So, it is Tuesday, March 7. I am heading through Customs in Denver ( this is the most frustratingly orchestrated Immigration/Customs check in any US airport in country), not in a good mood anyway, after forteen hours of flying so far, and saw noted from David Hunter. His Saturday piece, which I liked, had some mechanical errors and several good quotes were missing. He is mortified. So, here's the deal, please re read the piece, enjoy new pictures and take in the message that David Hunter was trying to note on Saturday. I, for one, believe it is better on Tuesday!
Left to right: Ajee Wilson (new AR holder and #13 on the all-time world list at indoor 800m); Noah Lyles (USA HS record holder in the indoor and outdoor 200m); Sam Kendricks (reigning Oly pole vault bronze medalist); and Keni Harrison (WR holder, 100H). Photo and description courtesy of David Hunter.
Ben Blankenship, Chris Sorratos, Garret Heath, Even Jager all battle in the mile, photo by PhotoRun.net
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Originally published March 4th, 2017
Updated March 7, 2017
As has frequently been the case over the years, this weekend Albuquerque, New Mexico will once again host the USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships. Many elite American athletes have made the pilgrimage to the Land Of Enchantment to test their fitness, to race against their most challenging domestic foes, and to pursue the glory of capturing a national championship. Yet others have elected to bypass this championship gathering for a variety of reasons that include: nursing injuries; avoiding the high plains' altitude challenge; and acknowledging that this championship meet does not fit into their build up for what they consider to be more challenging and important contests during the upcoming outdoor season.
Many of the athletes here to compete have taken time to explain why they are here and what they hope draw from this championship competition. Here are the thoughts of some:
Ryan Hill, reigning indoor world championship 3000m silver medalist who will be competing in the 2-mile: "I always like doing indoor because I think it is just a stepping stone to outdoors. And I am good at 3K which happens to be indoors. But I always just believe in it in terms of having something to focus on early in the year, to have something to work towards. I think it can help you to kind of get your legs moving somewhat. You can come into outdoors a little bit stale. But I probably won't because of all the indoor I've been doing. Indoors is always a priority and I always want to do every U.S. championship. So it's pretty much of a no-brainer for me."
Evan Jager, reigning Olympic steeplechase silver medalist who will be competing in the mile: "It's a little bit by chance [that I am competing here]. I was a little bit banged up this winter and fall. We went up to altitude and I was still kind of hurting so I was actually just thinking about shutting down the indoor season. I kind of figured out what was bothering me and I was gathering some steam. And I just wanted to race more and more and races started going well. I was decently fit so I was like, 'Oh, so why not try to go to USA's.' I mainly came here to work on racing tactics. And of course there is no steeple at indoor USA's. There's a lot of off distances which is kind of the reason why a lot of athletes are not here because it doesn't fit into their training program. But I think it is fun and I enjoy doing the off distances a lot because the steeple is so specific. It is fun for me to mix it up a bit. I could have done the two mile which is more my distance. But miling is fun and I think it is something that with a small track and with a little bit faster guys and if I can come away from this with having gained with some racing experience and learning how to race the shorter distances and position myself on the tracks, I think it will help me out a bit. Everyone here is in peak fitness. Sometimes it is a little daunting for people to race when they are not at their absolute best. But I have no problem with that. I have gone into plenty of races knowing I was going to get my butt kicked. I think testing yourself when you are not at your best is kind of a good thing sometimes,\.
Clayton Murphy, reigning Olympic 800m bronze medalist who will be competing in the 1000 meters: "We knew this was going to be just a weekend meet and we came up here to race. The altitude and the oxygen didn't really come into account at all. Our schedule was to race three to four times indoors this year. And this race will be the fourth time. So it fit into our schedule. It caps off our indoor season and allows us to assess my fitness level going into the outdoor season. It works out to be a good time to test my fitness. Being at altitude and running the 1000 kind of gives me a different feel, requires a little more strength, and sets me up for the mile. You want to gain something out of every meet you go into. We want to gain success out of this and also to test fitness when running at 5000 feet. It will be a true test for where we're at and serve as a springboard into the 6-week training block we have set up to transition to outdoors."
Sam Kendricks, reigning Olympic pole vault bronze medalist who will tackle the vault: "Because of the demands placed upon me as a military reservist, this meet is both my opener and my closer for this indoor season. My father and I decided a long time ago that I would make national championship competition a priority. I know I will face good competition against the many vaulters who have competed extensively during this outdoor season. Out of respect to them, it is important that I compete to the best of my ability in this meet."
Keni Harrison, world record holder in the 100H, reigning Diamond League 100H champion, world leader this indoor season in the 60H at 7.75 who will be competing in the 60m hurdles: "This meet is a national championship meet and I try to compete in as many of these championships as possible. It is of special importance to me because competing in a championship setting helps give me experience of performing at my best in this type of special setting. Doing as many of these championship meets as I can helps me become comfortable with championship competition. My goal is to come away with a championship win this weekend."
Noah Lyles, newly-minted professional and national high school record holder in the indoor and outdoor 200 meters who will be competing in the 300m dash: "This meet gives me another chance to gain experience as a new professional. I ran many 300's when I was in high school. But this will be my first 300 as a professional. This year is a big change and opportunities like competing here in these national indoor championships just gives me another opportunity to increase my comfort level with the new world of professional track & field."
Ajée Wilson, Olympian and new American record holder [1:58.27] and #13 on the all-time world list in the indoor 800m: "I am here because my coach placed this event on my schedule. I am excited about running the 600 meters here - just three laps and I'm done. This event allows me to test my fitness at this high altitude and compete for a national title. What do I want to take away from this competition? I want to win."
While a good number of marquee athletes are passing on this weekend's season-ending indoor championship competition, the many elite American performers who are here will vigorously compete to gauge their progression in this championship year and to seek a national title. As the weekend unfolds, it is their performances on the track and in the field that will ultimately determine whether or not this year's national indoor championship gathering is, well, enchanting. Dave Hunter