Sandi Morris in action at the American Track League meeting in Fayetteville (© Shawn Price)
Throws and track events had dominated the first two American Track League fixtures of 2021, but it was jumpers who stole the show at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Silver meeting in Fayetteville on Sunday (7).
Sandi Morris scaled a world-leading 4.88m to win the pole vault, Marquis Dendy jumped to the top of the world list by winning the long jump with 8.21m and Vashti Cunningham cleared an indoor PB of 2.00m to win the high jump.
Morris, the world indoor champion, opened her 2021 season last weekend at the same venue and won with 4.81m, a world-leading mark at that time. Having seen her world lead improved twice in the past 24 hours, first by Holly Bradshaw (4.85m) and then by Anzhelika Sidorova (4.87m), Morris returned to the Randal Tyson Track Center and regained her position at the top of the 2021 world list.
She cleared her opening heights of 4.48m and 4.58m with ease, then needed two attempts to get over 4.68m. A first-time clearance at 4.73m followed, then a second-time vault at 4.78m. Fellow US vaulter Olivia Gruver matched her at that height, though, also getting over it on her second try to move to sixth on the US indoor all-time list.
Gruver failed three times at 4.83m and exited the competition, while Morris got over it on her first try. She then topped 4.88m on her third attempt before ending her series with three unsuccessful tries at a would-be world record of 5.07m.
In the high jump, Cunningham had the competition won with her first-time clearance at 1.91m and then moved the bar up to 1.95m, which she got over on her second try. The 23-year-old progressed to 2.00m and was once again successful on her second leap, moving to equal fourth on the US indoor all-time list.
The men’s long jump came alive in the second round when LaQuan Nairn of The Bahamas sailed out to a national indoor record of 8.16m, giving him a 27-centimetre lead over 2016 world indoor champion Marquis Dendy.
Nairn followed it with 8.04m in round three while Dendy struggled to respond and recorded fouls in rounds two, three, four and five. In the final round, though, Dendy nailed a jump and flew out to a world-leading 8.21m. Nairn jumped beyond eight metres again with the last jump of the competition, but his 8.09m wasn’t enough to catch Dendy.
Michael Cherry, contesting his first indoor 400m since taking world indoor silver over the distance three years ago, won the two-lap event with ease. The world 4x400m champion sped through the first 200m in 21.35 and continued to pull away from the field to win in a lifetime best of 45.24.
Deon Lendore of Trinidad and Tobago was the second-fastest overall on the day, winning the second heat in 46.08.
Jenna Prandini hadn’t raced over 200m indoors since 2015, the year in which she set an indoor PB of 22.52 and won the NCAA indoor title. The 28-year-old showed no sign of rust, though, as she cruised to victory in 22.55 from 400m specialist Quanera Hayes (22.70).
Just 35 minutes before winning the first section of the 200m in an indoor PB of 23.01, Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare finished strongly in the 60m to win in 7.10, also a lifetime best. Jamaica’s Olympic 4x100m silver medallist Christania Williams was second in an equal PB of 7.14.
Fifteen-year-old Shawnti Jackson, daughter of 2005 world 400m hurdles champion Bershawn Jackson, fearlessly held her own against senior opposition in the 60m and 200m, setting big PBs at both distances. She finished seventh in the 60m in 7.24 and fourth overall in the 200m in 23.23. She now sits equal second and equal third respectively on the world U18 indoor all-time lists for 60m and 200m.
World indoor bronze medallist Ronnie Baker got his 2021 season underway and looked extremely comfortable when winning the men’s 60m in 6.53. 2016 world indoor champion Trayvon Bromell, the winner here two weeks ago in a world-leading 6.48, was second this time in 6.58.
Elsewhere in the sprints, Olympic champion Omar McLeod won the men’s 60m hurdles in 7.53, while Britain’s Tiffany Porter took the women’s event in 7.95. Shamier Little produced a decisive run in the women’s 400m, winning in 51.33 to break her five-year-old PB.
Three weeks after setting an Algerian indoor 800m record of 1:45.98, 1500m specialist Takieddine Hedeilli lined up for his first ever mile race. The 24-year-old followed the pacemaker for the first five laps and then took up pole position with Costa Rica’s Juan Diego Castro and New Zealand’s Nick Willis close behind.
Hedeilli held the lead at the bell as Willis started his kick for home. Willis moved past Castro but couldn’t quite catch Hedeilli. A few strides back, however, high school student Hobbs Kessler was making up ground. Hedeilli won in a PB of 3:56.79, finishing just 0.03 ahead of 37-year-old Willis, who is into his 19th year of sub-four-minute miles.
Seventeen-year-old Kessler, meanwhile, finished third in 3:57.66 to move to second on the world U20 indoor all-time list.
Jackson and Kessler weren’t the only gutsy teenagers in action on Sunday. 15-year-old Sophia Gorriaran led the 800m almost the entire way and was only caught by Britain’s Adelle Tracey in the closing stages. Tracey won in 2:02.11 while Gorriaran was rewarded with a world U18 indoor best of 2:02.44.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics