Transforming the Oregon Convention Center for the 2016 USATF Indoors: Day One, by Lindsay Rossmiller

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erikkyndardjeffried.jpgErik Kynard, winning the high jump, photo by Tim Jeffreys

This is Lindsay Rossmiller's column on the first day of the 2016 USATF Indoor Champs. We think that she did a fine job on providing you a nice view of the meet.

My feelings so far: a wondeful facility and a great atmosphere. My other observation: they could have sold this place out with some promotions, which I understand did not happen locally.

We hope to see you there tomorrow!

By: Lindsay Rossmiller

Inside the Oregon Convention Center is a transformation. Instead of hosting a concert this weekend, it is home to the US Track and field athletes for the Indoor Championships.

Everything is green. The track is green, the seats are green and the bleachers are green. There's a entrance tunnel the athletes run down as they are announced for the finals on their way onto the track and there's even a live DJ. Music throbs as athletes litter the track and infield.

As the runners make their way around the raised track, the thunder of their footsteps follows them around. Many of the favorites advanced through the qualifying rounds to Saturday's finals. Keni (Kendra) Harrison, the current 2015 NCAA champion from University of Kentucky, qualified second in 7.89, second only to Janay DeLoach's 7.88. Vernon Norwood's 45.81 seconds in the 400 meters was a full second faster than the next finisher, Troy Pollard, who was later disqualified for a lane violation.

One of the more interesting characters populating this weekend is Carlin Isles. He is a a Team USA rugby player who is also trying to qualify for this summer's Olympics in track as well. He ran his qualifier just a month ago at a Houston meet while he had a week off from rugby.

Isles explained about his decision to try to double. "The times I'm running so far are the times I ran when I left off so for me I was surprised so when I saw that I didn't get any slower and I feel like I got faster, why not give it a chance?" he said.

Isles qualified for the twelfth, two places behind the Buffalo Bills player Marquise Goodwin, also making a bid for the Olympics in track as a dual-sport athlete. Isles would need to compete in both in Rio though if he qualifies.

The afternoon hosted most of the men's field events finals at the same time. The high jump, long jump, and pole vault rotated through with each going increasingly farther and higher.

"We were all hurting for a little bit of crowd attention because there was so many great jumping events going on" said pole vault champion Sam Kendricks. "We were trying to find a space to really let people really see the vault."

So they got the crowd involved. They even used different claps to differentiate athletes prior to their jumps. Kendricks and one of his college teammates from Ole' Miss who was high jumping at the time both used a triple beat clap as the jumpers all worked together to elevate the competition as the long jump, high jump, and pole vault all entered their finals on the infield.

Kendricks (the 2014 and 2015 Outdoor Champion) and second-place finisher Mike Arnold came into the event with the only two qualifying standards for next weekend's IAAF World Championships. "The fine print says you only have to make a bar, but I said, 'Where's the honor in that? We're all going to compete for our best today," said Kendricks.

His goal was 5.80 meters, but his final jump of 5.90 meters was not only his personal best, but tied for the sixth highest American jump ever and is in the top five jumps in the world this year. He said, "This was the place to put your best on the line right before you go represent your country."

Next week, the pole vaults will compete on Thursday of the World Championships in a pole vault only event and if this serves an any indicator, it should be interesting.

Other performances of note:

Christina Epps won her first USATF Indoor championship in the triple jump with a personal best of 14.05 meters.

Marquis Dendy, the 2015 Outdoor Champion, won the long jump in 8.41 meters.

Michelle Carter, six-time outdoor champion and two-time indoor champion, won the women's shot put with a throw for 19.41.

Erik Kynard, 2012 Olympic silver medalist, won the high jump in 2.29 meters after going five-for-five.

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