If 2014 was the year of the high jump and 2015 the year of the triple jump, 2016 could turn out to be the year of the pole vault.
One week after Jenn Suhr improved her world indoor record to 5.03m, US compatriot Demi Payne moved up to third on the world indoor all-time list – and equal fourth overall – at the University of New Mexico Collegiate Classic in Albuquerque on Saturday (6).
Payne set her previous lifetime best of 4.75m in this competition last year but the 24-year-old revised this mark no fewer than three times yesterday. After clearing 4.76m and 4.82m on her second attempts, Payne needed just one try at 4.88m.
Payne becomes the equal fourth highest vaulter in history with Svetlana Feofanova and behind Yarisley Silva (4.91m), Suhr (5.03m) and Yelena Isinbayeva (5.06m).
Vashti Cunningham also excelled in the vertical jumps in Albuquerque. The 18-year-old set a North American indoor high jump record of 1.95m to defeat Chaunte Lowe – 14 years her senior – on countback.
“I think it will be a shock not to see her on the Olympic team,” said Lowe, the US record-holder at 2.05m, on the protege who equalled the world youth best of 1.96m outdoors last summer.
After easing back into competition with a 7.77 opener in the 60m hurdles heats, Olympic 110m hurdles champion and world record-holder Aries Merritt looked sharp in the final and won in 7.60, his fastest ever season opener.
While Merritt had a kidney transplant in the off-season, two-time world indoor champion Lolo Jones underwent hip surgery but the 33-year-old cracked the eight-second barrier in the final with 7.95 and took some noteworthy scalps including Janay DeLoach (7.97) and Queen Harrison (8.02).
DeLoach also took second in the long jump with 6.52m behind Brittney Reese with 6.54m.
Sandi Morris, who finished fourth at last year's IAAF World Championships, is another pole vaulter in top form. At the Missouri Southern Lion Invite on Saturday, she set an outright PB of 4.80m.
She cleared 4.35m, 4.45m, 4.55m, 4.65m and 4.73m on her first tries and then got over 4.80m on her second attempt. She then attempted 4.88m but was unsuccessful.
While Suhr may not be planning on competing at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, the host nation looks to have two serious medal contenders in Payne and Morris.
Kyriakopoulou vaults 4.76m in Mondeville
Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou momentarily moved up to second on the world list behind Suhr with a 4.76m clearance at the Meeting Elite en Salle de Mondeville on Saturday (6).
After clearing 4.41m, 4.51m and 4.66m on her first attempts, the 29-year-old cleared 4.76m on her third attempt before three unsuccessful tries at an outright Greek record of 4.84m.
Lisa Ryzih from Germany cleared a season’s best of 4.61m while Lisa Gunnarson, 16, improved Angelica Bengtsson’s Swedish indoor youth record by one centimetre to 4.31m to finish equal third with Vanessa Boslak.
Sean Safo-Antwi approached the world-leading mark in the 60m flat as the Brit won the final in a lifetime best of 6.55 ahead of Warren Fraser from The Bahamas in 6.61.
The challenge was expected to come from Christophe Lemaitre but the Frenchman was disqualified for a false start after winning his heat in a season’s best of 6.59.
Fresh from finishing second in Dusseldorf in 7.52, Dimitri Bascou kept up his good early season form by winning the 60m hurdles in 7.58 ahead of Yordan O’Farrill and David Omoregie, who set lifetime bests of 7.61 and 7.68 respectively. Bascou had equalled his season’s best of 7.52 in the heats.
Jamaica’s Simone Facey won the women’s 60m flat in 7.20 and Britain’s Serita Solomon won the 60m hurdles in 8.07.
Tamberi 2.33m and Hruba 1.94m in Trinec
Three days after clearing an Italian indoor record of 2.35m on his season’s debut in Banska Bystrica, Gianmarco Tamberi maintained his fine early season form in Trinec on Sunday.
Tamberi, who has been training in South Africa during the off-season, needed three attempts to clear 2.31m but the 23-year-old sealed the competition from Konstadinos Baniotis with a first-time clearance at 2.33m which proved beyond the Greek’s capacity this evening.
Sporting his trademark ‘half beard’, Tamberi then took three unsuccessful attempts at a world-leading height of 2.36m.
The depth in the competition wasn’t as good as Banska Bystrica last week where the top six jumpers cleared 2.30m or higher: Baniotis finished second with 2.31m with Ukraine’s Andriy Protsenko third with 2.28m.
In a re-run of the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships final, Morgan Lake and Michaela Hruba were the leading protagonists in the women’s competition but on this occasion, Hruba took the plaudits by improving her Czech junior record to 1.94m with Lake – the double world junior champion – second with 1.92m.
Hruba, who had some solid attempts at 1.96m, and Lake are both still eligible for this year’s IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz.
Wilson and O’Hare clock fast times in New York
Ajee’ Wilson was forced to withdraw from the IAAF World Championships in Beijing due to injury last summer but the 21-year-old marked her return to high-level racing with a victory over a strong field in the 800m at the Armory Track Invitational in New York on Saturday.
Wilson held the inside line after the pacemaker dropped out and the 2012 world junior champion just held on for the victory in 2:02.15 by 0.03 ahead of the fast-finishing Laura Roesler, who is also on the comeback trail from an achilles injury.
Lynsey Sharp drew level with Wilson on the penultimate bend but the 2012 European champion had to settle for third in 2:02.25.
Her teammate Chris O’Hare just missed Matthew Centrowitz’s world-leading mark of 3:54.02 but the Brit produced a sustained surge with two laps to go to win the mile in 3:54.59 by nearly three seconds.
But the big headlines came from the athlete who finished down in seventh place. 18-year-old Drew Hunter broke the US high school record with a time of 3:58.25, three seconds shy of German Fernandez’s national junior record. Hunter wasn’t the fastest teenager in the race, though, as 19-year-old Australian Morgan McDonald was fourth in 3:57.83.
In Sabadell, near Barcelona, Spain's 2011 European indoor 1500m champion clocked a world-leading 3:38.25 over his favourite distance with compatriot Marc Alcala second in 3:39.33.
Steven Mills for the IAAF