We asked David Hunter, who, along with Elliot Denman, is covering the USA Indoors for us. This is David’s first column on the Indoors, and he has comments from Matt Centrowitz, Gunnar Nixon, Curtis Beach, among others…
2013 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships
March 2, 2013
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Track & field athletes are everywhere. The proximity – and the intimate nature – of both the track facility at the Albuquerque Convention Center and the host hotel two short blocks away lead to chance encounters with runners, jumpers and throwers every time you turn around. One moment you spot Alberto sharing breakfast with Trenier Moser and high school phenom Mary Cain. And the next moment you bump into Darvis “Doc” Patton – still smiling from his victory in last month’s Millrose 60, notched in the twilight of his long career.
The brilliant sunshine and the crystal blue skies that grace the High Plain make ABQ a welcomed destination. The width of one’s smile is often an indicator of which athletes have traveled from training locations where winter’s snow, icy, and gloom still prevail. Jen Suhr – from the winter trappings of upstate New York – is smiling broadly. “I love coming to Albuquerque. We come from Rochester. It is cloudy and cold there right now. We come here and it is sunny and warm. I love walking around and people think I am crazy. But this is like suntan weather! I just love coming here. It is a great facility and a great area. And I look forward to it every year.”
Matthew Centrowitz is taking a page out of Galen Rupp’s under-distance racing playbook. He’ll be shunning the mile to run the 800 here in Albuquerque. “I think my indoor P.R. is around 1:50, but I’m not really sure,” offered Centro as he finished his breakfast. With new 600 AR holder Erik Sowinski and Robby Andrews in the 800 field, it seems that the former Oregon middle distance star will likely have new indoor 800 P.R. by the end of the weekend. Whether or not Centro, the poker-faced master tactician, can exert his customary race control and capture the national title at the shorter distance is one of the larger attractions to this championship.
The ABQ faithful cheer for each and every athlete, but they have a special place in their hearts for hometown icon Curtis Beach. That cadre of fans – led by his younger brother A.J. – played a pivotal role in coaxing the Duke star away from early disaster in the heptathlon high jump. After flirting with disaster at lower heights, Beach – exhorted onward by his hometown throng – made scary third attempt clearances at 1.90 [6’2 Â¾”] and 1.96 [6’5Â½”] and went on to clear 2.11 [6’11”]. It was a HJ P.R. for Beach – his first since his senior year in high school.
Beach relished what turned out to be a high jump donnybrook with fellow collegian Gunnar Nixon. “Yeah, it was fun,” acknowledged Beach. “It was so easy to get motivated with my whole family here. They really pumped me up and made it easy. I was almost out but I made those third attempts at 1.90 and 1.96. My P.R. before today was 2.07 – from high school. With my clearances at 2.08 and 2.11 I actually had two P.R.’s today.” How about that close miss at 2.14? “I think I hit one with my elbow and it fell off. On my last attempt, I just mistimed it a little bit. I think I can get 7 feet.”
Beach begins Day Two in the heptathlon in third place, trailing leader Nixon and Trey Hardee in the runner-up position. With the 1000 as the final event, do Beach’s middle distance skills give him a trump card? “I think so – I don’t know,” he laughs. “The 1000 is definitely my best event. It has been since I started running. I try not to think about it because it can stress me out. I’ll just think about it when it comes.”
So, Curtis, when we watch you and Gunnar duking it out for the heptathlon HJ win, are we looking at the future of the decathlon? “That’s what I am hoping for. I think all of the competitors are really good,” notes Beach. “But Gunnar and I – I feel we have a lot of potential. It’s going to be lot of fun competing with him for years to come.”
Beach is tweaking his remaining collegiate eligibility to ensure himself the opportunity to compete for a Division I national title here in front of his hometown fans. “I sat out this indoor season because the NCAA championships are coming here next year in March. So I red-shirted now, so I could compete here in this meet and then at the NCAA’s here next year – twice in Albuquerque here in two years,” explained Beach.
Hardee has had some uneven performances here – some flashes of brilliance on Day One and disaster in Day Two’s first event. Hardee settled into the blocks for his section of the 60H, but when the gun fired, he simply stood up and walked off the track – garnering zero points. Hardee adopted a realist view as he analyzed how this meet fit into his build-up strategy leading to Moscow – where he is the defending decathlon champion. “Every meet is important, but what we want to get out of this is just to be on the other side,” confides Hardee. “This week I have felt good, but this is the first time competing since London. This is really just a glorified type of test to get some feedback on where my body is and where my training is.”
Trey, are there opportunities for you and other elite multi athletes to showcase your talents in selected individual events? “We don’t try to create events. We just try to see what the schedule looks like and how it fits in our training. At Millrose a couple of years ago we did a three event challenge which was kind of fun.”
When asked about his high-level competitions against decathlon gold medalist Ashton Eaton and his relationship with deca WR holder, Hardee views it as a positive factor for both athletes. “I think it works to both of our advantages. I think without Ashton I might have rested on my laurels a little bit the past couple of seasons. But knowing that he is up-and-coming and always improving, that makes it easy to train a little bit whenever I feel like I don’t want to. I know it has especially helped me to have someone like Brian [Clay] and Tom [Pappas] ahead of me to show that things are possible, those scores are possible.”
Hardee is clear on what his run-up strategy will be as far as competing in the U.S. Outdoor Championships – which will serve as the U.S. trials for the World Championships. “We’ll do exactly what we did in 2011. In 2011, I did a couple of things with the multi guys on Day Two and I did the open hurdles and the open long jump.” Hardee knows that – as the defending world champion – he has a bye directly into the World Championship decathlon – as long as he competes in some event in the outdoor national championships. “I definitely will not be doing the decathlon in Des Moines,” states Hardee with conviction. But make no mistake: Hardee will most certainly be ready for his ten-event rematch with Ashton and the rest of the world in Moscow in August.
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