The 2016 World Indoor Champs has been over for 72 hours now. I am back in San Jose, CA, and many of my friends are already in Cardiff, Wales, waiting for the battle between Geoffrey Kamworor and Mo Farah.
Here is a final piece on the World Indoor from one of our new writers, Lindsay Rossmiller.
It was something this crowd had never seen before. On a day of finals that resulted in first-time medal winners, some coming in events the U.S. had never won in before, and the rise of new stars going into an Olympic year, the U.S. put together two relays that matched the level of competition and took their 22 and 23 medals to break the record for most medals of any country at a single World Indoors.
Natasha Hastings burst out of the blocks for U.S.A. to take the lead and never looked back. As they raced around the corner with the crowd cheering, Jamaica’s first leg fell, unable to get up. The crowd hushed while the rest of the teams raced on. Medical attention was called over and eventually used a wheelchair to get the injured runner.
From there, the U.S. steadily built on their lead. Natasha Hayes and Courtney Okolo both split 51 seconds for the second and third laps while Ashley Spencer capped off the finish almost five seconds ahead of the field. Their final time of 3 minutes, 26.38 seconds is the world leading time this year and the fastest time run by any team indoors on U.S. soil.
Poland, Romania, and Nigeria battled for the other podium spots switching leads throughout the race. Poland finished second in 3:31.15 and Romania took third in 3:31.51.
To finish the day and the championships, the U.S. men’s victory was almost as definitive. Kyle Clemons matched the Bahamas stride for stride on the first leg, but an excellent handoff to Calvin Smith allowed the U.S. to start to separate. Smith handed off to Chris Giesting who was able to gain a few steps ahead of the field. On the final leg, Vernon Norwood took the baton and immediately created a visible gap as the crowd gasped. The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica were left to sort out the rest of the places.
Team U.S.A.’s 3:02.45 leads the world this year and is the third fastest ever run indoors. Bahamas’ second place 3:04.75 and Trinidad and Tobago’s third place 3:05.51 both set new national indoor records.
As the crowds dispersed, they discussed what they had seen. Tomas Rees’ favorite event was the relay and long jump. He came with his dad David. And while he is more of a soccer fan, he said he was impressed. He was even able to take a photo with Mo Farah (did not compete) who also happened to be in the crowd.
They reside in Portland and since David was a runner in high school and college, he is a longtime fan. They planned to attend shortly after tickets went on sale. Others came from Bend, OR, San Francisco, CA, the East Coast, and all over as fans mingled with longtime followers of the sport, Masters athletes, former Olympians, current professionals (particularly those in the Portland training groups like Mo Farah, Shalane Flanagan, Amy Hastings Cragg, and others), and people who had never seen anything like this before.
The organizing committee gave high school relays time during the meet which brought in their coaches and families who had never been to a meet of this scope while there were still people who had attended multiple Olympic Trials and other events throughout the years.
Medal ceremonies were held in Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland and people wandered in and out to see what was going on on one of the first nice weekends Portland experienced all winter. On Saturday afternoon, kids ran up and down on the green turf while their parents enjoyed the sun. And that evening during the medals ceremony, the square was full of track fans who got to high-five athletes on their way up to the medals podium and then hang out with them after as some chose to wander through the crowd while the live band played. As the Portland Timbers game finished, some of those attendees trickled in to see what was going on.
Rees enjoyed the format of the meet. “I thought they staged it particularly well. The meet moved really quickly. The way they engaged the crowd was great,” he said. “I really, really liked the way they did the pole vault on Thursday night. I’ve gone to a lot of track meets and I’ve watched the pole vault in passing, but to actually have a focus on it made it much more interesting and kind of got to know the jumpers more because you’re watching them in sequence and paying more attention to it. I thought that was a stroke of brilliance.”
And for him and his son, having been so close to the action will make this summer’s Rio Olympics much more relatable. Rees said, “I’ll probably root for some of the people I watched here.”