Coaching Athletics Quarterly
Monday, 06 March 2017 19:32

Merritt, meet records highlight final day of USATF Indoors

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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico -- Just over a year and a half after a kidney transplant, Aries Merritt (Atlanta, Georgia) completed a storybook comeback, winning the 60-meter hurdles title to highlight the final day of the USATF Indoor Championships at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Over the three-day Championships, two world bests were set and eight meet records were broken or tied.

For the first time since his magical 2012 season when he won Olympic gold, World Indoor gold and set the world record in the 110m hurdles, Merritt won the U.S. indoor gold in a nation-leading 7.51. Merritt was first to hurdle one and maintained his edge through the line, putting a .03 gap on runner-up Aleec Harris(Atlanta, Georgia). Last year’s champion, Jarret Eaton(Abington, Pennsylvania), was third in 7.59.

Murphy makes it look easy with meet record in 1000m

2015 Pan American 1500m champion Andrew Wheating(Norwich, Vermont) took control of the 1,000m over the first three laps, leading through 400m in 55.42 and 600m in 1:24.36. On lap four, Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy(New Paris, Ohio) moved ahead, with Brannon Kidder(Lancaster, Ohio) lurking in third. Murphy was a smidgen ahead of Wheating through 800m in 1:52.97 and had the best last 200m at 25.63 to win in a meet record 2:18.60. Kidder passed Wheating with a 25.82 lap to finish second in 2:19.10, also under the meet record. Wheating out-leaned Robby Andrews(Manalapan, New Jersey) for third in 2:20.39.

Wilson wins big in USATF Indoor record 600m

Fresh off setting an American indoor record in the 800m at the Millrose Games, Ajee’ Wilson(Neptune, New Jersey) sprinted to the lead in the 600m, taking the field through 200m in 26.20 and 400m in 55.14. Courtney Okolo(Carrollton, Texas), who set an AR in the 500m at Millrose, made a move on Wilson over the final lap, but Wilson held on to win in 1:23.84, the third-fastest time in history. Okolo moved to No. 4 on the all-time list with her 1:24.00, and the top four finishers all bested the previous meet record.

Sowinski sets meet record en route to third USATF Indoor title

Erik Sowinski(Waukesha, Wisconsin) held off a furious charge by world best holder Casimir Loxsom(New Haven, Connecticut) down the final straight to win the 600m in 1:15.07, a meet record and the fourth-fastest time ever. This was Sowinski’s third championship win on the Albuquerque oval, following on the heels of 800m golds in 2013 and 2014. Loxsom, who set the world best at 1:14.91 in January, was second in 1:15.18, and Shaquille Walker(Richmond Hill, Georgia) took third in 1:15.39 to climb to No. 8 on the all-time world list.

Lipsey goes wire to wire for meet record

The second-fastest indoor American woman ever at 800m, Charlene Lipsey(Hempstead, New York) added a lap and ran a masterful race to lead from wire to wire to win the 1,000m in a meet-record 2:37.97. Lipsey went to the front and passed 400m in 64.12 and 800m in 2:07.43 ahead of Lauren Johnson(Huntington, Indiana) and high school record-holder Sammy Watson(Henrietta, New York). Johnson gamely battled over the last lap to take second in 2:38.33, while Watson shattered the prep record she set yesterday by three seconds to place fourth in 2:40.72. Hannah Fields(Edmond, Oklahoma) was third in 2:40.18, also better than the previous meet record.

Carter captures fifth USATF Indoor crown

After a dream year in 2016 that saw her win the Olympic and World Indoor golds, along with the Olympic Trials and USATF Indoor titles, Michelle Carter(Ovilla, Texas) picked up her fifth straight national indoor gold with a second-round toss of 19.03m/62-5.25. Carter, throwing for the first time in 2017, had four throws beyond anyone else, including a 19.01m/62-4.50 in the final round. Felisha Johnson(Indianapolis, Indiana) was second at 18.23m/59-9.75.

Young tops world list for ‘17 with first USATF win

In round four, Alex Young(Shreveport, Louisiana) became the 16th man in history to surpass the 24-meter mark, notching a lifetime best 24.02m/78-9.75 to win his first U.S. title. Sean Donnelly(Minneapolis, Minnesota) opened the competition with a PR 23.57/77-4 before Young took the lead for good in the next stanza with a 23.99m/78-8.5. 2016 champion Colin Dunbar(Long Beach, California) overtook Donnelly for second with his fourth-round toss, and had his best of the day in round five with a 23.74m/77-10.75 throw.

