Well, we are global this weekend.
Yours truly (Larry Eder) is in Belgrade and David Hunter and Elliott Denman are covering the USA Indoors. Here is David's first column, on the multi events! It is a gem, as usual. David looks behind the scenes to provide a full picture of events!
Special thanks to PhotoRun.net, for providing us same day photos from Albuquerque to enhance Mr. Hunter's fine feature!
Albuquerque, New Mexico
March 3rd, 2017
As the 2017 USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships got underway, the nation's top multi athletes found that on Day One they had the resurfaced Mondo track and field at the Albuquerque Convention Center all to themselves. It was a special opportunity they didn't squander.
Erica Bougard, March 3, 2017, photo by PhotoRun.net
In the opening event of the women's pentathlon - the 60 meters - Erica Bougard took advantage of a great start to rocket down the sprint straight, crossing first in 8.21, and ringing up 1082 points. Defending national champion Barbara Nwaba earned 1037 points claiming 2nd in 8.41. Her Santa Barbara Track Club teammate Chari Hawkins - 3rd in this event a year ago - finished 3rd in 8.44 to garner 1030 points. Multi veteran and American record holder in the pentathlon Sharon Day-Monroe clocked 8.56 to finish the first event in 6th with 1004 points.
The second pentathlon event - the high jump - is an event in which Day-Monroe excels as it was her specialty before she transformed into a combined event athlete. The vertical jump provided many event and overall scoring lead changes. When she entered the event at 1.69.m/5'6½", Day-Monroe's first attempt clearance thrust her into the overall lead. When the American record holder passed at 1.72m/5'7¾", Bougard's 2nd round clearance at that height allowed her to regain the overall lead. Day-Monroe's jump card remained clean with yet another first attempt clearance at 1.75m/5'8¾ to recapture the lead. The dwindling field was further thinned when the bar went up to 1.78m/5'10". Both Day-Monroe and Hawkins went 3-and-out, while only Bougard, finding her rhythm with a string first round clearances, and Nwaba could advance. Third attempt clearances by Nwaba at 1.78m/5'10' and 1.81/5'11¼ kept her in the game with Bougard as the bar went up to 1.84/6'½. Nwaba couldn't clear the new bar. But Bouchard - on her 3rd attempt - unfurled a magnificent jump for a lifetime-best clearance. Looking for more points, Bougard was not done. At 1.87m/6'1½", Bougard harvested still more points with a magnificent, clutch third-round clearance - yet another lifetime best. Her three attempts at 1.90m/6'2¼ were spirited but unsuccessful. But, perhaps more importantly, Bougard left the high jump apron with two lifetime bests, an additional 1067 points for a total score of after two events of 2149 and a 121 point lead over runner-up Nwaba. Hawkins held third position after three events with 1946 points while Day-Monroe - who set her American record in this Convention Center at this event two years ago - sat in 4th with 1920 points.
In the pentathlon shot put, Sharon Day-Monroe began making a run at the athletes ahead of her. Winning the event with a best put of 13.44m/47'4½", the American record holder reaped 823 points. Overall leader Bougard could only collect 659 points on the strength of her best heave of 11.97m/39'3¼". Day-Monroe gained on Nwaba as well as the two-time national champ could only muster a best toss of 13.03/42'9". With two events remaining, Bougard's lead over Nwaba was cut to 43 points with a re-energized Day-Monroe just another 22 points back in 3rd.
The fourth pentathlon event began with a surprise as Nwaba - who reportedly aggravated a lingering knee injury during the competition - did not start, retiring from the combined event. In the horizontal jump, Bougard shook off two fouls to leap 6.18m/20'3¾" for an event victory worth 905 points. Day-Monroe - now in 2nd with Nwaba's withdrawal - held onto second with a best jump of 5.85m/19'2¼" earning 804 points. And Chari Hawkins moved into 3rd after earning 792 points with a best jump of 5.81m/19'¾" .
The day concluded with the final pentathlon event - the 800 meter run. With early front running by Allison Reaser who split 400m in 68.04, the 8 remaining athletes were bunched at the bell as Bougard eased into the lead. A strong move by Day-Monroe over the last 100 meters ended her day with another event win as she crossed first in 2:17.55, with Bougard right behind. Erica Bougard's final event point tally of 845 gave her the win and her first national title with 4558 points. Sharon Day-Monroe finished 2nd with 4404 points. And a fast-closing Sami Spenner - who climbed past 3 competitors in the last two events - finished 3rd with a final point total of 4211.
