Track & Field Rocks The Reg, Top Performances Spice Boston Indoor Meet by Dave Hunter

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I asked Dave Hunter to write a piece about the 2013 New Balance Indoor Games, and he did it with relish. The following piece gives you another man's view of what I see as the official starting place of the 2013 Indoor elite season. The problem is, there have so many amazing performances this season, in a season where many of the top athletes in the world are staying at home, waiting for Moscow. 

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Mary Cain, 2013 NB Indoor Grand Prix, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

The 18th version of the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix showed once again how much fun a well run, well produced track meet can be. Built around a small group of elite athletes, the races were competitive and the performances were heartfelt. 

After the race, I was fortunate to join David and his buddies for a nice dinner and much track geek talk. An enjoyable meal with friends provided a worthy ending to a fine track meet. 

The TV broadcast the next day, I must say was one of the best I can EVER remember. The team of Tim Hutching, Dwight Stones, Lewis Johnson and Ato Boldon. The show was able to focus on the competition, with real time spent on the distance races. Considerations on the sprints and the field events were given. 

One of my longest friends, a keen observer of the sport and someone who gives infrequent complements said this, " That NB broadcast was the best track meet I have seen on TV in ages." 


New Balance Indoor Grand Prix

Track & Field Rocks The Reg
Top Performances Spice Boston Indoor Meet


February 3, 2013

Just in case there was any doubt, Saturday's performances at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix made it abundantly clear that the buildup heading toward the Moscow World Championships in August is well underway. A star-studded and international field--featuring numerous London medalists--posted several impressive marks which effectively announced:  "It's on."

The women's two mile proved to be the meet's jewel as Tirunesh Dibaba--the Baby Faced Destroyer--showed how she earned that nickname. Left all alone in the lead after the rabbit Dave_Hunter_Right_On_Track.pngretired at one kilometer, Dibaba continued to churn out sub-35 second laps as the sellout crowd exhorted her onward. Reflecting on her world-leading winning time, Dibaba suggested in a post-race interview that faster times are ahead. "With this first race, I am happy. But I could have run faster with better pacing--9:03 or 9:04. I would have liked to have broken the meet record, but I am OK with this," explained the Olympic 5000 champion. "Running alone is a bit tough. When I broke the world record at 5000 meters, I had good pacemakers. And that helped me."

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Tirunesh Dibaba enroute in the two mile: relentless, 
photo by PhotoRun.net   

While Dibaba sailed on to her solo win, the real race was in the chase pack. Prep Mary Cain--  unfazed by Olympian competitors--ran a heady and unintimidated race. Competing gamely, track & field's new darling put together negative mile splits to finish 3rd in 9:38.68--easily taking down Melody Fairchild's 1991 two mile HSR of 9:55.92. Cain's 3000 split of 9:04.51 also set a new HSR along the way. Unconcerned by her spike-marked calves, an enthusiastic Cain offered an upbeat post-race assessment about her performance. "I wasn't really keeping track of laps, so I just kind of kept going and going," a radiant Cain confided. "I definitely felt really sharp. I felt like I was trying to stay in the race as much as I could."

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Mary Cain, en route to rewriting two mile HSR, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

Coach Alberto Salazar provided insight on his pre-race advice to his young charge. "I wanted her to compete with the other girls today. I told Mary, 'I don't care what your time is today. Just do the best that you can,'" explained Salazar. "'Forget about time. Just go in and compete. Every year--if you just learn to compete--I'll get you in better shape and you'll just be competing at higher and higher levels.'"  

A stacked field in the men's 3000--showcased as a head-to-head duel between London silver medalists Galen Rupp and Ethiopia's Dejen Gebremeskel--closed the show.  The race was carefully staged--complete with a skillful rabbiting duo--to provide the athletes the opportunity to go after Bernard Lagat's indoor 3000 AR of 7:32.43. With precise pacing, the second rabbit led the trio of Rupp, Gebremeskel, and his 19 year-old countryman Hagos Gebrhiwet through the first 1600 in 4:02.2. Just as the rabbit stepped off after four laps, the record tempo proved too much for Gebremeskel who quickly fell off the pace--leaving Rupp and the young Gebrhiwet to battle for the victory. When the Ethiopian junior--who made the 5000 final in London--surged during the 9th lap to open a 20-25 meter gap on Rupp, the race appeared to be over. But America's rising distance star was not done. 
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Hagos Gebrhewit takes 3000m over Galen Rupp, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

