slowed, as though the rabbit had served to set his own internal metronome.
With Bethwell Birgen on his inside shoulder – Kejelcha, tall and skinny, ran to the outside of lane one to get himself around the bends – he clicked off a series of four near-identical 29-second laps.
Birgen, inevitably, cracked and Kejelcha’s coup de grace was a 28-second bell lap and a world-leading time and Ethiopian indoor record of 3:51.70. Birgen trailed in second at 3:54.82. In fourth at 3:56.75, Nick Willis at least had the satisfaction that his event record of 3:51.61 had survived, if only barely.
Kejelcha, who announced designs on the outdoor 5000m world record this summer, is now the 12th-fastest indoor miler in history.
World and Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi seems to have acquired a new rival, and tonight she was temporarily deposed. Katie Nageotte matched Stefanidi’s first two clearances – first attempts at 4.61m and 4.71m – then started applying pressure at 4.81 with another first-attempt clearance.
Stefanidi blinked, missing her first attempt. Stefanidi then passed her remaining attempts to 4.86m, where Nageotte again cleared immediately with a world-leading mark. Her bet called, then, Stefanidi missed two attempts and Nageotte took the victory. She made three unsuccessful runs at an all-time best of 4.92m, but then retired satisfied.
“This felt really good,” said Nageotte. “It felt like I was really putting together the things we’ve been working on. It’s a great place to jump. I was excited to come in here to keep that momentum going from last week [in Reno, where Nageotte equalled Stefanidi’s height but lost the event on count-back] and I feel like it kind of prepped me.”
Stefanidi’s defeat seemed almost tame after the melee in the women’s mile. Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum, a frequent winner here in Boston, ran from the front and thus stayed out of the tangles which stripped Hannah England of her right shoe and put world steeplechase champion Emma Coburn in an ice pack post-race.
But if sometimes the gazelles bound away to victory on the last lap, other times the lions pull them down. This time the lions were Gabriela DeBues-Stafford and Elinor Purrier, and they pounced on the backstretch of the last lap and took Seyaum down kicking.
Stafford’s winning time of 4:24.80 is a Canadian indoor record (and, it might go without saying, a world-leading mark), and behind them more national records were set by Yolanda Ngarambe for Sweden (4:28.30) and Ciara Mageean for Ireland (4:28.31).
“It was a great, talented field,” said DeBues-Stafford. “It felt good for my confidence.”
Another world champion went down to defeat in the women’s 5000m, where Konstanze Klosterhalfen drew away from Jenny Simpson after the 3000m mark and eventually won, 15:15.80 to 15:33.38.
Brazier beats new training partner
Donavan Brazier picked up his second consecutive men’s 800m win here in 1:45.91, but the metres he actually led the race may number in the single digits.
Brazier spent most of the race tucked in behind his training partner, Clayton Murphy, who controlled the race from the moment the pacemaker stepped off at 400m. Saul Ordoñez moved up to second at the bell and looked like a serious challenger, but Brazier overhauled the Spaniard on the last backstretch and then clawed his way up to Murphy’s shoulder on the homestretch. The win – by a margin of .04s – was more or less a lean.
“I thought that I should have gotten myself into a better position,” said Brazier, though Murphy had clearly been doing his best to deny Brazier a better position. “But nonetheless, I came up with a win.”
Nathan Strother won the break from lanes in the men’s 400m, and despite a strong challenge from Kyle Collins, Strothers held on to win in 46.97. Jarrett Eaton won the men’s 60m hurdles in 7.64 over Aaron Mallett in 7.65. The gap between the two men was less than the difference between their reaction times. Like Kejelcha, Strother and Eaton will take the early lead in their disciplines for the World Indoor Tour.
Raevyn Rogers won the women’s 600m in 1:27.31 after Georganne Moline, the leader at the bell, tumbled with 100 metres remaining. Rogers wound up with nearly two seconds’ gap on Lynsey Sharp, who finished in 1:29.11.
Michelle-Lee Ahye ran 7.21 and led from the gun in the women’s 60m.
More world-leading marks
Hagos Gebrhiwet, Sydney McLaughlin, and Maggie Ewen all left the Reggie Lewis Center with world-leading marks, in the men’s 3000m, women’s 500m, and women’s shot put respectively.
Gebrhiwet, who was upset in 2018 by Edward Cheserek, removed all doubt about the direction of the rematch early in the race. Gebrhiwet simply set a pace ever so slightly quicker than Cheserek was willing to match, and left the Kenyan to watch the gap expand. By the time Gebrhiwet crossed the line in 7:37.41, Cheserek was more than five seconds adrift.
Maggie Ewen recorded a world-leading PB of 19.28m in the second round to capture the women’s shot put. Ewen took the world lead from 2015 world champion Christina Schwanitz, who arrived in Boston just this morning after competing just yesterday in Germany. Schwanitz’s best was her first-round 18.87m, which put her second even before Ewen’s 19-metre toss; Ewen’s first-round mark was 18.94m.
McLaughlin, running her first race as a professional, made the 500m look easy, or at least the first two laps or so; only in the last half-lap did she begin to show a bit of distress. Her 1:09.46 was almost three seconds up on the next finisher (Ashley Taylor in 1:12.22) and McLaughlin should hope all her wins look so easy.
“I think I went out a little conservatively, but I felt it coming home that last hundred, so that was good,” McLaughlin reported.
Kendall Ellis won the women’s 300m over Gabrielle Thomas, 36.97 to 37.03, each runner winning one of the two heats of the race.
Rai Benjamin unrolled a three-turn stagger in one turn and sailed off to what looked like an effortless victory in the men’s 300m in 32.55.
Parker Morse for the IAAF