2018 adidas Boost Boston Games Preview: Big-Time Sprint Stars Are Coming To Boston, Plus Ajee Wilson, Robby Andrews & the Return of Nick Willis
May 17, 2018
The third annual adidas Boost Boston Games will be held this weekend, and as usual, there will be a ton of sprint superstars on display on Boston Common on Sunday. The two-day meet features a track portion with distance events on Saturday and a street portion with sprint events on Sunday, and while there are some big names in the distances (Ajee Wilson, Nick Willis, Chris O’Hare, Robby Andrews, Muktar Edris, Caroline Kipkirui), the real star power resides in the sprints. In fact, outside of the Pre Classic and USAs, there may not be a meet on U.S. soil that can boast this kind of line up in the sprints. Noah Lyles, Tori Bowie, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Keni Harrison, Steven Gardiner, Akani Simbine, Yohan Blake, and Jereem Richards are all slated to compete on the temporary track on Charles Street on Sunday afternoon.
We give you the details below, followed by a preview of the best events.
What: 2018 adidas Boost Boston Games
When: Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20
Where: Henry G. Steinbrenner Stadium, Cambridge, Massachusetts (Saturday events) & Boston Common (Sunday events)
How to watch: The event is part of USATF’s Championship Series and thus will be broadcast in part on both NBC Sports Network and NBC. Sunday’s events (the sprints on Boston Common) are the only ones that will be broadcast. (Update: Saturday’s events were on Runnesrpace +). You can watch them live on NBC Sports Network from 1-2 p.m. ET and on NBC from 2-3 p.m. ET (you can also stream them online on NBC Sports Gold).
If you live in the Boston area, we urge you to head out to the meet as both sessions are totally free. Plus the Saturday races won’t be televised, which means that will be your only chance to see them live (though there will be some highlights during the Sunday broadcast).
Day 1 (Mid-d/distance events)
adidas Women’s 800 (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET): Ajee Wilson faces Raevyn Rogers
There are only two women in the world better than Ajee Wilson in the 800, and neither of them are running here. And considering those women (Caster Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba) are the only women to have beaten Wilson since the start of 2017 and Wilson is coming off a second consecutive World Indoor silver, she’s the clear pick for the win here. Plus on Monday, Wilson just ran a near 7-second pb in the 1500 (4:05.18, pervious pb of 4:12.10)
The more interesting battle is for second. Jamaica’s Natoya Goule, a three-time NCAA champ at LSU and Clemson, has had an outstanding year so far, most notably running a PR of 1:58.82 to earn Commonwealth Games bronze. Lynsey Sharp made the World Champs final, but she only has a 2:01.33 seasonal best and only ran 2:03.84 on Thursday night at Oxy; it may be tough to bounce back less than 48 hours later. Five-time NCAA champ Raevyn Rogers, 5th at World Indoors in March, is also formidable.
Women’s 1500 (Saturday, 7:47 p.m. ET): Kenyan Nelly Jepkosgei is favored
Kenya’s Nelly Jepkosgei ran 4:00 to finish second behind Semenya at the Diamond League opener in Doha two weeks ago and will be heavily favored to win here, but don’t forget about Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum, the World Indoor silver medalist in 2016 who won last year’s Birmingham Diamond League (at 3:58.09, she’s also the only one of these women who has ever broken 4:00). Charlene Lipsey is coming off a big 1500 pb of 4:07 at Swarthmore on Monday, while half of Joe Bosshard‘s currently-unnamed training group will be in action as Kaela Edwards and Dominique Scott are both entered here.
Men’s mile (8:09 p.m. ET): Nick Willis returns for his first outdoor race of 2018
Nick Willis, who turned 35 last month and is now in Year 13 of his professional career, is the headliner here and will make his 2018 outdoor debut after a leg injury kept him out of last month’s Commonwealth Games. Willis will be joined on the start line by Chris O’Hare, who, like Willis, made the final at Worlds last year but who, also like Willis, has battled injuries in 2018. A foot injury limited O’Hare to 8th-place finishes at World Indoors and Commonwealths, but with a month to heal and those two major championships behind him, hopefully he’s healthier now.
Both men will have their hands full with 23-year-old Kenyan Charles Simotwo, who finished 4th in the first two Diamond League meets of the year, including an impressive 3:33 in Shanghai. Plus there’s 2012 Olympic 5000 silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel and 20-year-old Drew Hunter, who will face his biggest test of the season to date.
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Men’s 800 (8:17 p.m. ET): Robby Andrews takes on Kenyan studs Jonathan Kitilit & Nicholas Kipkoech
For American fans, Robby Andrews is the obvious man to watch (though keep an eye out for high schooler Josh Hoey, who ran 1:47.67 indoors to break Andrews’ national high school record). After an indoor season that saw him fail to break 1:50 in his two 800s and drop out of the Wanamaker Mile, the 2017 U.S. champ looks to be back in form as he ran 3:38 to win at Swarthmore on Monday. Though Andrews has an 800 background (two-time NCAA champ, 1:44 pb), he’s overmatched by specialists Nicholas Kipkoech (3rd in Doha), Jonathan Kitilit (1:43 for 2nd in Shanghai), and Marcin Lewandowski (3rd in Shanghai). Given their recent form, Kitilit is the man to beat from that group. If Andrews can break into the top three here, that would constitute a great result.