Conceding nothing, Rupp maintained his focus and closed effectively over the final 400 meters--but simply ran out of real estate. Gebrhiwet finished powerfully for the win in 7:32.87 to set a new junior world record--by .02 seconds. A closing Rupp crossed the line in 7:33.67--just missing Lagat's AR by little more than a second. Alberto Salazar commented favorably on Rupp's gutty performance.  "I was very happy," noted Rupp's coach. "He was still a little tired from last week. I was pleased that he was still able to run 7:33 today." 

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Jenn Suhr cleared 4.76m, the world leader, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

Reigning Olympic gold medalist Jen Suhr--the meet's top field performer--looked in mid-season shape as she easily captured the women's pole vault. After clearing the winning height of 4.76 meters [15'7¼"], the Olympic champion made two unsuccessful attempts--the first one was close--at the AR height of 4.90 [16'¾"] . "Honestly, the first attempt was really good. I was a little bit short, so I figured that I would just go into the pole a little more. And I vaporized it," stated Suhr, who passed on her final AR attempt. "I am looking forward to Millrose," she smiled. A much-anticipated Moscow showdown between Suhr and world record-holder Yelena Isinbayeva seems inevitable.

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Matt Centrowitz holds off Will Leer, NB Indoor Grand Prix, 

In the men's mile, world championship bronze medalist Matthew Centrowitz put on a tactical clinic as he had his way with a talented middle-distance field. Staying up front and out of trouble, Centrowitz found himself in the lead when the rabbit stepped off at the race's midpoint. "About 100 meters into the race, I wanted to tuck in right behind the rabbit [Matthew Scherer]. And I soon saw that nobody else wanted to go with it. So everybody was kind of looking at me," Centrowitz explained. "So it was either I sit in the pack and we start running 31's and 32's, or I use Scherer for as much as I can. So that was the decision and we made up the time."  As the race heated up over the final 600, several game attempts by Will Lear to wrest control of the race were masterfully thwarted by Centrowitz's subtle pace changes. In complete command and looking unfazed, Centro cruised to the win in 3:56.26 as he paraded 7 other milers under the magical 4:00 barrier. So Centro, what about that unflappable mid-race demeanor?  "Yeah, I fool a lot of people that way," he smiled. 

Ahoure_MurielleFH-NBind13.JPG                                 Murielle Ahoure wins the 60m, NB Indoor Grand Prix, 

Several other sparkling performances added spice to the evening. The Ivory Coast's Murielle Ahoure, came on strong after a so-so start to defeat an impressive field in the 60 meter dash. Her winning mark of 7.06 is only behind world-leading time of 7.00, set last weekend in Houston.. 

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Nia Ali, Tiffany Porter, Janay DeLoach, 60m hurdles, NBIGP, 

The appreciative crowd was treated to a spirited competition in the women's 800. A magnificent surge by Phoebe Wright over the final 40 meters propelled her past both Erica Moore and Chanelle Price for a tactical 2:03.96 victory as the top 5 finished within .74 seconds.

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Phoebe Wright catches Erica Moore, 
NB Indoor GP 800 meters, 
    
As the evening ended, there was an enthusiastic buzz as the upbeat crowd poured out of the Reggie Lewis Center to brave the winter winds. Clearly, the throng had enjoyed the carefully-scripted and tightly-presented 3-hour indoor performance by some of the sport's finest. There are more than a few track & field old-schoolers who would tend to downplay the indoor season as some sort of unworthy step-child of the more pure, outdoor edition of our sport.  Yet there no longer seems to be any authentic reason to be dismissive of this exciting, close-to-the action version. Just as golf tournaments are held on different courses and championship tennis is played on several surfaces, so too can world-class track & field offer varying platforms for its athletes to display their talents. Indoor track & field isn't inferior to the outdoor version. It's just different. And, as Saturday's big show at the Reg proved, sometimes it can rise up and be even better.

Dave Hunter

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