Californians Advance and Medal on Day Two of IAAF World Indoor Championships

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Mark Winitz wrote this piece on Day two of the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships, focused on the performances from the Golden State. Of course, he had to start out with the astoundingly competitive long jump and Brittney Reese missing her AR by just one centimeter!

We thank Mark Winitz for his fine coverage of Californians in both the USATF Indoors and World Indoors.

Reese_Brittney1a-World16.JPGBrittney Reese soars to 7.22 meters, photo by PhotoRun.net

Californians Advance and Medal on Day Two of IAAF World Indoor Championships
by Mark Winitz

March 18, 2016 - The IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland are in glorious full swing and so are California's athletes. On the second day of the four-day meet, competitors hailing from the Golden State captured one of the three gold medals earned by the U.S. plus one silver. Among the 58 men and women on the U.S. roster in Portland--the largest ever for the World Indoor Champs--seven athletes hail from California, the most from any state. Four more athletes on the squad have strong California ties. The last time the World Indoors Championships were held in the U.S. was in 1987 in Indianapolis.

In an incredibly dramatic women's long jump final, Brittney Reese (Chula Vista, Calif.) became the first woman to win three world indoor long jump titles. Reese--the 2012 Olympic Games gold medalist, three-time world outdoor champion (2009, 2011, 2013), and dominant women's long jumper of her era--was in second place after the first round with an opening jump of 6.97m/22-10.5 behind 2014 World Indoor bronze medalist Ivana Spanovic of Serbia. Reese increased her best to 7.00m/22-1.75 on her fifth jump to briefly move into the lead as Spanovic then responded with a 7.07m/23-2.5. Reese made her last jump count, jettisoning a 7.22m/23-8.25 leap--just one centimeter shy of her U.S. indoor record--to take the gold. Reese will now focus on defending her Olympic crown this coming summer.

Canoga Park, Calif.-born Brianna Rollins took home silver in the women's 60-meter hurdles final. In heat one of the event, the outdoor 100m hurdles record holder--whose 12.26 outdoors makes her the fourth fastest hurdler in history--easily advanced to the final by leaving her rivals behind in 7.82. In the last heat, USA's Kendra Harrison (Lexington, Ky.) rocketed from the blocks, blasted over the five hurdles, and ran a perfectly clean 7.81 victory, setting up an anticipated matchup in the final. Few predicted that defending world indoor titlist Nia Ali (Philadelphia, Penn,)--who took time out from the sport last year to give birth--could regain her world indoor title in Portland.

In the final, however, Ali prevailed, perfectly dipping by Rollins in a photo finish, to take the gold in 7.81 to Rollins 7.82. Harrison clattered the first barrier and DNF-ed.

In the final event of the women's pentathlon, the 800m, Barbara Nwaba (Santa Barbara, Calif.) led the entire race until Canada's Brianne Thelsen-Eaton powered home on the last straight for a 2:09.99 victory in front of Nwaba's spirited 2:10.07. Thelsen-Eaton concluded the five-event pentathlon competition by taking the gold medal with 4,881 points. Nwaba scored 4,661 points and finish fourth, making her the sixth-highest scorer in U.S. history as she added nearly 250 points to her lifetime best.

In other second-day action, Big Bear Track Club teammates Brenda Martinez (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) and Boris Berian (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) advanced to Saturday's finals in their respective events. Martinez looked smooth in the first section of two 1,500-meter semifinals. The 2013 world 800m bronze medalist immediately tucked herself into a tight lead pack, settling into third place behind leader Dawit Seyaum of Ethiopia. The leaders hit the 800m split on the banked 200-meter oval in 2:15. Martinez finished third in 4:09.75 behind Seyaum (1st, 4:09.05) and her Ethiopian teammate Axumawit Embaye (2nd, 4:09.43), as the first three athletes in each of the two semis scored automatic qualifiers into the final.

Running the the second of three semi-final heats in the men's 800m, Berian secured a 1:48.55 second place, advancing to Saturday's final based on his time. Only the winners of each heat and the competitors with the next three fastest times advanced.

Watch for reports here about Californians on the final two days of competition. In Sunday's women's 3,00m final, San Francisco's Shannon Rowbury appears capable of interrupting an Ethiopian 1-2. The 31-year-old produced a 61-second last 400m to ease her way to the U.S. 3,000m indoor title in Portland last week, and has chosen to reject her usual distance of 1,500m as she believes she stands a better chance of reaching the podium at 3,000m.

"I've been doing a lot of strength work this winter and in recent weeks I've done some speed, so I've given myself a lot of tools," said Rowbury last weekend. "It's now a case of seeing how they stack up against the best in the world."

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