Reebok Boston Indoor 2009: Two American Records, The word for the night is Competition, by Larry Eder


As I walked across the 200 meter banked Mondo track, after the Reebok Boston Indoor Games, the staff of the Reggie Lewis Center was tearing down the signage. Nick Willis, Alan Webb, Shalane Flanagan and Chris Lukesic were jogging a cooldown. Steve Hooker was good naturedly standing for autographs as parents had their kids line up with a real live gold medalist. Jenn Stuczynski was finishing her press conference and heading to the bus.

Meet director Mark Wetmore smiled and let out a small deep breath, " Pretty good meet?". I retorted, " Lots to write about on the plane tomorrow. Here is my account of the best indoor track meet that I have ever seen.....

Steve Hooker clears 6.06 meters, sets an Australian record, Meet record and records the highest vault ever completed for men indoors in North America! photo by

The 2009 Reebok Boston Indoor Games, version 14, in my mind, is not only the best BIG version, but the best indoor track meet I have ever seen, ranking up with my first time to Arcadia, NIke Prefontaine, World Champs and Olympic nights. In our sport, each type of event has its level of excitement. I remember watching my buddies in high school duke it out over fourteen foot pole vaults. In the end it is all about the level of competition! The BIG was, simply, put, three hours of breath stealing competition! Here were my favorite moments, in not a particular order:

Jenn Stuczynski in the Women's pole vault. In this pole vault competition, were two of the great American pole vaulters. Stacy Dragila, the 2000 gold medalist, and world champion in 1999 and 2001, is vaulting at her best level in four years! Jenn, as Stacy knows, is the story of US vaulting now. Stuczynski came onto the track fan's radar at this meet in 2005, and then winning her first US championship. On June 1, 2007, Jenn became the second women EVER to clear sixteen feet in the pole vault, and looked to be a shoe in for a medal in Osaka. A sore back did her in, but, being the champion Jenn is, she worked herself back into shape in 2008, vaulting well indoors, and then taking the US Olympic Trials and finally, the silver medal in the Beijing Summer Olympics. This year is starting off well, as Jenn cleared 4.82 meters, or 15 9 3/4 for the new American record. " It is a lot harder
than it looks, " noted Stuczysnki. Jenn continued, " I was not feeling that great tonight, but my coach reminded me that I was in great shape and should do fine. My clearance was much better than before. I am better technically this year as well. "

Jenn Stuczynski set a new indoor AR, jumping the highest height ever achieved for
a women in North America! Photo by Photorunl

After her American record clearance, which garnered Jenn a $25,000 bonus, she went directly on the attack, attempting the world record indoors of Yelena Isinbayeva, of 16-3 1/4. Her first attempt was flat, her second attempt was better, as Jenn moved to a better pole fo suit the height, and her third attempt was oh, so close, as Jenn Stuczynski continues to convince herself that she is good enough to compete with
the Russian vault queen. Stacy Dragila was second in 4.42m, Cathrine Larsaasen of Norway was third in 4.02m.

Kara Goucher in the Women/s 3,000 meters. In truth, Kara Goucher is training for the Boston Marathon. Coached by Alberto Salazar, and accompanied by her husband, world class distance runner Adam Goucher, her sports pyschologist, and Alberto, Kara was in Boston to check out the marathon course, where she has a date with destiny in April, and run at the Reebok Boston Indoor. Goucher is in the middle of training for the marathon, but Alberto's training program includes racing over short distances for speed development, pace changeover and
simply, to get the runner out of ruts. Last week, Goucher won a mile on the 145.5 meter Millrose track in 4:33. This week, a fine 8:46.85 was the time for 3,000 meters, where she won, and on Sunday, Kara will check out the final ten kilometers of the Boston course. It is obvious that the training is going well. Remember these telling words. When asked at the BIG press conference on Wednesday, what was her goal
for 2009, Goucher said, quite simply, " To win the Boston Marathon." Kara had company the entire race, with Sally Kipyego, the three time NCAA XC champion, setting a new collegiate record of 8:48.77.

