Many world-leading performances posted Saturday night in Boston.
(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
BOSTON — There were fast times, a very close finish, and a dramatic tumble at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix here Saturday night at the Reggie Lewis Track Facility at Roxbury Community College. Just over 4,000 spectators watched the 17th edition of New England’s best indoor track meet, part of the USATF Visa Series.
In the women’s two-mile and 3000m, Ethiopian stars Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar both posted victories, running world-leading times of 9:21.60 and 8:33.57, respectively. Both athletes won by wide margins; Dibaba nearly lapped the field.
“I’m very pleased with my race today,” Defar said through a translator. “This is my first indoor race (of the year), I have practiced a lot for this race.” She continued: “I have raced very well, I believe.”
World 1500m champion Jenny Simpson, who ran in the 3000m, stayed with Defar’s leading group for the first half of the race, but faded badly in the final laps to finish seventh –and last– in 8:58.70. It was her first race since she won the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City last September.
“I did something risky today,” said Simpson. “I didn’t have a rust-buster. I went straight from heavy aerobic work in Monument (Colorado) at 7000 feet, and I tried to just come down and race fast. Whether you’re in middle school or high school, that’s what it looks like when somebody dies in a race.”
There were also fast marks in the men’s 3000m where eight men broke 7:48. Kenya’s Caleb Ndiku made a memorable debut at the distance, beating Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel in a sprint finish, 7:38.29 to 7:38.97. Ndiku clocked a world-leading time. World 1500m bronze medalist Matthew Centrowitz finished seventh in 7:46.19, a personal best.
“The race was not so easy,” Ndiku, who is tall and muscular, told reporters. “I want to thank God after a win like that. I’ve never run 3000m before.”
There was high drama in the men’s mile. On the third turn of the first lap, Britain’s Mo Farah tripped while in second place, falling hard to the track. He bounced up, slowly caught the field, and with four laps to go was running in fifth place.
“Once I fell, I had to get back in as quickly as possible,” said Farah. “It wasn’t easy, you know?”
With three laps to go, Farah’s training partner Galen Rupp had built up a lead of perhaps 10 meters, but he was caught by Irishman Ciaran O’Lionard –one of his other training partners– and Canadian Taylor Milne with 150 meters to go. O’Lionard, the former Florida State star, held off Milne to win in 3:56.01 to Milne’s 3:56.40. Farah was rewarded with a personal best 3:57.92 in fourth place.
“Any time I step out on the track with these guys it’s a learning experience,” said O’Lionard who now wears his hair cut very short (he had a mullet last year). “I’m so privileged to have such training partners and such a training group.”
Maggie Vessey –whose fans already know her flair for the dramatic– won a squeaker in the women’s 800m. Running well behind the field through most the race, Vessey was still in third place coming into the final turn behind Ethiopia’s Fantu Magiso, who was leading but clearly laboring.
“I felt good, I felt like I was sort of even-paced the whole time,” Vessey told reporters. “No huge moves anywhere, just kept to myself.”
Erica Moore, the former heptathlete, saw her chance to win and came around Magiso on the outside at the top of the homestretch. She didn’t realize the Vessey had pushed past Magiso on the inside and that it was a three-woman race.
“I think my eyes got a little big,” said Moore. “I thought I had it.”
Vessey just edged past Magiso on the inside while Moore did the same on the outside. Both Moore and Vessey were clocked in 2:02.37, but Vessey was given the victory, a decision Moore called “fair.”
“I was like, there’s enough room!” Vessey said recalling her move to pass Magiso.
In the women’s 1000m, Btissam Lakhouad of Morocco caught the world’s #1 1500m runner, Morgan Uceny, with about 60 meters to go, and won in 2:38.14, another world leader.
“It was my first competition of the year,” Lakhouad said in French. “It was very good.”
In the girl’s junior mile, Cayla Hatton of Farmington, Conn., scooted to the lead after a slow opening lap, and built up a five-second lead. But at the bell, she was passed by Haley Pierce of Wilmington, De., who ran to victory uncontested in an indoor personal best of 4:48.59, the second-fastest time by a prep girl this indoor season. Pierce said she wasn’t worried about Hatton staying away.
“It definitely crossed my mind, but I was just trying to stay confident and relaxed with each lap,” she told reporters, clutching the winner’s bouquet of flowers.
The boy’s junior mile winner, Craig Engels of Winston-Salem, N.C., took over the lead with one lap to go, and was never seriously challenged. He glided to a 4:13.70 victory, the #3 time for a high schooler this USA indoor season.
“I just kicked the last lap,” said a smiling Engels. He added: “I just love kicking.”