This is a strange year. Without any World Indoor Championships, US track & field athletes had the choice of competing or not in Albuquerque. The performances in Albuquerque showed that, given a track, a facility, U.S. athletes will perform.
There are many more lessons to be learnt from many of the meets that I visit each and every year. I am trying, out of my respect for you, my readers, to provide real lessons. From my writing team, from my key observers on the ground in Albuquerque, here are the key lessons that I have learnt from the US indoor championships.
1. Paul Chelimo is the real thing, How will the U.S. Army team affect the sport in American track & field?
Paul Chelimo developed as a runner in college and really developed while running in the U.S. Army. Remember, Paul was a pretty good runner in college, but he has developed into an Olympic silver medalist in Rio. He came within meters of handing Mo Farah, the finest long distance racer in the world, a defeat. Chelimo is the real thing, and he is also serving our country. I understand the U.S. Army need for native speakers from around the world, and I also support, if said person is serving our country, fast tracking citizenship is least we can do. But, where does it go from here? In Europe, the IAAF is taking moves over the quick tracking of citizenship for Kenyan, Ugandan and some Ethiopian athletes to countries who may need athletes in those events. My interviews with Paul Chelimo show a young athlete who is devleoping skills and confidence in racing.
2. Kenni Harrison hones her race skills and is developing into finest 100m hurdler in world.
Keni Harrison ran an amazing race and time at the Nike Pre Classic last June. Then, in July, Keni did not make the Olympic team. After the Olympics, Keni Harrison set the WR everyone knew she could break. Indoors, Keni has run with speed and fury. In the heats at USATF Indoors, she ran 7.74, putting her in striking distance of Susanna Kallur's 7.68 (February 10, 2008). In the final, Keni Harrison ran 7.81 for the win. The world record will be left for another day.
How good is Keni Harrison? With speed, with agility, and with the drive of a world class athlete, Keni Harrison seems to have all the attributes of a top athlete in her discipline. She has the outdoor WR, I believe she can also own the WR indoors. For Keni Harrison, we will watch how she does at the USATF Outdoors and London 2018.
3. Aries Merritt is one his way back, and USATF Indoors win was a nice step on the way...
Aries Merritt is an amazing athlete. He is also a lot of fun to be around. Mr. Merritt has gotten to the place in his career, and his life, where he realizes each day, each race is a treat. Aries runs, knowing where he was, and knowing what he will feel like when he gets there. When I spoke to Aries in Birmingham, England on February 17, Aries told me the following: "My goal is to improve in each race. I want a season best in Birmingham and then in Albuquerque." Aries explained to me that he needs to race to get his timing. He felt he was on a plateau.
Hurdles is all about timing. And hurdlers know it and feel it. When Aries Merritt set the WR in 2012, Mr. Merritt told me he felt he was so fast he would just fly over the hurdles. The problem is, how does one get back to that place?
Aries Merritt, who has survived two surgeries, one of them a kidney transplant, added another step on his journey. In 2016, he just missed making the Olympic team. It was much farther than his doctors and families felt he would go. His win in Albuquerque was not a perfect race, but it keeps him on his journey back. And that will make Aries Merritt smile.
4. Noah Lyles is the real thing...a fine long sprinter
Want to see a knowing great smile from Coach Lance Braumann? Ask him about Noah Lyles. Noah Lyes ran sub 33 seconds for the 300 meters at the 2017 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on January 28, 2017. At the USATF champs, Noah ran 32.10 in the heats, and now, Noah ran 31.87 for 300 meters, breaking the world best of one Wallace Spearmon.
Noah Lyles, and his brother, Josephus went from high school to professional athletes after high school. They now run for PURE Athletics and are coached by Lance Braumann. Coach Braumann told this writer that Noah is very talented, and his fine running in Albuquerque attests to that comment from a proud coach.
5. Erica Bougard wins a unique double!
Erica Bougard upset Sharon Day-Monroe in the pentathlon at the USATF Indoor Championships. Her score of 4,558 ( 8.21 for 60m hurdles, 1.87m HJ, 11.97 ShotPut, 6.18m LJ and 2:18.41 ) won by 141 points.
In the LJ, Erica Bougard leaped 6.44 meters. Erica was the first athlete to win two field events since the great Mike Conley way back in 1986, who won the Long Jump and Triple Jump.
After the pentathlon, and the long jump win, she took fifth in the high jump with a jump of 1.77m. She had a very busy three days of track & field.
Erica Bougard is a wonderfully talented athlete who we will get to enjoy watching outdoors in Sacramento. We look forward to seeing her compete this coming outdoor season.