Nick Symmonds, he of the hockey move at last year's U.S. Olympic Trials, where he lead two Oregonians to making it the men's 800 meters an all Oregon show, won the 1,000 meters in 2:20.52. Nick just bolted around the last turn and took the win, going away. He looks strong and ready to race in 2009. Boaz Lalang of Kenya was second in 2:21.00, with Christian Smith, the third placer from the US Trials at 800 meters, just missing second with his 2:21.06. I love Smith, not only because he looks like the bass player from Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes ( compliment, Christian), but because the guy races every inch of real estate on the track. This guy will pick up some hardwear. He is almost at the Mike Durkin " controlled agression' angst as he finishes. Just start those finishes about 50 meters sooner!

The boys and girls high school miles. These events are very special to me. I had the luck of sitting in on a meeting of the high school milers, as they met some of the best milers in the world a few years ago, and what a day! These young athletes come out of the meetings at Reebok HQ not only with cool product, but with a sense of purpose and destiny. Both miles showcased that! The girls mile was won in 4:51 and the boys in 4;09, both very close to line and thrilling to the fans!

Jessica Perry of Ontario, Canada won the girl's mile, in 4:51.62, with Emily Lipari of Roslyn, NY in second in 4:53.29. Stephanie Brown of Bloomington, Illinois was third in 4:53.87. All three girls had lead at one point and the pace went from 2:28 for the first half to a fine 2:23 over the last laps. Five girls broke five minutes!

When the boy's race goes through 800 meters in 2:06, you knew it was going to be a kicker's dream. Mac Fleet took the lead with three to go, and Drew Butler, the Nike NXN champ took over, but could not keep the lead. Over the final seventy meters, Fleet regained control, winning in 4:09.06, Andrew Springer kicked it up a notch, taking second in 4:09.16, Patrick McGregor ran 4:09.41 for third, and Drew Butler hit 4:09.62 for fourth, with Reid Connor taking fifth in 4:11.26.

The men and women's mile were two of the highlights of the meet, for me and the 4,200 plus fans in the Reggie Lewis. The mile is that perfect distance, eight laps on a fast, banked, Mondo track. The combination of strength, endurance and speed required to be a great miler is something that draws fans to this day. The 1,500 meters has its place, the 1,600 meters, in my opinion has NO PLACE, but the mile, is one of the events that the general sports fan gets.

On the women's side, Lindsay Gallo, a MIchigan grad, had not won a professional race since 2005. Running in perfect position the entire way, Gallo stayed poised to attack over the last lap, upsetting the field and running a world leading and new track record of 4:27.90 for the indoor mile! Smiling from one side of her face to another, Lindsay told this writer after the meet, " I wanted to stay in good position the whole race, and was watching Sarah Jamieson (Australian miler). I felt really good with the pace, just kept telling myself to move up, move up." Gallo's win gave meet sponsor Reebok a real photo moment as Gallo came charging down the final stretch, with a convincing lead and the upset of the meet! Congratulations also to Gallo's coach, Matt Centrowitz, one our country's great middle distance runners and coaches. Mestawot Tadesse of Ethiopia was second in 4:28. 18 and Sarah Jamieson was third in 4:29.47.

Lindsay Gallo set a world best, in mile on Saturday night, while winning her first race since 2005!

The women's 800 meters was a fascinating race. Katie Watts was in perfect position for laps one, two and at 600 meters, looked to be the winner. But Alice Schmidt, who was on her shoulder with seventy to go, went by on the final straight, followed by Hazel Clark. Schmidt took the race in 2:03.05, with Clark in 2:03.19 and Katie Watts in 2:04.07. Trenierre Clement was in fourth.

The men's 3,000 meters was fascinating race to watch, for many reasons. Galen Rupp, one of our best distance runners, arrived in Boston early the morning before the race, having just dealt with a case of strepp throat. Haron Lagat took the field through the kilometer mark in 2:34.5 and Solomon Kandie took them through the 2 kilometer in 5:08.