Franklin moves up a spot to take first U.S. title

Improving her lifetime best by eight inches, last year’s runner-up Tori Franklin(Westmont, Illinois) moved atop the podium with her 13.86m/45-5.75 in the final round. Franklin opened with a foul, but in round two she bounded to the lead with a 13.61m/44-8. She added a centimeter to that mark in the next round and was never challenged for the gold. Danylle Kurywchak(Cameron Park, California) also turned in a two-foot personal best to take second at 13.41m/44-0.

Morris defends USATF Indoor crown

Reigning Olympic and World Indoor silver medalist Sandi Morris(Greenville, South Carolina) defended her U.S. indoor title with a 4.70m/15-5 clearance on her third attempt. Morris came into the competition at 4.55m/14-11 and was clear at her first three heights. Katie Nageotte(Olmstead Township, Ohio) made 4.65m/15-3 on her first try to take second over Mary Saxer(Buffalo, New York), who required two attempts at that height.

Michta-Coffey extends race walk streak

The women’s 2-mile race walk was one for the history books, as two-time Olympian Maria Michta-Coffey (Nesconset, New York) won her eighth consecutive USATF Indoor title, tying her for most walk wins in history and extending her record for most consecutive walk wins. It was Michta-Coffey’s race from start to finish, with fellow 2016 Olympian Miranda Melville (Rochester, New York) on her heels for the first mile. Michta-Coffey cruised through the second mile, lapping her competitors and coming through the line in 13:55.27. Melville was second in 14:26.42.

Season opener a winning one for Cunningham

Last year’s World Indoor champion, Vashti Cunningham(Las Vegas, Nevada), opened and closed her indoor season with an impressive 1.96m/6-5 clearance to win the high jump with the best jump by an American this year. Cunningham, the defending champion, made easy work of the first four heights before missing her initial attempt at 1.91m/6-3.25. She sailed over on her second try and made her winning height on the first go before thrice attempting a personal-best 2.00m/6-6.75. Cunningham’s fellow Rio Olympian Inika McPherson(Port Arthur, Texas) was second with a best of 1.88m/6-2.

Men’s Triple Jump

Chris Carter(Hearne, Texas) apparently likes Albuquerque. Carter won his first U.S. indoor gold here in 2014 before adding a second title in Portland last year, and he completed the hat trick with a pair of 17.10m/56-1.25 leaps in the fourth and sixth rounds to hold off Donald Scott(Ypsilanti, Michigan), who turned in a lifetime indoor best with a 16.99m/55-9 for second. Carter’s jumps are the best by an American in 2017.

Blankenship best over final lap for mile win

An honest pace over the first half saw Cristian Soratos(Bozeman, Montana) with the lead, just ahead of Garrett Heath(Seattle, Washington) and Adam Godwin(Conroe, Texas). Soratos continued to lead through the next quarter-mile, as yearly list leader Kyle Merber(Dix Hills, New York) moved up to challenge. Over the final two circuits, Ben Blankenship(Stillwater, Minnesota) made a strong push and used a 54.94 last 400m to overtake Soratos just before the  line to win in 3:59.22. Soratos held on for second at 3:59.56, and Heath claimed third at 4:00.31.

Double distance delight for Houlihan

Coming back from her win in the mile yesterday, Shelby Houlihan(Sioux City, Iowa) enjoyed the leisurely early pace in the two-mile, sitting near the back of the pack through nine laps before beginning her assault on the lead pack. Houlihan was fifth after 12 laps, and accelerated over the next 200m to take over second. Leading with three to go, Houlihan ramped it up over the last lap, closing in 29.91 to win in 10:19.14. Heather Kampf(Minneapolis, Minnesota), who was at or near the front throughout the race, rallied from fifth to second over the final 200m to finish at 10:21.80.

Harrison hurdles to first USATF win

Keni Harrison (Clayton, North Carolina) scared the American record in the semifinals of the event, easily winning her section in 7.74 to tie the meet record set by Gail Devers in 2003, and she held off Jasmin Stowers(Pendleton, South Carolina) in the final to win her first U.S. hurdles title in 7.81. Stowers was .01 behind Harrison in second, with Christina Manning(Waldorf, Maryland) third in 8.02. Sharika Nelvis(Memphis, Tennessee) was in contention before falling at the final barrier.

Akinosun powers to fastest time by an American in ‘17

Fast-starting Dezerea Bryant(Milwaukee, Wisconsin) had a slight edge through the early stages before Olympic 4x100m gold medalist Morolake Akinosun(Aurora, Illinois) powered by her to take her first U.S. gold in 7.08, the fastest by an American this year. Bryant clocked a personal best of 7.11 in second, and Lekeisha Lawson(Victorville, California) was third in 7.15.

Baker improves world lead in men’s 60

Ronnie Baker(Louisville, Kentucky) already had the world’s fastest time in the 60m with a 6.46 on the European circuit, and he proved to be the best here with a 6.45 that is the equal sixth-fastest time in history and the fastest by an American since 2012. LeShon Collins(Newark, Delaware) was second with a PR 6.54, while Desmond Lawrence(Durham, North Carolina) took third in 6.58.

