March 4, 2017
19-year-old Noah Lyles stole the show on Day 1 of the 2017 USATF Indoor Championships as he won his first US title in impressive fashion by breaking the world record in the men’s 300 with a 31.87 clocking to just dip under the 31.88 world record that Wallace Spearmon had held since 2006. Lyles wasn’t the only first-time winner on the track tonight as all four of the running finals were won by athletes claiming their first national title.
In the women’s 300, Phyllis Francis, the American indoor record holder at 400, got the win in 36.15 by edging Joanna Atkins (36.18). In the five-person women’s mile final, Shelby Houlihan closed extremely well over the final 800 (2:06.19) to get the win in a tactical 4:45.18 before Olympic silver medallist Paul Chelimo closed the night by absolutely dominating the men’s 2-mile in 8:28.53 – winning by more than 10 seconds.
In the field event finals, 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Sam Kendricks cleared three more bars than anyone else and won the pole vault with a 19-2 ¼ (5.85m) clearance, 2012 Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard won the high jump (7-6 ½, 2.30m), former NCAA pentathlon champ Erika Bougard, 23, who won the pentathlon on Friday (4558), won the long jump while competing unattached (21-1 ½, 6.44m), former NAIA superstar Darien Moore won the shot put (68-2 ¼, 20.78m), Japheth Cato won the heptathlon (5738) and Gwen Berry set a world’s best in the 20lb weight throw, an event that pretty much is only put on in the US (the top 30 times in the world were all set in the US).
In the prelims of the 600s and 1ks, all of the major players advanced.
We recap the mid-d and distance action for you below starting with the finals, but first we’ve got Noah Lyles in the 300m.
Men’s 300: Noah Lyles rips a world indoor best of 31.87
Lyles, who finished fourth at the Olympic Trials in the 200 last year as a high school senior, claimed the meet record for the rarely-run distance by clocking 32.16 in the prelims. That put him #6 on the world all-time list, but the 19-year-old was just getting started.
In the final three and a half hours later, Lyles got out well in lane 5 but he couldn’t shake Paul Dedewo, a former DIII star at City College of New York. The two wound up battling for almost all of the race’s 300 meters before Lyles separated late and held on for the win in 31.87, .01 faster than Wallace Spearmon’s world indoor best. Dedewo crossed a blink later in 31.92, putting him #3 all-time indoors.
Quick Take #1: Noah Lyles continues his ascension into a star
Lyles showed he could hang with the pros by taking fourth in the Olympic Trials as an 18-year-old last year, setting the national high school record of 20.09 in the process. He turned professional shortly thereafter and took two big steps in his pro career tonight, winning his first national title and setting his first world best (the IAAF doesn’t recognize an indoor 300 world record, so officially this is a “world indoor best”).
Lyles is coached by Lance Brauman, who also coaches Spearmon, the former record holder, and Lyles had a funny exchange on the broadcast after the race.
“I told [Brauman] I think that record should be faster. He said, ‘Why don’t you go break it?’”
That’s exactly what Lyles did.
Discuss: Noah Lyles Sets World Indoor Best in 300m 31.87
Quick Take #2: What a journey for Paul Dedewo
Dedewo narrowly missed the world indoor best himself tonight and almost pulled the huge upset, taking second behind Lyles. The 25-year-old ran for DIII CCNY in college, posting a personal best of 21.80 in the 200 in 2011, but he barely raced at all in 2013 and 2014 after an osteitis (bone) problem combined with sciatica. But Dedewo returned in 2015, making a big improvement to 20.68, and got down to 20.58 in the 200 last year, taking second at the Nigerian Championships (he didn’t compete in Rio as the Olympic standard was 20.50). Now he’s the third-fastest man ever at 300 meters indoors.
World all-time indoor list, 300 meters
- 31.87 Noah Lyles
- 31.88 Wallace Spearmon
- 31.92 Paul Dedewo
- 31.94 LaShawn Merritt
- 31.94 Kerron Clement
Women’s mile: Shelby Houlihan wins her first national title and is halfway to the distance double
Only seven women were on the start list for this race, and after scratches by Rachel Schneider and Eleanor Fulton (running 1000 instead), we were down to just five entrants before the gun was even fired.
