New Balance Boston GP Takes Center Stage

Olympic 1,500-meter silver medalist Nick Willis headlines the men's mile. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Star-studded field will rock the Reggie Lewis Center on Saturday.

Written by: Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission

Two months ago, it looked as if there might not be a major indoor meet in Boston this year.  Then New Balance announced they had taken over sponsorship of what was the Reebok Boston Indoor Games, renamed the event the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, allowing organizer Global Athletics & Marketing to bring it back for a sixteenth straight year.  Not skipping a beat, the meet will feature top distance stars from across the world in events ranging from the 800m to 3000m on Saturday at the Reggie Lewis Track & Athletics Center.   

The first distance event on is the women’s mile, which includes 2010 NCAA Cross Country individual champion Sheila Reid of Villanova.  The Canadian, who ran 8:56.92 for 3000m last weekend at the Armory in New York City, will be up against Canadian compatriot and national indoor record holder for the mile, Carmen Douma-Hussar.  Douma-Hussar, who lives in the Philadelphia area and is an Olympian, was runner-up to Sara Hall at the Millrose Games 1500m a week ago.   

Serbian national record holder Marina Muncan, former University of Florida stand out Charlotte Browning of Great Britain, and Team USA Minnesota’s Heidi Dahl are also set to compete.  

Later in the night, the meet features a distance fan’s dream schedule.  The women’s 800m, men’s and women’s 3000m, and men’s mile are all run in sequence making for an exciting close to the meet. 

The 800m features a slew of Americans who have gone, or are very close to going, sub-two minutes. Phoebe Wright, who has the third fastest 800m of the year so far, is looking to improve upon her 2:00.39 mark set at the New Balance Games on January 22. Also in the race is Morgan Uceny, who ran 1:58.67 outdoors last year.  The 2010 USA Indoor National Champion at 1500m, Uceny will be opening up her 2011 season in Boston, coming directly from San Diego where she has been training with the Mammoth Track Club.

Also entered is New Balance’s Maggie Vessey, who ran a somewhat disappointing 2:03.40 two weeks ago at the New Balance Games.

The men’s 3000m boasts a star-studded and global field.  Great Britain’s Mo Farah, the reigning European 5000m and 10,000m champion, will be running his first race in the United States since 2008.  Farah is coming off of a victory at the BUPA Great Edinburgh Cross Country race, where he obliterated a field which included U.S. Olympian Galen Rupp.  He has been training recently at high altitude in Albuquerque, N.M.

Returning to the scene where he finished second to Bernard Lagat a year ago will be Dejene Gebremeskel of Ethiopia.  The now 21 year-old ran 12:53 outdoors last year.  NCAA 10,000m record holder Sam Chelanga from Kenya is also entered. The senior attending Liberty University ran a 13:41.35 5000m all alone last weekend, a mark which is the fastest time in the world thus far.  

Others in the field include Americans Dan Huling and Brandon Bethke, Kenyans Nixon Chepseba and Josephat Boit, as well as Canadian Nate Brannen.

Reigning IAAF World Indoor 1500m champion Kalkidan Gezahegn headlines the Women’s 3000m. Only 19, Gezahegn is the World junior record holder for the 1500m, and was last year’s Reebok Boston Indoor Games 3000m champion, defeating Genzebe Dibaba and Shannon Rowbury.  

Opposing her will be American Olympian Jenny Simpson.  The multiple NCAA Champion when she ran for the University of Colorado has run the fastest mile of the year, a 4:28.60 effort at the Armory two weeks ago. Sara Hall and Simpson’s collegiate rival, Sally Kipyego, will also be in the race.

Possibly the most anticipated event of the evening is the men’s mile, an affair which features an Olympic silver medallist, the American record holder, and a prep-runner aiming to run his first sub-four minute mile.  

New Zealand’s Nick Willis, the 2008 Olympic 1500m silver medallist returns to Boston with a two-year winning streak on the line.  In 2010, Willis won in 3:55.26, while the previous year he ran 3:53.54, only .36 seconds away from Laban Rotich’s meet record of 3:53.18.  

Alan Webb is a late re-entrant, as earlier in the week he had scratched from the event due to an illness. Still on the comeback trail from Achilles surgery in December, 2009, Webb hasn’t run an indoor mile in two years.  

Olympian Leo Manzano is coming off of a monster outdoor season which saw him go 3:32.37 in the 1500m.  The fiery 26 year-old set an indoor personal best in Boston last year when he ran 3:56.82.  

The youngest competitor in the field is Lukas Verzbicas.  At 18, the University of Oregon bound senior from Orland Hills, Ill., has a chance to become the first prep runner to break four minutes since Webb did so in 2001. Last year, Verzbicas told Race Results Weekly prior to the adidas Grand Prix in New York City that he would break four minutes sometime before he graduated high school.

“In the near future, I can promise you I will, and before I graduate high school, I will definitely do it,” said Verzbicas last June.   

There will also be a junior mile event, which will pit New England’s best high school milers against those from the rest of the nation.

Tickets are still available for the meeting, which begins at 5:25 EST on Saturday.  A replay of the meet will be aired on ESPN 2 on Sunday prior to the Super Bowl.  More meet details are at http://www.newbalanceindoorgrandprix.com.

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