Jenny Simpson anchors a world indoor best in the distance medley relay at the IAAF World Indoor Tour meeting in Boston (© Victah Sailer)
A women’s distance medley relay team featuring three global medallists set a world best of 10:40.31 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, the opening meeting of the 2017 IAAF World Indoor Tour.
The meeting, run at the Reggie Lewis Center at Roxbury Community College for the 21st year, concluded with Olympic 1500m gold medallist Matt Centrowitz’s tactically brilliant victory in the mile in 3:55.78, one of four other world-leading marks.
Olympic steeplechase bronze medallist Emma Coburn led off the distance medley relay with a 3:18.40 1200m leg and was closely pressed by Anna Silvander of the European team. Coburn passed to Olympic 400m hurdles semifinalist Sydney McLaughlin, who clocked 52.32 for the 400m leg.
At this point the team was somewhat behind schedule for the record, but 2013 world 800m bronze medallist Martinez, who anchored the previous best team, split 2:01.94 for the 800m leg – a time which, run in a straight race, would be a world lead – to put the record back in play.
Martinez passed off to Olympic 1500m bronze medallist Jenny Simpson, who then ran more or less alone to a 4:27.66 1600m leg to secure the mark.
“I knew I wasn’t just running for myself,” said Simpson. “I had to not throw away the hard work of the three women in front of me. I wanted to make sure I could still close hard.”
The previous best of 10:42.57 was run at this meeting in 2015 by a team of Sarah Brown, Mahogany Jones, Megan Krumpoch, and Martinez.
Centrowitz’s mind control bubble
Centrowitz stuck to the pacemaker’s shoulder for most of the men’s mile, then took charge with two laps remaining. After that, it was a signature Centrowitz race, with challenges from Ben True and then Vincent Kibet posed and shrugged off. Centrowitz later admitted he hadn’t known who was challenging him, only aware that someone was there.
Kibet came to the finish with arms swinging high, as though trying to claw Centrowitz back to him, but was unable to gain ground and took second in 3:56.09. Third place went to Jake Wightman – who ran much of the race in sixth or seventh, but came through the pack on the last lap – in 3:57.24.
Hellen Obiri ran 8:39.08 to best Sifan Hassan and Shannon Rowbury in the women’s 3000m, despite doing much of the pace work herself. Obiri and Hassan originally gapped Rowbury with six laps remaining, but then Obiri’s varying pace (which wavered between 33 and 36 seconds per lap mid-race) allowed Rowbury to re-establish contact.
Finally at the bell Obiri managed to establish a gap on Hassan, and Hassan on Rowbury, settling the eventual finish order. Hassan clocked 8:40.99 and Rowbury 8:41.94.
The duel of Olympic pole vault gold medallists between Ekaterini Stefanidi and Jenn Suhr became a non-event when Suhr pulled out after her first unsuccessful attempt. After passing to 4.53m, Suhr cited injury, leaving Stefanidi and Canada's Alysha Newman still vaulting. Newman was out at 4.63m, so Stefanidi made three unsuccessful attempts at 4.73m before taking the victory.
“I’m not very good at jumping alone,” Stefanidi said afterwards. “I wish Jenn could have continued.”
English Gardner won the women’s 60m in 7.17 by a lean.
“I stumbled on about the fourth or fifth step,” Gardner said. “It was a pretty good start, but it’s only about my third time in blocks this year. I knew if I was patient they would come back. My maturity won the race today – I’m proud of myself for holding my composure.” Second place went to Dezerea Bryant in 7.19.
Britain's Harry Aikines-Aryeetey won the men’s 60m in 6.66 – the same time recorded by China's Xie Zhenye in second. Aikines-Aryeetey took the victory in thousandths, 6.654 to 6.657, a smaller margin than the difference in the two men’s reaction times.
Charlene Lipsey sprung a trap on Ethiopia's Habitam Alemu to win the women’s 800m* in a world-leading 2:02.01. Alemu held the lead from 500m, when the pacemaker stepped off the track, but Lipsey knew she had more left.
“The whole third lap I was thinking, be patient, be patient,” she said. Lipsey pounced a lap later, on the backstretch of the bell lap, and seized the rail before reaching the final bend. Alemu fought hard but couldn’t recover the distance; Lipsey took the tape with Alemu second in 2:02.38.
USA's Olympic 5000m silver medallist Paul Chelimo won the men’s 3000m in a world-leading 7:42.39, with Britain's Andrew Butchart second in 7:42.97. Hagos Gebrhiwet, who switched back from the mile to the 3000m only the morning before, took third in 7:43.04.
Lawi Lalang took the race out quickly, but too quickly, in Chelimo’s judgement. “He was 57, 58 for the first 400m,” Chelimo explained. He sat back to run his own race, running in second or third and only taking the lead with from Lalang with three laps remaining.
“I wanted to run under 7:30, but for the first race of the season, I can’t ask for much,” said Chelimo.
Butchart, also a 5000m finalist in Rio, forced the pace late, saying: “I figured if we weren’t going to go with Lawi I’d try a little bit. I’m in better shape now than I was in Rio, and this is only my third race ever indoors.”
Thomas, Mamona and LaPierre victorious in the jumps
Donald Thomas, the 2007 world champion, struggled early in the men’s high jump, taking two attempts to clear 2.25m when his competitors made it over on the first jump. Once the bar went to 2.28m, however, Thomas cleared on his second attempt to put himself in the driver’s seat. Nobody else made that height, leaving Allex Austin and Michael Mason tied for second at 2.25m. Thomas moved the bar to 2.34m, where he took three attempts but did not clear.
Patricia Mamona won the women’s triple jump in commanding fashion, reaching 14.01m on her fourth and last jump. All four of Mamona’s jumps would have been enough to win.
Fabrice Lapierre and Michel Torneus both jumped 7.80m in the men’s long jump, with the victory going to LaPierre on the strength of his second mark of 7.75m. Lapierre reached 7.80m on the second of four rounds, and Torneus on the third; Torneus wasn’t able to break the tie in the fourth round, so Lapierre passed his last attempt.
Courtney Okolo held off challenges, first from Candace Hill and then Jessica Beard, winning the women’s 300m from the outside lane in 36.87. Noah Lyles out-legged last year’s winner Vernon Norwood to take the men’s 300m in 32.67, .03 faster than Norwood’s winning (and world-leading) time in 2016.
Duane Solomon broke the tape in the men’s 600m, but the victory went to Donavan Brazier in 1:16.57. Solomon was disqualified for breaking too early from his lane.
Parker Morse for the IAAF
*Yuliya Stepanova of Russia competed as a neutral athlete.