The pace went out very slowly, with Heather Kampf leading the field through 809 meters in 2:38.20. At that point, Shelby Houlihan went to the front and the racing was on in earnest, with Alexa Efraimson sticking onto her outside shoulder. Even as Houlihan reeled off a couple of 33’s, followed by a 31.68 penultimate lap, everyone was in it with a lap to go. Kampf swung wide just before the bell, but couldn’t get to the lead and had to slot in behind Houlihan in second. Houlihan was breaking away up front, however, and no one would be able to catch her on this night as she closed in 28.78 for her final 200 to win her first senior national title in commanding fashion in 4:45.18. It wound up as a 1-2 finish for the Bowerman Track Club as Houlihan’s teammate Colleen Quigley ran down Kampf for second in the home straight. Kampf and Cory McGee went 3-4 as Efraimson, who was second with 400 to go, could not capitalize on that position and faded to last place.
|Results *Lap by Lap Splits
1 Shelby Houlihan 04:45.18 Nike / Bowerman TC
2 Colleen Quigley 04:45.58 Nike / Bowerman TC
3 Heather Kampf 04:46.06 ASICS / Team USA Minn.
4 Cory McGee 04:46.54 New Balance
5 Alexa Efraimson 04:48.49 Nike
Quick Take #1: Come on, U.S. pros (and USATF, who provides the incentives for the pros). Five women in a U.S. final?
Perhaps USATF deserves some of the blame here for holding a U.S. Champs at altitude in a non-World Indoor year (giving pros one more reason to skip the meet), but it’s a bummer to see a national final with only five women in the field. One of the biggest thrills of winning a national title is the knowledge that you had to beat the best athletes in the country to do it. We’d imagine that feeling is muted somewhat when you only have to beat four of them.
Quick Take #2: An impressive run by Shelby Houlihan, even if she only had to beat four women
Houlihan may have had an easier path than most to her first national title, but it would have taken something special to beat her tonight. Her final 800 was an impressive 2:06.96 and given that she ran 4:24.16 (#6 all-time U.S. indoor) earlier this season, she’s obviously in very good shape. And while the field was small and poor in terms of quantity, it was pretty darn good on the quality scale. Kampf, McGee and Quigley have all made US senior teams and Efraimson has run 4:03 for 1500, so it’s not like Houlihan beat a bunch of scrubs. But we’d have loved to see what she could have done against Shannon Rowbury or Kate Grace in this one.
Quick Take #3: Second is nice for Colleen Quigley, but she wasn’t in position to challenge for the win
Quigley can’t be too upset with second place. But she closed almost as fast as Houlihan (28.93 vs. 28.78) yet was never in contention for the win as Quigley was boxed in at the bell while Houlihan held the lead up front. Quigley played it pretty smart from there, staying on the inside for most of the bell lap before swinging wide on Kampf’s outside on the final turn to go past her on the home stretch. But at that point, Houlihan had separated so much up front that Quigley had no chance to catch her. It could well be that Quigley wouldn’t have beaten Houlihan anyway (Houlihan is now 4-0 in her career vs. Quigley), but she never had a chance as she wasn’t in position with a lap to go. A race this slow is always going to close fast, which makes positioning even more important than usual in a mile.
Quick Take #4: Those of you that are worried about which direction 20-year-old Alexa Efraimson is going won’t be encouraged by this race.
Earlier this year, LetsRun.com co-founder Robert Johnson said he was a bit worried about Efraimson’s lack of progress since 2015. Tonight’s race is bound to make him even more worried.
- MB: Today is Alexa Efraimson’s 20th birthday – How good do you think she’ll end up being?
- Young Phenom Report Card: Alexa Efraimson, Konstanze Klosterhalfen, Casey Clinger, Cameron and Tyrese Cooper, Plus Jeremy Wariner Does the 1200
Men’s 2 mile: Paul Chelimo embarrasses the field
Coming in, distance aficionados were undoubtedly excited for the men’s two mile, which featured four US Olympians from 2016 – Olympic 5000 silver medallist Paul Chelimo, world indoor silver medallist Ryan Hill, Ben Blankenship and Hillary Bor. But the much-anticipated battle turned into a snoozefest as everyone in the field let Chelimo gap the field and totally dominate. In the end, he totally embarrassed everyone else as he won by more than 10 seconds in 8:28.53.
