The 4 x 800 meter relay for men will be one of the highlights of today’s 2014 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. Can the five teams assembled take on the 7:13.94 mark from 2000, and set here by Joe Woody, Karl Paranya, Rich Kenah and David Krummenacker?
Erik Sowinski will be chasing a World Record on Saturday, but he’s not sure his coach wants him to get it.
That’s because his coach currently owns it.
“I think he’s excited to see the outcome,” said Sowinski, who will be on a 4×800-meter relay team going after the World Record at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, “but I’m sure deep down he’s hoping the record stays and I can’t blame him for that.”
Joey Woody says otherwise.
“Oh yeah,” said Woody, when asked if he would be rooting for Sowinski to take down the record.
In 2000 at the Reggie Lewis Center track, Woody’s lead-off run was key to his squad’s success. A 400-meter hurdler by trade, he nonetheless got the stick in the hand of Karl Paranya in a surprisingly strong second place. Paranya took the lead on the second leg, with Rich Kenah and David Krummenacker holding on to it to win in 7:13.94, breaking the mark of 7:17.8 set by a Soviet Union team in 1971.
Sowinski–the American Record-holder at 600 meters and the defending U.S. indoor champion at 800 meters–will be running on a U.S. All-Star team that includes Duane Solomon, Richard Jones, and David Torrence. Solomon finished fourth at 800 meters in the 2012 Olympic Games in 1:42.82, making him the second-fastest American in history at the distance; Torrence is a three-time national champion in the mile on the roads.
“There are definitely some similarities between their team and ours, which makes it exciting,” said Sowinski. “He still reminds me that while I have an American Record, he has me beat with part of that World Record, so we’ll have to see if we can change that.”
Just last week, Sowinski ran his fastest-ever 800 meters indoors, 1:46.84. His outdoor PB is 1:45.21.
“He’s ready to run,” said Woody, who after his relay World Record went on to win a silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2003 IAAF World Championships. “We were obviously proud of that record at the time; I think it’s a good record but I also think that it’s definitely a breakable record. There’s a lot more talent than when I was competing.”
For the past eight years, Woody has been an assistant coach at the University of Iowa, for which Sowinski was NCAA runner-up at 800 meters in 2012. Now 40, Woody called the confluence of coach/athletic/World Record “just awesome.”
Oddly enough, Solomon is coached by Johnny Gray, the American Record-holder at 800 meters who was on the second-place Santa Monica Track Club relay team in the 2000 meet, which also broke the previous World Record. It was Gray who pointed out Woody’s starring role in a post-race interview with the Boston Globe.
“I didn’t think [Woody] would have the heart and guts to run that leg, and that did it for them,” said Gray. I think he was the reason they won.”
For the complete 4×800 lineup, click here. The race, also featuring the Brooks Beasts (led by Nick Symmonds), they New Jersey-New York Track Club (led by Robby Andrews), and the SMTC, will be shown live on NBC Sports Network, which will broadcast the New Balance Indoor Grand Prixfrom 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m. EST on Saturday.