Watching Rupp, Bekana Daba, Markos Geneti and Josh Rohantinsky hit the mile in 4:04-4:06 and keep going was fascinating. Rohantinsky's coach, Alberto Salazar was encouraging Josh, as the young marathoner put the peddle to the meddle and worked hard to stay on the pace, hitting the mile in 4:06 and 2k in just over 5:10.

Galen floated along, first behind Lagat, then Kandie, and then following Daba and Geneti. With about three laps to go, Galen, in the lead, was having some tough moments. He did gather himself up and fought over the last lap, gaining a bit on Bekana Daba of Ethiopia, who eventually won in 7:41.88. Galen Rupp ran 7:44.69, his personal best and a new collegiate record. Markos Geneti of Ethiopia was third in 7:46.74, and Josh Rohatinsky had run the "Trials of Miles" as it is called in the cult classic, Once a Runner: Josh ran a fine 7:49.55. Just a hint-wait until Galen runs 5,000 meters this spring, and watch the fast times!

The men's college mile has seven under 4:05, with Jeff See of Ohio State leading five guys under 4:02.92, with the winning time being 4:01.17. That was a fun race to watch.

Terrance Trammell is healthy again. " It was the first time in several years that I had run back to back races in a few years." Trammell won the hurdles in 7.53.

Joshua Brown won the Masters mile in 4;34.30 with Jason Cakouros of HFC Striders in 4;34.70 and Kris Hatner of Naperville RC in third in 4:34.86.

The meet did build to a final crescendo over the last three events: the Men's Pole Vault, the women's 5,000 meters and the men's mile.

The women's 5,000 meters was a request from Marblehead native Shalane Flanagan. Shalane has family, who can see her run at this meet.
Shalane had been training at altitude in Mexico with German Silva, the former NYC marathon winner. Shalane felt she was in capable of running the record pace, set by Marla Runyon of 15:07. " I ran 15:10 for two back to back five kilometers in Beijing, I should be able to run that pace for one five kilometer!"

A call to Mark Wetmore, meet director, the month before and it was arranged. Shalane came in a few days before the race and the race was on. Marina Muncan of Serbia took them through one kilometer in 2:51, and two kilometers in 5:54. Shalane, Sentayehu Ejigu were both in attendance with Mary Cullen of Ireland and Jenn Rhines of the US, a two-time Olympian.

It was evident that Shalane would be doing the work, after they hit 2 kilometers in 5:54, and Shalane lead through 3 k in 8:55 and 4k in 11:54.17. Flanagan looked very good and was running relaxed. " I felt very good during the race, " noted Shalane afterwards.

Shalane Flanagan was on a mission to set a new AR for 5,000 meters. She wanted this one! Photo by

"If I had been by myself after the pace setter, I might have gotten the record, based on my strength. But, to have someone breathing down my neck the whole way, that was exciting!? The crowd did love it and I felt good most of the way!

As the two runners separated themselves from Mary Cullen and Jenn Rhines, and pushed on. The crowd, knowing that the record was going to be happening, was getting excited. Steve Hooker was vaulting.

As the crowd's cheering became louder, over the last two laps, Ejigu did not let up, but got closer to Flanagan. The final rush came with fifty meters to go, and Shalane caught on to the move and Ejigu and Shalane battled to the tape. The time was 14:47.62, twenty seconds under the former record! No one knew how close, until it was announced, both would get the same time, Ejigu got the win and Shalane Flanagan took the American record in 14:47.62 and $25k for breaking the record!

In third Mary Cullen of Ireland ran the second fastest time every by an Irish women, running 15:18.34, second only to Sonia O'Sullivans national record. Jen Rhines ran 15:27.87, a good early season time.

As the house was calming down about now, the Men's Mile was about to begin...

On the men's side, the mile was a race that was meant to be fast from the first step. The race featured 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Nick Willis, US record holder Alan Webb, US indoor champions Rob Myers and Chris Lukesic. The pace was fast and honest: 57.6, 1:56.6, 2:57.5, and the race was on. With two laps to go, Alan Webb, Nick Willis and Chris Lukesic were in contention. With one lap to go, Nick Willis, who runs with the confidence only gained after winning an Olympic medal, bolted into the lead, and lo and behold, Chris Lukesic, one of the US' best potential milers, just kept running fast, and went around Webb as well. It was not that Alan had slowed down, it was just indicative of his shape at this time in the season.

