For over a year now, Rick Suhr, Coach/Husband of Jenn Suhr, has told me that Jenn can go “real high”. I asked Jenn recently about how high she could go. She told me that meters are a little scar sometimes, but 16-5, 16-6, those sounded good. It was not bragging, it was thoughtful consideration of her talent, her shape and her focus.
2013 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships
Suhr’s 5.02 WR Vault Takes Us Higher!
Record Leap Caps Day Two
March 2, 2013
Albuquerque, New Mexico
When Yogi Berra uttered the immortal words, “It’s never over until it’s over,” he wasn’t talking about track & field. But he could have been. The allure of our sport is just that – the knowledge that no event is over until all competitors have been given their chance to perform. It’s those intense down-to-the-wire competitions and those delicious last-attempt surprises that fortify our love affair with this mistress we know as “athletics.”
And the track & field enthusiasts who came to Albuquerque today knew the athletic performances were not over when the running events concluded. And the throng that remained for the stirring finish to the women’s pole vault was not disappointed. Quite the contrary. They witnessed a near-flawless performance they will remember for a long time. When Jen Suhr says she loves coming to Albuquerque and competing on its pristine vaulting surface, she isn’t kidding. Passing the earlier heights, Suhr began her magical night jumping at 4.65. Clean through 4.80, she stood on the runway with her characteristic business-like approach for her first attempt at 4.90. Bingo. She cleared it – breaking her own meet and American record. But she was far from done. With the bar at the WR height of 5.02, Suhr was soon on the runway again – checking her hand placement as she attempted to make history. With a vault that resembled a blossoming flower, the Olympic gold medalist uncorked a magnificent jump that allowed her to clear the new world record height with authority. Without hesitation, Suhr and her husband-coach Rick Suhr had the bar immediately raised to 5.06 [16’7Â½]. The height, if cleared, would represent the highest women vault of all time – indoor or out. The new bar height was a prompt and precise decision that clearly reflected that Team Suhr had scripted out this possible scenario. Three valiant attempts were unsuccessful, but Suhr’s series left all who witnessed her incredible performance wondering how high she can go. Suhr was ecstatic. “I knew that when I made 4.90, I put my hands up just like it was a routine jump, because I knew that it was not my goal,” explained the new world record holder. “My goal was one more. It was all business. We came in here for one thing and I think if I had not gotten it, I would have been very disappointed.” The Suhr /Ishinbayeva August showdown in Moscow should be one for the ages.
Much earlier in Day Two, the 2013 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships started off with a big surprise. The much-awaited second day battle in the heptathlon began with defending world decathlon champion Trey Hardee in second place – sandwiched between two uppity youngsters: first day leader Gunnar Nixon of Arkansas and third-place hometown favorite Curtis Beach of Duke. First up for the heptathlon was the 60 hurdles. The crowd at the Albuquerque Convention Center was silent as the final section – which featured Nixon, Hardee, and Beach – settled into the blocks. But when the race began, the crowd gasped, not roared. As the starting pistol fired, Hardee didn’t bolt from the blocks. He simply stood up, walked off the track – and earned zero points. After the entire heptathlon concluded, Nixon confided that Hardee had let his competitors know his participation in Day Two would be limited. “He had mentioned yesterday that he was just going to do the vault today. And he let us know before the hurdles that he was going to get in the blocks and just push off.” The Hardee-less race went on – and Nixon’s 7.93 hurdle win was a PR for the Razorback.
The heptathlon point total after 5 events: Nixon still leading with 4526; a surging Ryan Harlan now second with 4272; and Beach – hoping to be close enough for the final 1000, his baby – clinging to third with 4216.
Yet more anxious moments awaited Hardee – now working on an abbreviated schedule – as the heptathletes headed on to the pole vault. Passing at the first seven lower heights, the London silver medalist began jumping at 5.00 [16’4Â¾”] – and proceeded to miss his first two attempts. The crowd, sensing another disaster, was anxious. Even Dan O’Brien was nervous. Exhibiting exquisite body control, Hardee made sure his third attempt was not his final attempt as he easily sailed over the bar. That jump seemed to re-energize Hardee. Passing at 5.10, Hardee nailed first attempt clearance at 5.20 [17’Â¾”] and then matched his long-standing P.R. at 5.30 [17’4Â½”]. And while Hardee could go no higher, Albuquerque native Daniel Gooris would. He was having a day he will long remember. After Gooris made a third attempt clearance at 5.40 [17’8Â½], the crowd implored him to go higher. It didn’t require much encouragement. The bar was set at 5.50 [18′ Â½”] a height that would be a new heptathlon meet and American record. It was not to be – although the former Northern Iowa athlete was close on his second attempt.
