USA FOURSOME SETS WORLD DMR BEST AT NEW BALANCE INDOOR GRAND PRIX
By David Monti, @d9monti and Chris Lotsbom, @chrislotsbom
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BOSTON (28-Jan) — An all-star foursome of American Olympians –Emma
Coburn, Sydney McLaughlin, Brenda Martinez and Jenny Simpson– lowered
the world indoor best for the 4000-meter distance medley relay here
this afternoon at the 22nd New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. Urged on by
a raucaus, sold out crowd of 4500 which rose to its feet on Simpson’s
anchor leg, the team stopped the clock at 10:40.31, about two seconds
faster than the previous best of 10:42.57 set on the same Reggie Lewis
Track and Athletic Center track two years ago.
“It was a lot of pressure,” said a relieved Simpson who ran the anchor
1600m leg in 4:27.66. “I was really surprised earlier today how
nervous I was getting.”
The team got off to a conservative start when Coburn, the Rio Olympic
steeplechase bronze medalist, ran the 1200m leg in 3:18.40, three
seconds down on the opening split of the previous record. Training in
cold and snowy conditions in Boulder, Colo., Coburn admitted that she
was not sharp and was hoping her strength would carry her through an
uncomfortably short distance.
“I just wanted to give Sydney the lead,” Coburn told reporters, wearing
a special white bow in her hair that the 17 year-old McLauglin had made
for each of her teammates. “Jenny made a really good point in our
press conference (yesterday). After all four of us had the Olympics
and a long season… it is weird to get back into race mode. She
continued: “It was a bit of a harsh entry back into speedwork.”
Coburn accomplished her goal, giving her USA team a slight lead over
the European team going into the second, 400-meter leg. McLaughlin ran
hard, but got a good challenge from Esther Guerrero of Spain who passed
the teenager on the second lap, before McLaughlin retook the lead,
52.32 to 52.43.
“I got out pretty well,” McLaughlin told the media. “I knew that the
European team was going to have a fast girl so when she came on me it
kind of pushed me to go faster. Coming down the backstretch I wanted to
get that lead back for Brenda to give it to her in a good position.”
Martinez grabbed the stick and hit the gas, hard. Soon she was running
alone, knowing the team needed to make up valuable seconds, even with
Simpson on the anchor.
“Any time you’re on a relay team you’re trying to give your best
effort, so sometimes you’re just racing the clock,” Martinez
explained. “Sometimes you don’t even know what pace you’re going.”
She continued: “We just gave it our fullest and our best today, and
that’s all that counts.”
After Martinez handed to Simpson –who admitted she hadn’t received a
baton in a relay since college– the 2011 world 1500m champion just
tried to keep her cool. Like Coburn, Simpson had been training in
snowy Boulder and hadn’t done any speed work. She didn’t want to try
to crush it, fearing she might blow up. She ran cautiously, but was
determined to bring the record home.
“It was so not about my running; it was about preserving what everyone
had done up to that point and making sure we got the record,” Simpson
said. “I went out really conservative, not what I would have done if I
was on the starting line racing a group of 1500-meter, 1600-meter
Simpson ran lap after lap, alone. Urged on by the public address
announcer, the crowd got louder and louder and Simpson tried to stay
focused and keep calm.
“I know I cut it a little bit close,” she admitted. “But, a lot of
that was out of design, saying all we needed to do was be under 10:42.”
Also running conservatively was Olympic gold medalist Matthew
Centrowitz. Running in the mile, he felt a bit sluggish during the
opening laps, though was confident he had enough in the tank to take
home the victory. Having raced at this meet four times before since
high school, Centrowitz was confident on the blue oval.
After a fast 409 meters in 58.55, Centrowitz settled in as the field
partially strung out behind him. Two laps later the clock read 1:59.44,
setting up for a quick final half.
The first to truly challenge Centrowitz was surprisingly Ben True,
racing his first indoor race on a banked track; entering the race his
PB was 3:59.99 compared to Centrowitz’s 3:50.63 indoor best. In
uncharted territory, True tried to make a move by slinging to the
outside only to be tripped up the track’s banking. While the stumble
slowed his momentum, True continued up towards the front as Centrowitz
began to put pressure on the tempo.
Hitting the bell leading by a step on Vincent Kibet, Centrowitz went to
his kick with the crowd in full force behind him. Looking back to see
where Kibet was around the final turn, the Nike Oregon Project star did
enough to win by two meters 3:55.78 to 3:56.09. Briton Jake Wightman
was third in 3:57.24 with True fourth in 3:57.31.
“Not the time I wanted, but one of those races where I readjusted
really early on knowing that it wasn’t all about fast times today and
just wanted to get the win. Obviously happy with the win and pretty
excited for the two mile in two weeks at Millrose,” Centrowitz said.
He’d later add that the crowd’s support was a helping factor in the
win. “This place was pretty electric today. Of all the Boston Indoor
Games I’ve done this is probably the most packed I’ve seen it.”
The men’s 3000m produced a convincing win by Olympic silver medalist
Paul Chelimo. At Friday’s press conference, Chelimo warned his
competitors that the 3000m is his specialty, or as he succinctly put
it, his “lion’s den.” That proved true as Chelimo saluted his way to a
big win over tough competition including Ethiopian global medalists
Dejen Gebremeskel and Hagos Gebrhiwet.