Most of the athletes in the field wanted no part of the lead early on, a fact made abundantly clear by Blankenship, who held the lead at the break but threw up his hands in an effort to demonstrate that someone else should move ahead. That paved the way for Chelimo — in dead last as the field entered the home stretch for the first time — who gladly took up the mantle and by 1018 meters (2:41.93), he led by 1.51 seconds. Daniel Winn made a move to try to close the gap, but surprisingly, no one went with him and as Chelimo strung together 31-high laps, his lead quickly grew to 3.74 seconds over Winn just past halfway (1618 meters) as Chelimo ran the first mile in 4:15. Winn, in turn, had 2.10 seconds on the chase pack.
At this point, with less than a mile to go, it seemed obvious that someone had to try to close the gap on Chelimo or risk the Olympic silver medallist running away with it. But as Chelimo kept running 31-highs (and the occasional 32), no one made any attempt. By 1k to go, Chelimo’s lead was 10 seconds and it was game over. Everyone else was racing for second.
The field accepted their fate and what unfolded was a wild race for second place over the final lap, with Bor leading the way at the bell. Four men were within a second of him with 200 to go. The big kicker Hill was pushing hard on the backstretch and eventually kicked by Bor on the homestretch, but Hill’s teammate Woody Kincaid was closing even harder and passed Hill on the outside just before the line to take second in 8:38.66 thanks to a sensational 26.01 final 200. By that point, however, Chelimo was well into his celebration.
|Results *Lap by Lap Splits
1 Paul Chelimo 08:28.53 Unattached
2 Woody Kincaid 08:38.66 Nike / Bowerman TC
3 Ryan Hill 08:38.81 Nike / Bowerman TC
4 Hillary Bor 08:39.54 U.S. Army
5 Brian Shrader 08:40.25 Saucony
6 Ben Blankenship 08:40.37 Nike
7 Riley Masters 08:41.41 Unattached
8 Caleb Hoover 08:42.97 ASICS Furman Elite
9 Mason Ferlic 08:43.08 Nike
10 Tabor Stevens 08:45.00 ASICS Furman Elite
11 Collin Leibold 08:58.41 Brooks / Strava TC
12 Jeremy Greenwald 09:00.88 Hudson Elite
13 Craig Lutz 09:01.25 HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite
14 Daniel Winn 09:04.80 Boston Athletic Association
15 Brian Doyle 09:14.50Unattached
Quick Thought #1: The studs in this field not named Paul Chelimo should be a bit embarrassed.
Yes, Paul Chelimo is damn good. Yes, he was going to win this race whether it went fast or slow. But come on guys – at least try to put up a fight. We’re not sure when we last saw a field at a US championship just run for second in a race.
Now to be fair, the race was run at 4,958 feet of altitude. So Chelimo’s 8:25.53 would convert to 8:12.10 (13.43 seconds) if this were the NCAA, but that’s certainly a time that someone like Ryan Hill should be able to run. After all, he did run 8:11.56 for 2 miles at Millrose last month.
The more we look at it, the others may not be in that type of shape. Ben Blankenship ran 8:27.10 at Millrose and 8:40.37 here tonight (so roughly 13 seconds slower). Brian Shrader ran 8:35.45 at Millrose and 8:40.25 tonight (roughly 5 seconds slower).
Ryan Hill’s run was by far the most disappointing tonight.
Quick Thought #2: Woody Kincaid is for real
Kincaid ran 13:12.22 for 5,000 meters last week in Boston, which was no joke. And races like the 2015 NCAA 5,000 or his defeat of Galen Rupp last summer showed that he had a kick. But we had no idea his kick was this good. Kincaid just took down the World Indoor 3k silver medallist — and two-time defending U.S. champion in this race — by closing in 26.01 for the final 200 meters. That’s some serious closing speed. If he can boost his endurance by June (remember, he got dropped in the 5k last week at BU, finishing 12 seconds behind Mo Ahmed and seven behind top American Eric Jenkins), he could be in the mix for a spot on the U.S. team. And if the 5k goes slow at USAs — as it has been known to in recent years — he may not even need to improve his endurance by that much to have a chance.
QT #3: The Paul Chelimo Train Keeps Rolling
Chelimo was the surprise Olympic silver medallist at 5000m last year, but everything Chelimo has done this winter has shown him to be world class.