NIck Willis was flying down the back stretch with Chris Lukesic running his butt off. " I did something different this race, " Chris told me later, " I did not think about it, I just ran." And ran he did. But this race was to be won by Nick Willis, the Kiwi miler, by way of Michigan and coach Ron Warhurst, (one of the few coaches in this country who really know how to work with milers), and Nick did not disappoint. Running his last 200 meters in 26.7, Willis won the mile, passing Pablo Solares of Mexico on the straight, and took the world lead at the distance! Pablo held on, running 3:54.52 for second! Running the best race of his career, Chris Lukesic, overcame the self doubt and tortured pressures he had put on himself and just ran, taking third in a fine 3:56.04! Alan Webb was in fourth in 3:57.64. Kevin Sullivan of Canada, Sully to his fans and friends, ran a 3:59.42, and while he moved up in the race, just did not have that Sully last lap. John Richardson was sixth in 4:02.10 and Rob Myers was seventh in 4:04.47. Rob told us afterwards, " this gives me something to focus on for next week!" Indeed.

Nick Willis and Chris Lukesic head for home during the last lap! PHoto courtesy of Photo

After the race, Willis thanked his wife, Sierra for giving him suggestions on his racing tactics: " Sierra suggested that I run at 95 percent the whole way. When I go all out, I tend to fall back later in the race. So, I kept it at 95 percent and it worked...I am at a different level now. It is okay to be angry when I do not win a race. I want to race to my best, each time I race and it will help me in my long term career. I want a better medal in 2009, and racing against the best and trying to win teaches me new tactics. "

In talking to Willis it is obvious that his race in Beijing changed his life and his approach to running and racing. Coach Warhurst, his wife Sierra, all contribute to making him a more complete miler and look for great things to come from this crowd pleaser.

As the crowd watched from the stands after the mile, Steve Hooker had one more jump to go at 6.16 meters, but lets get you caught up here. Last weekend, Steve had jumped 6.03 meters, to take the world lead, set a Millrose record and put himself in the all time top three indoors.

This week, Steve Hooker cleared 6.06 meters, the highest ever cleared in North America, to the shock of the crowd. It also gave the Beijing gold medalist a new Australian record and no one between him and Sergei Bubka's 20 feet, 2 inches. Steve is now at 19 feet, 10 1/2 inches.

" I now have the Australian record. I am number two all times. The next goal is the record and for that I will need some fine tuning. " noted
Hooker aftewards.

Steve took three attempts at 6.16 meters, and had two okay jumps and one very close miss. He had gotten his hips over, but his foot hit the bar and that was it. " I have to make sure all is just right." Noted a very happy Steve Hooker.

Now the US elite season goes to Tyson Meet in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In two weeks, the US Indoor champs will be held in Boston.

On Sunday morning, as I try to do when I am in Boston, I toured some of the downtown on a long walk with Steve Vaitones, USATF New England's long time manager and a former race walker. Steve and I catch up on the world of sport, the sport in New England and I also learn about some of the hot spots in the great city of Boston.

Both of us agreed that the Boston Indoor Games had been a great meet. I countered with it being our best Indoor meet ever, with three great hours of competition, two American records, but most of all, great races that entertained the crowd and should make great television.

A great meet, a great crowd and a great management team, Global Athletics should be congratulated for their crafting of such an event. In fact, Millrose, Reebok Boston and Tyson are all managed by Global Athletics. The beginning of our season is in good hands! Congrats on a great meet. Reebok, and especially the team of Todd Klein, Jennifer Thomas and Patrick Joyce should be applauded for their continued support of the sport, and especially the work that goes into this meet. No shortcuts can be taken when one is trying to weave a track meet by which a brand is judged. Reebok Boston Indoor Games celebrates the sport like no other indoor meet in North America.

Watch for my final thoughts on Monday or Tuesday.

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