Sunday, February 26, 2012

US Indoor Track & Field Championships 2012 - Albuquerque, NM

This weekend is the third consecutive year that Albuquerque has hosted the National Indoor Track & Field Championships. It’s a great event and makes for some super convenient spectating of elite caliber athletes. In a Friday night press briefing, the sport’s governing body announced that the meet will be returning for another two years, so this is all fairly outstanding from where I stand. Good show. 

Alright, last night’s meet started with the 60m hurdle events, sprints and triple jump. Several world-leading performances. People really getting after it. Here’s the run-down:

60m Hurdles - The women’s hurdles heats were cancelled, so no Lolo Jones, however Nike’s Dexter Faulk was amazing to watch in the men’s race, running a world leading 7.4sec winning by a huge margin. David Oliver and Terrence Trammell were in the race but Faulk crushed them. Ashton Eaton, a favorite for decathlon gold this Fall, ran a strong race and will move on to the semis. He’s on the entry list for several other events as well.  

The facilities. Photos of actual racing athletes turn to blurs
60m Dash - In the men’s 60m dash heats, former gold medalist Justin Gatlin lined up and ran a world leading time of 6.5sec. Was not expecting that. A couple of other former Olympians were running, Shawn Crawford and Wallace Spearmon, though they were never in contention. Both guys specialize in the 200m so maybe they were just working on their starts? I don’t know jack about sprinting, but these guys and gals were amazing to watch in person. Spearmon was actually pretty tall, towering over the other sprinters.

Triple Jump - The triple jump was sweet. Nike’s William Claye jumped a world leading distance in three of his four attempts, the longest being just short of 58-feet. Christian Taylor, the current world champion and Claye’s former teammate at Florida finished 2nd over a foot back. Taylor only had one legal jump and five fouls. It caught my eye that Taylor was jumping for Chinese sports apparel maker Li-Ning rather than adidas or Nike. So that’s cool but the guy got wrecked by his bud so he’s got some work to do before August.

View from the banked turn, women's triple jump beyond

Alright, pretty compelling stuff. First-rate performances. Lots of fun to watch. From here the meet opened up to heats of the 400m, 800m, men’s high jump, women’s pole vault, and the 3000m. 

Women’s Pole Vault – Everyone was watching the vaulters. American record holder Olympic medalist hopeful Jen Suhr came in at near 15 feet when only two other competitors from the field were still clearing heights. Suhr won with a clearance of 15-3’’, then moved the bar up to the American record of 16-feet and scratched on three straight jumps. Pretty sweet. Suhr looked like a badass. 

High Jump – Last year we saw Jesse Williams beat a bunch of guys that he looked like he had no business beating. He went on to win last fall’s World Championship in Korea. This year he was a crowd favorite but was having some problems with his technique. New York’s Jamie Nieto looked to have the thing won at 7’-5” then Williams pulled it together and cleared, then successfully cleared at 7’-6” to defend his title. Clutch as hell. I guess that’s what champions do, it was fairly awesome actually.

400m – The quarter mile was a bit of a blur since we had our focus on the high jump and vault. Sanya Richards looked like the one to beat. I like Mississippi St’s Tavaris Tate on the men’s side because of his impossible leg/ass-to-torso ratio. Brycen Spratling of Pittsburgh ran well so we’re rooting for him too, n’at. Several of the 400m guys ran in sunglasses, but Frankie Wright Gil Roberts ran with glasses and at least two giant gold chains. Niiiice.

800m – Also a bit of a blur. I know Alan Webb was on the entry list which sounded interesting but he saved us all the disappointment of running badly by not starting. Defending champ Duane Solomon and some guy named Mark Wieczorek had the two fastest qualifiers at 1:48.8. Wieczorek ran in a striped t-shirt from JC Penny and blue sweatband, so I’m pretty much going to have to pull for him in today’s final. On the women's side Phoebe Wright and Erica Moore looked to be head-and-shoulders above the rest. 

Women's 3000m - start. (l-r) Bonds, Areson, Houlihan

Men's 3000m - start. (l-r) Bruce, Rupp, Adams, Lagat, Lomong
3000m – The marquee events sadly were near exact replicas of last year’s races. In the women’s field a slow 2000m was then lead out by CU alum Jenny Simpson (Go Buffs!) with recent US XC Champion Sara Hall in tow. At the bell Simpson powered away with ease to defend her title. Simpson of course was the surprise winner of last Fall’s 1500m World Championship. That’s how they do things up in Boulder sons. The men’s race started with excitement, Galen Rupp took the lead from the gun hammering out a quick pace followed only by Bernard Lagat and Lopez Lomong. They went through 800m in 2:04, and 1600m in 4:11. There was a huge gap back to the pack led by steeple specialist Ben Bruce. With four laps to go Rupp started showing his teeth and did not look comfortable. Lagat went to the front followed by Lomong and after a couple more laps Rupp was dropped and he packed it in. On the backstretch of the bell lap Lagat unloaded with his awe-inspiring kick, an absolute thing of beauty. Seriously some video-game type acceleration. Lagat finished in 7:47 with Lomong several seconds behind, and was then swarmed by photographers and three sections of the crowd as he helped several children onto the track to take photos with. He held court for photos, interviews, handshakes, hugs, and autographs for half an hour. Certainly an above average ending to a great day of racing. 

Adulation for Lagat after his win (bottom left). Several in the crowd were actually holding hand-made Lagat signs during and after the race.

Lagat trackside

Like last year, some of the greatest athletes at the meet were in the crowd rather than competing on the track. Olympic Decathlete Dan O’Brien was walking the floor, taping interviews with some of the day’s showcase winners. World Record triple-jumper Willie Banks was presenting awards. Ato Bolden was around but I didn't see him. In the run-up to the women’s 3000m I looked to my right and noticed Paula Radcliffe sitting five seats away from us, unbothered by those sitting around her and apparently un-recognized. At evening’s end, crowds gathered for photographs with Bernard Lagat and a large contingent of local elites congratulated him on his win. Almost un-noticed in the stands behind all of this I caught sight of Mo Farah himself, the fastest man on the planet. I got his attention with a ‘yo Mo!’ just to be sure. He smiled and nodded back like a boss. 

Current fastest guy on the planet - Mo Farah of Britain

Related Posts:
Day 2 photos and report here - HighDesertDirt
Meet rsults here
Meet Preview here - Writingaboutrunning
Nice commentary of Day 1 events, and interview (podcast) - HouseofRun


  1. Thanks, Desert -- nice report and pictures. I wish I could have made it down there. ME

    1. Yeah thanks for the kind acknowledgement man. You all need to put together your very own National Indoors meet up in Maine and then you'll be set. They're pretty awesome as one can see above. Cheers.



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