Pacer Lawi Lalang immediately gaped the field and looked around
startled that no one went with him as rabbit. Through 2000 meters in
5:43.76, Lalang had nearly two seconds on the bunched group behind.
Chelimo was fine with the race’s unique development.
“I just wanted to sit there and get my body warmed up towards the end.
I just wanted under 7:40,” said Chelimo, a U.S. Army soldier. Chelimo
and Scotland’s Andrew Butchart –who has been training in Flagstaff,
Ariz.– were the aggressors in the final kilometer, overtaking Lalang
(who decided to stay in the race) while Gebremeskel, Gebrhiwet, and
Eric Jenkins fought behind them.
Everyone was together at the bell, when Chelimo began to tap into his
sprint speed. Topping out with a 26.27-second final 200m, Chelimo
muscled his way through the tape just ahead of Butchart, 7:42.39 to
7:42.97. To celebrate Chelimo saluted the capacity crowd.
“I can’t ask for much [more], that was enough for me today,” Chelimo
said, slightly out of breath. “I just wanted to conserve myself for the
end of the race. Always, the most important thing of the race is the
last part, because it’s the winner who takes the day.”
Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy, testing himself in the
3000m, was a distant 12th in 8:16.70. He did not speak with the media.
In the second half of the women’s 3000m Hellen Obiri was a lethal
yo-yo, toggling between 35 and 33 second laps. The Kenyan Olympic 5000m
silver medalist toyed with Nike Oregon Project teammates Sifan Hassan
and Shannon Rowbury in their first race sporting the same uniform. A
mile in, the trio was alone.
With Obiri running inconsistent splits, the metronomic Rowbury found
herself back by five steps at one point. But two laps later the two
time Fifth Avenue Mile champion was back in contention.
No one was going to stop Obiri on this day, though. Covering the final
400m in just over 62 seconds, Obiri cruised to victory in 8:39.08 to
Hassan’s 8:40.99 and Rowbury’s 8:41.94.
“I knew I was in very good shape,” said Obiri, who speaks as fast as
she runs. “So far, this season has been good for me. I have been doing
a lot of cross country distance and I look forward to doing two more
indoor races before I go back to Kenya.”
Rowbury and Hassan are both excited to be on the same team now, despite
having not trained together yet (Hassan has been in Portland; Rowbury
in Mexico). “It’s great! We’re not going to be fighting each other for
the same U.S. team spot, but at the World Championships I’ll know that
I’ve trained with one of the best. She’s a great person and has a great
sense of humor. I’m excited about it,” Rowbury said.
The world record attempt in the men’s 600m fizzled after Duane Solomon
cut in from the stagger too early. Although he held off Donavan Brazer
who tried to pass him with about 110 meters to go, he was later
disqualified giving the win to Brazier in 1:16:57. Solomon was
disappointed with himself.
“The whole mentality was to get the record,” said Solomon. “As soon as
I crossed the cones it wasn’t worth it (to keep pushing hard).
In the women’s 800m, Charlene Lipsey built on her personal-best
performance in the mile at last weekend’s the New Balance Games in New
York, taking control in the last lape of the here and winning with
relative ease in 2:02.01 over Ethiopia’s Habitam Alemu (2:02.38) and
Scotland’s Lynsey Sharp (2:02.88). She said that training under coach
Derek Thompson with Olympians Ajee’ Wilson and Marielle Hall has really
helped her fitness.
“I’m in really good shape,” she said. “I just want to thank my coaches
and my teammates,” she said. This year, I changed coaches I now train
with Derek, Ajee’ Wilson and Marielle Hall and it’s been a
life-changing experience. She added: “Every day we bring our ‘A’ game.”
Russian whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova finished seventh, and last, in 2:05.14.
In the boys mile, D.J. Principe of La Salle Academy in Providence,
R.I., was upset by Josh Hoey of Downingtown West High School in
Downington, Pa. Principe, who nearly broke four minutes at last
Saturday’s New Balance Games in New York, led most of the race until
Hoey passed him with 250 meters to go winning 4:09.26 to 4:12.34.
Principe said he felt flat.
“I had a 101 fever last week,” Principe told Race Results Weekly. “I think last week’s race beat me down.”
Hoey, who was woozy speaking to the media after the race, said he stuck
with his plan an wasn’t focused on beating Principe. “I wanted to stay
within reaching distance,” he said. He added: ” Really, I was just
tring to come and run my race and I wasn’t really worried about
Jacqueline Gaughan of Exeter High School in New Hampshire won the girls
mile in a personal best 4:52.60. With two and a half laps to to, she
took the lead from Abbe Goldstein of Germantown Academy in
Pennsylvania, and held it to the finish, despite a small crisis of
confidence over the last two laps.
“I was feeling good and I just wanted to make sure that we picked up
the pace so it didn’t end up a sprint the last lap,” she explained to
the media. “Once I made the move I was like, oh no, I shouldn’t have
done that because I’m not really a miler and I don’t know what to do.
I was kind of regretting that move at that moment.”
PHOTO: Jenny Simpson running the 1600m leg of the distance medley relay
at the 2017 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix (photo by Chris Lotsbom for
Race Results Weekly)