Paul Chelimo raced three times this indoor season and got 3 wins. His first race in Boston at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix was the toughest because he faced some international stars including Andrew Butchart, Hagos Gebrhiwet, and Dejen Gebremeskel, plus the US’s Eric Jenkins. He beat them and the fields he raced since then got easier. Today he had a challenge in Ryan Hill and just went out and made sure it didn’t come down to a kick.
Chelimo showed this indoor season racing America’s best may not be enough of a challenge. It will be exciting what he can do outdoors when he will have a lot more expectations on his back.
QT #4: Not a great atmosphere for this two-mile
Visitors to LetsRun.com may love the distance races, but the general public is clearly more interested in the sprints. We weren’t in Albuquerque so we can’t give exact numbers, but agent Dan Lilot was.
Half the crowd leaving after that 300 and before the 2-Mile.
— Dan Lilot (@Lilot1TrackMind) March 5, 2017
It certainly looked like it on the broadcast as the stands looked pretty sparse for the 2-mile, the final event of the night.
Women’s 1000 meters: Charlene Lipsey and High Schooler Sammy Watson Impress
Charlene Lipsey, who has been in fantastic form this season (1:58.64 800, 4:30.13 mile), was the heavy favorite coming into this race and she controlled every inch of it, jumping out to the lead immediately and accelerating away comfortably over the final 100 to go wire-to-wire and win the heat in 2:41.86. The real battle was for the remaining two auto spots, and at the bell three women were still in it: 2015 1500 World Champs team member Lauren Johnson, Hannah Fields and Stephanie Schappert. Johnson and Schappert were running 2-3 at the bell, with Fields just hanging on behind them.
Fields battled hard to remain in contention as Lipsey began to pull away, and she split Johnson and Schappert down the middle to prevail in a blanket finish for second in 2:42.63. In the end, the order was irrelevant as both Johnson (auto) and Schappert (on time) advanced to the final.
Quick Take #1: Charlene Lipsey’s first national title is less than 24 hours away
Lipsey looked in total control today and has been the best woman all season. We’d be shocked if she doesn’t take home the title in Sunday’s final.
High school star Sammy Watson was the focus of this race, and she chose to play it patient, getting out well before sticking on the shoulder of early leader Eleanor Fulton. Watson was content to stick there until just before the bell, when she grabbed the lead from Fulton. Just as in heat one, four women had begun to separate (Watson, Fulton, former Stanford star Claudia Saunders and Megan Krumpoch).
After the first turn of the final lap, Baylee Mires had moved up to latch on to the back of that group, and though she could not pass any of the front four, she closed well enough to nab the final time qualifier by .10 of a second. Watson looked good in winning the heat in a PR of 2:43.18.
Quick Take #1: Sammy Watson ran like a veteran tonight; what can she do in the final?
Watson is incredibly fit, and as the World Youth and World U20 champion at 800 meters, she’s also a strong tactical runner, something she displayed tonight as she coolly navigated her way to the heat win. As good as Watson has been, however, we’d be surprised if she challenges Lipsey in the final (remember, Lipsey beat her by three seconds in the 800 at Millrose), but second place is hers for the taking, and that would be a terrific result.
Watson’s time was faster than anyone on Track & Field News’ all-time high school list, but it should be pointed out that Mary Cain ran 2:35.80 as a high school senior in 2014, which is way faster than Watson ran tonight (Track & Field News doesn’t recognize Cain’s time as the HS record as she had already turned pro at that point). *Results
Men’s 1000 meters: Olympians Murphy, Andrews, Wheating Advance to Final
The first heat was certainly the easier of the two, but rather than take advantage and push the pace, the field deferred to Brooks Beasts teammates Brannon Kidder and Drew Windle, who were content to take the field through 600 in a very modest 1:28.21. On lap four, former New Mexico runner Edwin Herring made the first move of the race, but Kidder was equal to it and those two had separated by the bell. It looked for a second as if Windle might be in trouble for the third auto spot, but he closed well over the final 100 and held on to clinch a spot in the final comfortably.
With Olympians Clayton Murphy, Robby Andrews and Andrew Wheating, this section was much harder on paper; fortunately for the rest of the field, it also proved to be the faster section, giving them a shot at qualifying.
The 6-foot-5 Wheating went to the front immediately, while kickers Murphy and Andrews chose to relax and ran 4-5 at 400 meters. By 300 to go, however, they had slid up to second and third, and at the bell the three Olympians were 1-2-3. They weren’t alone, however, as Team Run Eugene’s Hans-Peter Roelle and Atlanta TC’s Brandon Lasater weren’t far behind.