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Men’s Weight Throw

Alex Young, 1st place: “It’s always nice when you win something and you get a nice little piece of hardware to go with it. Me and my coach from the beginning of the season went over my goals, and one of the big ones originally was the world record. Then we decided, make 24 (meters) and we’ll go from there.  I was feeling really good today, and that’s what happened.  I felt like I might be able to get 25 (meters). We’ll get it eventually.”

On performing well in championship situations: “To be honest with you, I’ve got a sports psychologist I talk to every once in a while. He tells me to take it one day at a time. I take it all into the circle. I had to calm myself down a little bit because I was a little too amped up too early.  This is an incredible confidence-booster.”

Women’s Triple Jump

Tori Franklin, 1st place, first national title: “It’s amazing. I’m so excited. I’m most excited because I didn’t think my last jump was a good one, because there was more I felt I could have done while I was jumping. But when I saw it, I was like, ‘all right!’ That just makes me excited because there is more in the tank still.” On winning after placing second in 2016: “Last year, I was devastated because I thought I had it until the last minute. That’s how I knew, this year, to keep pushing because you never know what can happen on someone’s last attempt.”

Women’s Pole Vault

Sandi Morris, 1st: “It feels great to follow up from last year. Last year I had a lot better indoor season. I’ve kind of struggled this indoor season with a bunch of little injuries and trying to stay healthy. It’s been a bumpy indoor and I’m ready to go home, reset and get ready for the outdoor season. I am feeling healthy now but just have to get back to basics and prepare for outdoors. Even though I am disappointed with my mark today, I am happy to come away with another title.”

Masters Women’s 1000m

Sonja Friend-Uhl, 1st place: “I was conservative over the beginning. I just wanted to run even and kick with what I had left. I felt I could have run a little faster in the beginning, but I’m happy with the result. I wanted to go under 3 minutes and I did that.  I was a little anxious about it. It is so great to be here as a masters athlete with all these open athletes. The track is amazing. I love this track - it’s a fast track.”

Masters Men’s 400m

Gabriel Fuzat, 1st place:“My biggest concern was the #6 lane, my teammate, Khlaid. He was going for a world record and we were going to push each other. It was just a dead sprint at the end. I got the gold but he got the world record in his age group. Southwest Sprinters (track club) came out 1-2, with a world record.”

Khalid Mulazim, 2nd place, M40-44 age group world record:“It felt really great. I wanted to go 51 (seconds). The main goal was to break the world record, although I didn’t get the time I wanted.”

Women’s 2-Mile Race Walk

Maria Michta-Coffey, 1st: “That felt really good. I haven’t really raced since the 30k. I didn’t do any indoor races even solo. I haven’t been at altitude in 2 years, but I knew my fitness was there, and I really wanted it and there’s a really fierce competitor in me and I was gonna have that that competitor come out today and be as tough as it needed to be to win.”

Women’s High Jump

Vashti Cunningham, 1st:“I’m really happy. This was my first meet and I really didn’t know what to expect coming in here, so I am happy with what I did. I was supposed to have two meets before this, but I had to go out of town and another got canceled. It’s always a little bit weird going into your first meet, especially when it’s the U.S. championships. I’m happy I just got this win, and I’m happy for the outdoor season. It felt like this is my first meet. It was the same as it was last year, but I’m just getting back into my rhythm.”

Women’s Shot Put

Michelle Carter, 1st:“Life has been a little busy, but I still enjoy doing what I do, so I have to make sure I have time to train for my competition. I’ve been doing a lot of speaking, and it’s been going really well, so I am really enjoying it. I’m a little off, still a little slow. I am still in heavy training, so I came out here to compete today. It was a great competition and I am glad to be here. Shot put has given me those opportunities, so I can’t neglect what got me here.

On why she competes at indoors: “For me, it gives me a break, to break up the training. It lets me know what I can adjust to get ready for outdoor. It lets me know I’m doing pretty good, but I want to make sure I have more time to train and kick it up a notch. I’ve had a lot of injuries the past four years, so I haven’t been able to get as in shape as I would like to be.”

Men’s Triple Jump

Chris Carter, 1st:“It felt pretty good. I feel like I’m in shape. That’s my best series. Not my PR jump, but my best series. It gives me more confidence. The other two championships I won were to qualify for a World Indoor team. It was a little different not having that extra motivation. You’re just trying to compete against yourself.”