The winner was excited about her championship victory. "I wasn't happy with my hurdles. I could have been much faster. But it was only my second hurdle race this year, still a season's best." The high jump? "I had two personal bests in the high jump," laughs Erica Bougard. "I had a lot of fun in the high jump. No worries there." She noted her better shot put performance. "It was an improvement for me. I know I will get better with time." The 4th event? "The long jump was awesome. If I wouldn't have had those two fouls, I would have PR'd in the long jump today." And the final 800 meters? "It was an easy day for me. I just wanted to run easy and be there at the end." Nutrition, hydration, and sleep are on the agenda for the new champion who will be back tomorrow to compete in the long jump.
Erica Bougard, Whose numero uno? March 3, 2017, photo by PhotoRun.net
The elite combined event men - competing alongside of the pentathlon competitors - did battle in Day One of the heptathlon. In the 60 meter dash - the opening event - Rhode Island athlete Michael DiMambro bested the 10 athlete field with a 6.98 clocking worth 889 points. Thomas Hopkins and Austin Bahner - who finished 8th and 5th respectively in this event last year - both earned 879 points with 7.01 times. Taylor Sanderson and pre-meet favorite Japeth Cato - last year's national heptathlon runner-up - both clocked 7.15, good for 830 points.
In the heptathlon long jump, Shocker Track Club's Austin Bahner was able stretch it out 7.47/24'6¼ to win the event, capture 927 points, and move into the overall lead after two events with a total of 1806 points. Hopkins was 80 points back in 2nd and Cato was back yet an additional 85 points in 3rd.
The combined men's third event was the shot put. Hopkins won the event was a best put of 13.38/43'10¾", good for 690 points. But the 2-event leader Bahner was not far behind. His best heave of 13.24/43'5¼" earned him only 8 points less. Heading to the high jump, Bahner's point total of 2488 was still 72 points ahead of Hopkins  while Cato [12.58m/41'3¼'/642 points] was clinging on to 3rd another 133 points behind runner-up Hopkins.
Fans of Japeth Cato - who was mired in 3rd after 3 events - breathed easier after the high jump got underway. Cato had only jumped one time [a clearance] when the every other heptathlete's high jump day was over at 1.93m/6'4". Jumping alone and cranking out a series of magnificent, soaring first-attempt clearances, last year's runner-up in this event began slicing into the front-running lead of Austin Bahner who was done shortly after his only clearance of the day at 1.84m/6'½". Before Cato was finished he had cleared 2.08/6'9¾", jumped at least 7 inches higher than every one of his competitors, erased his entire 205 point deficit behind Bahner he faced when the high jump began, and actually closed Day One with the lead and a 40 point margin over his Shocker Track Club rival.
Before leaving the track, Cato - playful and animated - was lured into evaluating his Day One performance using golf metrics. "Eagle!" he declared in grading his 60 meter dash of 7.15. "I'd give myself a par," he offered in reflection of his 6.99 long jump - 22'11¼. "Another eagle," smiled Cato on his shot performance of 12.58/41'3¼". "I knocked it on the green and made a 100 foot putt." And his dominating high jump? "I wanted that hole-in-one, that 7 foot clearance," he frowned in reflection on his final clearance. "But I'll give myself another eagle!" The first day leader likes his chances in tomorrow's concluding day. But he knows it will be a battle. "I need to take it one hole at a time," smiles Cato who just can't shake that golf analogy. "I just need to keep moving, not think too much, and move on to the next hole. Austin [Bahner] is a great competitor. We might be neck-and-neck in the hurdles. The pole vault will be something to watch. And it will always come down to the 1000."
Workday obligations likely constrained attendance at Day One of these championships. But those who could sneak out of work or were able to travel across the country for a long weekend in the high plains were treated to a goodly number of sparking combined event moments, undistracted by any other individual events taking place. To witness what is shaping up to be an the exciting finish to the heptathlon is just one of the many reasons why track and field fans will jam the Albuquerque Convention Center Saturday for Day Two of these indoor national championships. Dave Hunter