After 6 events, Nixon – aided by his 4.80 vault PR – maintained the lead with 5375 points. Harlan – matching Nixon’s vault – held on to second with 5123 points. And Jake Arnold – closing in on two leaders – stood in third at 4981 points. Beach – now in 5th at 4947 points – had to be wondering if he was close enough to make some noise in the 1000.
He was. As the 1000 began – without Hardee – Beach spurted to the lead. Unchallenged, he began methodically grinding out 30+ second laps on the banked 200 meter oval. His ultimate victory was never in doubt, but that was not the sole mission here. It was all about the points. With the rest of the multi athletes dropping off and Harlan sagging in last place, suddenly it appeared that Beach could make a major move up in the final standings. With his furrowed brow showing his effort over the final lap, Beach hit the line in 2:33.40. His 948 points gave Beach a final total of 5895 as he launched over three athletes to move from 5th to 2nd. Nixon – second in the 1000 – at 2:41.49 garnered just enough points – 6232 – to not only capture the national heptathlon title but also to set the meet record. Nixon wasn’t worried about Beach. “I was running my own race. I knew I was 428 points ahead and that equates to about 42 seconds, so I knew I was fine. I just tried to run a relaxed race. I was going for that meet record.” And with a smile, the new champion added, “And I ran 2 seconds fast enough to get it.”
On a day with limited track finals, the women’s 3000 offered a spirited competition. As the race unfolded, a tidy little pack of five women – lead by Lindsay Anderson – forged to front. After a dawdling first 400, Anderson locked her followers – Emily Infeld, Lisa Uhl, Chelsea Reilly, and Rachel Patterson – into 75 second per 400 meter pace. The group seemed content to let late kicking decide the outcome. With 350 remaining, Infeld made a move, but it proved to be indecisive. Reilly surged to the front at the bell and the real race was on. With Reilly in full flight, Infeld and Uhl worked hard to close the gap. The trio was virtually even as they came off the final turn. As the finish line approached, a frantic Uhl – actually taking some steps on the curbing – attempted to make a desperate inside move which resulted in a dive at the line. The ill-advised maneuver took down Reilly as well. Reilly [9:23.12] sprawled for the win, while Uhl – who landed in the track infield – wound up third in 9:23.37. Infeld – miraculously steering clear of it all -finished second in 9:23.24.
The men’s 3000 final lacked a robust field and much competition. Ben Bruce grabbed the early lead as Will Leer tucked in right behind. With each successive lap,
it was clear that Bruce was a sacrificial lamb, a sitting duck. A strong move by Leer with 2 laps to go sealed the deal as the winner [8:07.84] put 9 seconds on the pacesetter over the final 400 meters.
In the other field events, Thomas Freeman’s 4th round heave of 23.51 [77’1Â¾”] gave him the 35 lb. weight victory over multiple-time time national champion A.G. Kruger [23.37 / 76’8Â¼] . Gwendolyn Berry [24.70 / 80’1Â½”] captured an easy win in the 20 lb. weight. Dusty Jonas – clean through his winning height of 2.25 [7’4Â½”] – took the men’s high jump. Jenay DeLoach Soukup was thrilled with the victory, but less than pleased with her winning mark [6.80 / 22’2Â¾] in the women’s long jump.
In the first round races, no surprises occurred as all the expected advancers did just that. In the women’s 800, Ajee Wilson [2:04.76] and Chanelle Price [2:04.87] will lead a field of 6 into Sunday’s final. In the men’s 800, Sunday’s 6-man final will feature AR 600 record holder Erik Sowinski [1:47.28], Matthew Centrowitz [1:47.94], and Robby Andrews [1:48.87 – who unleashed his potent kick to pass 4 runners in the final 150 meters to win his heat. Tyler Mulder – the day’s fastest qualifier – could surprise.
In the women’s 400, veteran Mary Wineberg [52.51] and an ever-improving Ebonie Floyd [53.38] are set to battle in Sunday’s final. On the men’s side, a special clash of two Olympic and World championship medalists is shaping up as Bershawn “Batman” Jackson [47.36] will test the measure of former 400 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner [46.40].
Some may say that Batman will overpower Wariner – who may be on the downside of his career. But be reminded of Yogi’s admonition: “It’s never over until it’s over.”