Men’s Mile

Ben Blankenship, 1st:“I really like a good thrashing, that’s why I think I do better in the rounds, to go through the motions and get the body ready. Going through the motions of (racing the 2 mile) yesterday was great to get into the groove. I thought somebody would go. I thought it might be one one of the Hoka guys but I had an inkling that maybe Soratos would. I was a little further back than I would like to be with 400 to go, but it was still in my wheelhouse, and I closed pretty well. I wanted to come out here and make sure everybody knows I am here to contend in every race I am in.”

Women’s 600m

Ajee Wilson, 1st:“I was confident the whole way. The beginning is what I was most worried about. I think I kind of got into my own head during the race. The last part of the race, the last 120, was where I was hoping I would come out with it. I’m a competitor and I love getting out there and really competing, so when you have a 400 person come up to the 600, there’s an extra factor of excitement. It doesn’t happen often, so it’s always fun to do these races.”

Men’s 600m

Erik Sowinski, 1st:“I wanted to be top 3 (early in the race) to get good position. I was able to be top two there. I got a little caught off guard but I was able to come back. That’s what we train for - to be there with 150 meters left and just close. It paid off. I’m undefeated here at U.S. championships, 3-for-3. I put my head down and knew Cas(mir Loxsom) was going to be coming.”

Women’s 1000m

Charlene Lipsey, 1st: “It’s definitely a good feeling. It’s my first time winning a national championship and it makes me excited for outdoors. I was definitely nervous, because yesterday with the altitude it was harder than I expected to be. But I got it out of my system.”

Men’s 1000m

Clayton Murphy, 1st: “It was good. I was able to move on the outside on the straightaways. I wanted to learn from my experience at Millrose and not get too far back. The last 200 comes up on you so quick. I wanted to rev it up at the 300 and beat him to the bell. It all worked out. I kind of got a little comfortable on the back stretch and saw him get an extra gear.”

Women’s 2-Mile

Shelby Houlihan, 1st:“I came into the 2 mile kind of hesitant. I didn’t really know how it was going to go. I knew if it went out fast, it was going to be a grind for me. But it went out slow and for me it felt pretty good. But the last half mile, I was starting to feel it. I tried to go with 600 to go to make a big move and I was able to hold ‘em off, so it was good. I just knew I felt good and I felt strong. Once I switched gears, I felt even better, with a second wind. If someone came up on me, I felt I could hold them off.”

Women’s 60mH

Keni Harrison, 1st: “I made the same mistake I always make, and that’s popping up (at the start). Hopefully after I fix that I can execute my start. This is my first U.S. title so I am just happy to run across the line first. Everybody knows that the hurdles is one of the best events. To go from 6th (at the 2016 Olympic Trials) to first, I’m pleased with that. I couldn’t see my position but I could see people next to me and I was like, ‘Oh gosh, Keni, get it together.’  

On goals for the season:“I really want to go to London (IAAF World Championships) and get that gold.

Men’s 60mH

Aries Merritt, 1st: “To be honest, I came into this meet with a lot of uncertainty. We haven’t done a lot of speedwork, which is unsettling. As I’m older now, I haven’t done as much speed. We have done a lot of strength work and conditioning, and we’re still in the conditioning phase. I’m like please, let it be three rounds so I can run my way into shape in the rounds. I went to the UK and ran 7.70 the first time out of the blocks. It was awful. I worked on my start, and even today, it wasn’t the best, but I got it done somehow and I’m just glad I came out with the win today.

On his first national title after undergoing a kidney transplant and disclosing his kidney disease:“It was really hard for me the last couple of years, going into Beijing telling people about this kidney disease. It came to the point where it was too overwhelming to keep it in, so I had to tell everybody. I want to be that person that inspires people to always stay positive and to fight on. They told me I would never run again, and I’m back running. They told me I would be on dialysis all my life, and I’m not. I had a kidney transplant, it was successful, and I’m back doing what I love. So if you just stay positive and stay focused on something you want to achieve, you will do amazing things.”

Women’s 60m

Morolake Akinosun, 1st:“I got a shaky start and reaction time in tjhe prelim, so coming into the final I was really focused on getting a good reaction time and powering out of the blocks. I knew if I was able to do that, the rest of the race would set itself up to be fast. It’s all about the 100 outside, and a few 200s. I will race again at Texas Relays, my favorite meet of the year. I still think of Courtney, Leo and Kendra as my (University of Texas) teammates. It’s great to know you have your Longhorn family.”

Men’s 60m

Ronnie Baker, 1st:“I think the race was good. I got out of the blocks and at 20 meters I got to full stride and took it from there. I think the biggest problem right now is my start. I’ve got to clean that up and maybe we’ll see the time drop a little bit more. It’s been shaky. Once I figure it out I should be a little bit better. Around 35, 40 meters, that’s when I started to pull away and was in control of the race.

On running a world-leading time: “It’s really gratifying. It’s a confidence booster for me and something I get to brag about for a while, so it’s fun.”

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