Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 US Indoor Track Championships, Day 2 - Albuquerque, NM

I was fortunate to make it to both days of the USIndoor Track Championships this year thanks in part to friends over at TheRunning Hub and their Nike rep who kicked down a few tickets. I watched the races with Liz on Saturday and John on Sunday. John thought that Sunday’s meet may have been the first one he’d attended in some 30 years (ever?) where he wasn’t coaching or competing. Quite the streak.

Alright, so Day 2 started with the hurdle heats, men’s long jump, shot put, and pole vault. Here’s the run-down:

60m Hurdles - The women’s hurdles heats were notable in that meet headliner Lolo Jones scratched, which was disappointing. She was definitely one of a handful of athletes I had wanted to see. Life’s tough. On the men’s side all the favorites moved on. David Oliver grabbed the last qualifier. Decathlete Ashton Eaton scratched.

Long Jump – The long jump was notable because it was won by decathlete Ashton Eaton. That’s no joke. The dude jumped 26’5’’ to knock off runner-up William Claye who put up the year’s three longest triple-jumps in the world on Saturday evening. Eaton is coming home from London with a gold medal. The guy is special.

Men's shot champion, Reese Hoffa

Shot Put – In the women’s shot, Jillian Camarena-Williams defended her title with a throw of 64’2’’, one inch short of the American record she set two weeks ago. She won by a foot, third place was six feet back. The men’s shot was incredible. Seriously, watching field events at the elite level - live - is a ton of fun. Aside from the men’s 400m, the men’s shot put may be the most talent heavy event in American track and field. The four big names were Olympians Adam Nelson, Christian Cantwell, Reese Hoffa, and defending champ Ryan Whiting. Cantwell and Whiting may be the biggest men I’ve ever seen. Hoffa is smaller but like afro-hulk smaller. Nelson looks fairly normal until he approaches the circle at which point he goes berserker and starts talking shit to no one in particular. There seriously should have been a cash-bar set up by the shot pit, it was awesome. Well, Hoffa won out with a throw of 71’4’’. Whiting was 6’’ back for runner-up, and the both of them are heading to Istanbul for Worlds. Cantwell was just short and Nelson had a couple good throws that were negated by fouls. The top three throws were 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best in the world this year. I was happy to have seen Nelson compete after following his career for several years. The guy’s a legend.

Olympian Adam Nelson

Men’s Pole Vault – The vault was wild. Guys were launching themselves into the air over laughably tall heights.  Former world champion Brad Walker crushed the field with a vault of 19’2’’. He then moved the bar to 6 meters (19’9’’ish?) which only nine men have ever cleared indoors apparently. He didn’t join the group but it was pretty cool watching him try.  

Vault champion Brad Walker - photo curtesy of letsrun.com

Women’s High Jump – Chaunte Lowe received the biggest crowd reaction of the day with a meet and new American record leap of 6’7’’ in the high jump. Another performance that didn’t look even close to possible until we all saw it happen right in front of us. Chaunte also had impossible six-pack abs.  

OK, hard to beat, but on deck was all the running we’d been waiting for - the finals of the 400m, 800m, and 1500m, and closing with the 60m dash and a non Lolo Jones 60m hurdles final.

400m – Favorite Sanya Richards blitzed the field with yet another world leading time of 50.71, just off the American record. She was awarded her medal by her husband and New York Giants football player Aaron Ross. I was actually standing next to Ross during one point in the meet and noticed the guy was wearing Louis Vitton jeans and was alarmingly chiseled looking. WTF? Turns out he was an NFL cornerback with two Superbowl rings. So there you go. In the men’s 400m, Gil Roberts claimed the title with a world leading 45.39 in spite of the large gold ban chains and sunglasses he carried around for two laps of the track. Brycen Spratling of Pittsburgh closed well over the last 50m to grab 4th in 46.16. Triple-yoy g’damnit.  

800m – Duane Solomon repeats in 1:48.58, Mark Wieczorek and just misses a spot on the World’s team with a third place finish in 1:49:96. Wieczorek was rocking his same Salvation Army t-shirt as he did in the heats. He also had a fanclub in the stands that were wearing striped t-shirts and blue headbands. On the women’s side Erica Moore lead from the gun, dominating defending champ Phoebe Wright and the rest of the women’s field in a finish of 2:01.

1500m – Former Colorado Buff Jenny Simpson doubled back from her 3000m title on Saturday to win the women’s 1500m. Fellow New Balance athlete Brenda Martinez nearly closed a 10 meter gap on the last lap to finish a shade behind, both finishing in 4:15. The men’s race was a real tactical affair for the first three laps with US Champion Matt Centrowitz up front. Doubling back from a disappointing finish the night before, Nike’s Galen Rupp tried to steal the race with two laps to run. Defending champ Jeff See tried to gain position, got tangled up and went down to the boards. Centrowitz left the race timed just right to power past Rupp in the final straight but the crafty Leo Manzano came from nowhere and rolled past them both to claim the win in 4:08.05. Russell Brown and Garrett Heath were in the field but never challenged or covered any of the moves up front.

Simpson leads the women's 1500m field - photo curtesy of letsrun.com
Manzano steals victory from Centrowitz and Rupp - photo curtesy of letsrun.com   
Post-race, Centrowitz in the interview queue

60m Hurdles – I had keyed myself up a bit to see Dexter Faulk walk all over the field in the men’s hurdles final. Faulk lined-up and then false started twice. The officials let him run anyway for some reason but he faded badly. Strange end to an otherwise fine meet.

All kinds of track royalty were roaming the arena once again, mostly track royalty of the Nike affiliation I began to notice. I nodded hellos to Oregon coach Vin Lananna, Alberto Salazar, and John Chaplin. Gold medalist and multiple world champ Allen Johnson was there to present awards.   

I stopped at the press tables and said hello to a couple of the bloggers setup there. The guys from HouseofRun were real friendly, and both were amped to hear that I had been reading/listening to their meet recap from Day 1. They had an illuminating interview with Olympian Ato Bolden who delved into the finer points of the sprint competitions. Anyway, good stuff.  An outstanding weekend. Lots to see, lots to write about. And back to the trails for me now. 

Day 1 photos and write-up here - HighDesertDirt
Results for Day 2 here - FlashResults
House of Run recap and podcast here - HouseofRun.com
Day 2 photo album here - Letsrun.com
Distance races recap here - Writingaboutrunning.com

Last year's report here - 2011 US Indoor Track & Field Championships

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