USA Indoor 2011, Day 1: It's Lagat & Simpson, by Elliot Denman, note by Larry Eder

RuppLeads-USAInd11.JpgRupp & Lagat put it on the line, 2011 USA Indoor 3,000m, photo by

RBR asked Elliot Denmann, a long time observer of our sport, to write two columns this weekend, one on the Day 1 and one on the Day 2 happenings. Yours truly was at the first day, and then flew to Seattle for the Brooks PR invitational.

Comments from industry key players, were, well, full of frustration over the lack of a crowd in Albuquerque and the number of withdrawals from the meet. While the number of withdrawals is not something to put on the doorstep of USA Track & Field, the continued issue with fan base at national championships is something that needs to be addressed. Until we promote our championships in a serious manner, this issue will remain. RBR suggests a subscription to indoor, outdoor where part of the value is a souvenir results program, digital and print, that fans get to keep. But also the idea of offering both champs, six to ten months out, at a discounted price, or with special added values for fans is an approach that has not been tried.

In any case, it was unfortunate, as the facility was up to snuff, and there were two really good races, the 3,000 meters, but not much else to draw fans. Amber Campbell probably had a bigger cheering section than just about anyone, as half of Tucumcari, New Mexico drove the three hours to see their local hero defend her title!

Simpson-Hall_USAIndoor11.JpgSara Hall & Jenny Simpson duel at USA Indoor 3,000m, photo by

 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Bernard Lagat and Galen Rupp gave it their best shot. Jenny Barringer Simpson and Sara Hall, too.  You can't pin it on them.
  But whatever it was - sparse fields, missing stars, minimal buzz, no World Championships to aspire to - the USA Indoor National Championships simply wasn't what it used to be, or could be.
   That was Saturday, Day One of Indoor Nationals at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Will the pace pick up at Sunday's second and concluding session?  Don't bet on it.
   The roll call of the missing (injured, busy somewhere else, or simply absent for no apparent reason) was too lengthy to fathom. Even some pretty good reward money - $2500 to all winners, $1500 to all seconds, $500 to every third and fourth, for a total of $5000 each event - was apparently insufficiently enticing to many-many-many.
   Some way-out thinkers were even suggesting there's no real reason to hold an Indoor Nationals in a non-World Indoor Championships year.  But that's looking at this Indoor Nationals cup as half-empty.  That's going way-way too far.  There's still plenty of reason to have a USA Indoor Nationals - every year, regardless. So what if many notables are AWOL?
   Remember that this is a big darn country. If someone opts out, well so be it. We still need to crown some people as Indoor National titlistsremember this, regardless.
  And yes, we still need to look at the USA Indoor Nationals cup as half-full.
  Saturday's pair of 3,000-meter races was terrific.
  The top pairs really went at it. 
 Lagat, two weeks removed from setting the American indoor two-mile record, was clearly in prime form.  Ready for it, too, was Rupp (his coach, Alberto Salazar, wouldn't let it happen otherwise), just back from earthquake-ravaged Christchurch, New Zealand, and recent destroyer of Lagat's USA  indoor 5000-meter record.

Lagat_BernardFV_USAIndoor11.Jpg  Lagat drops a 26.8 last 200 to win! 2011 USA Indoor, photo by
   Blame it on the altitude factor. (Albuquerque's just under a mile high) These guys just couldn't get it together in the thin air. Lagat thus won it in a slowish 7:57.17, only turning on the speed in the final lap, a 26.8 sprint. Rupp had so such spurt remaining and settled for a 7:59.91 silver.
  Likewise, the women's 3000 was a slow 14 laps, and a very quick 15th.  Simpson's 29.9 200-meter dash got her to the wire in 9:02.20.  Hall arrived in 9:03.91.

Simpson_JennFV1_USAIndoor11.Jpg                   Jenny Simpson drops a 29.9 last 200m to win the USA Indoor 3,000m, photo by
  If fans thought the track times were only half-fast, the weight-watchers saw a pair of fully good shows.
  Jake Freeman - now that he's slimmed from 360 pounds to 330 - muscled the men's 35-pounder a first-rate 79 feet even.  And Amber Campbell had a super day in the ring, too, whirling her 20-pounder an excellent 79-5 ¼.

Campbell_Amber1_USAIndoor11.JpgAmber Campbell lets loose! 2011 USA Indoor weight throw, photo by
  Triple jumper Rafeeq Curry had a pretty good story line, as well.
  After making Team USA for the 2008 Beijing Games - but failing to make the triple jump final in China - Curry promptly retreated from the hop-step-jump wars.
   Instead, this Shore AC member stayed home in Florida to build speed and strength and put the years of pounding on the TJ runways of the world behind him.
  Well, the sabbatical is over. Two years since his last trip to Indoor Nationals, Curry bounded to a 55-4 ¾ triumph, more than a foot ahead of second-placer Alphonso Jordan, who in turn was just a half-inch ahead of Brandon Roulhac, Curry's Shore AC teammate.
  So now it's on to Sunday's 15-final schedule. 
  The men's 400 (with Tavaris Tate, Calvin Smith and Michael Courtney) should be a hot race. Likewise for the women's 400 (powered by Natasha Hastings, DeeDee Trotter and Mary Wineberg.)

Hastings_NatashaQ-USAInd11.Jpg                    Natasha Hastings, USA Indoor 400m, photo by
  A quality men's shot put quarrel should be settled by Ryan Whiting, Adam Nelson, etc. with some epic tosses.
  And sprint celebrities Michael Rodgers and Carmelita Jeter are sure to liven the show, too.  Pole vault queen Jenn Suhr is bound to soar into the stratosphere.
   So there we have it - plenty of missing luminarities, but plenty of others still in town.  One died-in-the-wool track devotee's fondest wish - that the fans, the cash customers, aren't missing in action, too.  There's plenty more time in 2011 to take a ride into the New Mexico countryside.
 Speaking of track fans, those who got there early Saturday and stayed until late afternoon got to see two pretty good meets, not just one.
  Actually, too, some of the better performances in the Western Athletic Conference Championships (which wound up a three-day run at the Convention Center earlier Saturday, would have fared quite favorably in the USA Indoor Nationals.
   Among them in the men's meet: Justin Hedin's 1:49.77 800 for BYU; Chris Carter's 47.73 400 for BYU; Justin Tyner's 8:16.72 3,000 meters for Air Force; Cameron Parker's 51-10 triple jump for TCU, and Leif Arrhenius' shot put (61-8 ¼)/35-pound weight (66-3) double for BYU.
   The WAC women featured such quality marks as Jessica Young's sprint double (7.17 60 and 23.20 200) for TCU; Whitney Gipson's 20-4 ¼ long jump for TCU; Kelsey Samuels' 51-7 ¾ shot put for TCU, and Chelsea Cassulo's 65-2 ¼ 20-pound weight toss for UNLV.
   But none of these collegians was tempted to hang around and try the Daily Double. And that's too bad. They'd have livened a lot of the USA Indoor  Nationals Saturday action

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