Neither of them could challenge the big boys, however. Though Wheating, Murphy and Andrews didn’t blow them away over the final 100, all three looked relaxed, choosing to husband their energy for Sunday’s final. Roelle and Lasater both closed well, however, and were rewarded with time qualifiers.
Quick Take #1: Sunday’s final should be a good one
2:21 isn’t that special for runners the caliber of Murphy, Andrews and Wheating, but all three looked very good running that fast, which should make for a terrific final on Sunday. Based on tonight’s race and past history, Kidder is the only guy from heat one who has a chance to break them up as he closed very well (26.70) to win his section. *Results
Women’s 600 qualifying: Ajee Wilson, Courtney Okolo Final Set
With four heats and only six spots in the final, there were no auto qualifiers, meaning everyone had to give it a good effort for the entire 600 meters.
The first three heats all played out similarly, with the favorites (Cecilia Barowski in heat 1, Courtney Okolo in heat 2, Ajee Wilson in heat 3) grabbing the lead early and forcing the pace so that only one other woman could hang. Okolo hung on to win her heat, dragging Kendra Chambers to a qualifier too, while Wilson sprinted away from Ce’Aira Brown over the final lap, winning her heat comfortably in 1:26.57. Barowski, however, could not hold on to the lead as McKayla Fricker, who had slowly gained ground on her throughout the race, moved by 25 meters from the line to win heat 1 in 1:27.38. Fortunately for Barowski, her time of 1:27.53 was enough to advance her to the final as well.
Heat 4 was the slowest of the night, but like heats 2 and 3, we had a wire-to-wire winner in Olicia Williams, whose 1:27.44 was still good enough to put her in the final.
Quick Take #1: Ajee Wilson looked fantastic but she should still be aware of Courtney Okolo
Wilson ran the fastest time of the day, was the only woman to break 1:27, and she also looked the most relaxed of anyone as she backed off late when it was clear she was going to run fast. In our preview, we picked her for the win and we’re definitely sticking by that after tonight. But Okolo also looked good in winning her heat and we’re not going to discount her in the final just because she ran slightly slower than Wilson today. *Results
Men’s 600: Favorites move on to set up a cracking 600 final
The favorites advanced in style in the men’s 600 prelims today, with two-time U.S. Indoor 800 champ Erik Sowinski leading the qualifiers in 1:15.51, a personal best that ties him for #3 all-time among Americans indoors. Because finalists were selected purely on time, times were fast all around; you had to run 1:16.26 or better to advance.
Sowinski pushed hard the entire way in his heat, but both Cas Loxsom (the fastest ever at this distance indoors) and Donavan Brazier could have run in the 1:15s as well had they not elected to shut it down over the final 50 meters. One of those three men figures to win Sunday’s final, with Loxsom, who set the world indoor best of 1:14.91 in January, the presumptive favorite.
1:44 800 runner Shaquille Walker (3rd at NCAA indoors/outdoors for BYU last year) and former Heps 800 champ Russell Dinkins also made it on time, but the best race of the day was heat 2, which came down to the wire between multi-eventer (and New Mexico native) Curtis Beach and Chris Giesting, a former 400 runner now trying to make it as a middle distance runner with NJ*NY Track Club.
Beach made a strong move into the lead at the bell and looked set to run away with it, but Giesting was moving up too and was into second by the backstretch. Giesting was gaining with every stride and as they swung onto the homestretch, it was going to be close for the heat win. In the end, Giesting’s extra endurance training paid off and he went by Beach right before the line. At the time, both men still had a chance to advance to the final, but Giesting’s late pass proved decisive as he was the last man into the final and Beach was the first man out. *Results
Quick Take #1: Loxsom vs. Sowinski vs. Brazier will be a treat
Loxsom and Sowinski have both been in great form this year and Brazier made 1:16.02 look incredibly easy tonight. With so little time to pass, getting to the lead early will be important, so look for a fast opening 200 tomorrow — perhaps around 23-flat. Loxsom broke the American record in the last USA 600 final. Now the American record is also the world indoor best (1:14.91) and after how good the top guys looked today, it would not be a surprise to see that mark lowered on Sunday.