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Women’s 5000 (8:27 p.m. ET): A Doha rematch between Caroline Kipkirui & Agnes Tirop
Right now, the 5,000 world lead is 15:08.61 by Kenya’s Rosemary Wanjiru. Expect that mark to come tumbling down as Caroline Kipkirui and Agnes Tirop — who waged an epic battle to the line in the 3000 in the Diamond League opener in Doha — are both entered here. Kipkirui and Tirop both ran 8:29 in that race, and both are better suited to the 5,000 than the 3,000 as Kipkirui has run three half marathons this year (including a sizzling 65:07 at RAK) and Tirop was the World XC champ in 2015 and the world 10,000 bronze medalist last year.
In the first two editions of this meet, the men’s 5,000 has gone very fast (12:59 in 2016, 13:01 in 2017) and, just like those races, there are two fast Africans in Kipkirui and Tirop who figure to separate from the field early. The difference is, those men’s races included Ethiopians such as Hagos Gebrhiwet or Muktar Edris who were incentivized to run fast to try to make the Ethiopian Olympic/World teams. No such incentive exists for Kipkirui or Tirop, so we may not see a time quite as fast, even though odds are good that the world lead of 15:08 gets broken.
adidas Men’s 3000 (8:50 p.m. ET): Ethiopian track stars Gebrhiwet & Edris vs. Kenyan road aces Kimeli & Kipruto
Day 1 of the meet ends with a whole bunch of fast guys in the men’s 3k. 5k world champ Muktar Edris and three-time global 5k medalist Hagos Gebrhiwet are the known quantities, but we’re excited to see what Kenyan youngsters Rhonex Kipruto (18) and Mathew Kimeli (20) can do. The two training partners ripped a couple of fast 10ks on the road at the Healthy Kidney 10k in New York on April 29, Kipruto winning in a US All-Comers record of 27:08 and Kimeli finishing second in 27:19 (Kipruto’s time was the fastest 10k on the roads since Leonard Komon‘s 26:44 world record eight years ago).
As good as Kipruto and Kimeli are though, the 3k may be too short for them. Per Tilastopaja, Kipruto has never raced anything shorter than 10k, while Kimeli has a 5k best of just 13:33 (though it came at altitude in Eldoret). If one of them can win over 3k here, it would be truly impressive, but chances are that Edris, Gebrhiwet or Cyrus Rutto (4th at Shanghai DL 5k) prevails in the shorter event.
Day 2 (Sprints)
Men’s 110 hurdles (2:03 p.m. ET): Orlando Ortega is favored
This race pits the reigning US indoor champ (Jarret Eaton, who also claimed silver at World Indoors) against the reigning US outdoor champ (Aleec Harris) but neither man will start as the favorite. That distinction belongs to Olympic silver medalist Orlando Ortega of Spain, who finished just .01 behind winner Omar McLeod at the Shanghai Diamond League last week. 2017 World Championship final Shane Brathwaite of Barbados rounds out the field.
Men’s 200 (2:10 p.m. ET): Red-hot Steven Gardiner hits the track again
With all due respect to Noah Lyles and Michael Norman, the world’s hottest sprinter right now is Steven Gardiner. The 22-year-old Bahamian earned 400 silver at Worlds last year behind Wayde van Niekerk, but it’s his running over 200 meters that has taken him to a new level in 2018. Gardiner entered the year with a pb of 20.63. In his first race of the year, he ran 20.35, but the 2.1 tailwind made the time just barely ineligible for records. That didn’t matter, because Gardiner went even faster his next time out (20.20, this time with a legal wind) before going supernova with his 19.75 in Coral Gables on April 7. That made him the fastest man ever in the month of April and moved him into a tie for 14th (with Carl Lewis and Joe DeLoach) on the all-time list. And Gardiner has kept on trucking in the 400 as well, recording the world’s only sub-44 clockings this year to cruise to wins in Doha and Shanghai. He’s on fire.
Watch the clock in this one. With no turns to worry about, van Niekerk ran 19.84 here last year and in his current form, Gardiner could go even faster.
Which makes us disappointed that he won’t face the biggest star of the meet in Noah Lyles. The 20-year-old Lyles is clearly a MEGA talent with a great personality, and the meet will want to promote the heck out of him considering it’s sponsored by his sponsor (adidas) and is run by the agency that represents him (Global Athletics & Marketing). But instead of facing Gardiner in the 200, Lyles is running the final event of the meet, the 150. Really?
The 200 should still be a great race as Gardiner will face Jereem Richards — last year’s Worlds bronze medalist and this year’s Commonwealth champ who ran 19.99 in Doha two weeks ago — but you can’t tell us the 200 wouldn’t be more fun if they subbed in Noah Lyles for his brother Josephus or Machel Cedenio. Yes, Lyles will almost certainly win the 150, which is good for his brand. But as fans of the sport, it would be much more fun to see Lyles run the 200 (even if he loses,w hich we don’t think would happen as he’s run 19.83 this year) against a couple of studs than win over a distance that nobody cares about.
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Women’s 100 (2:17 p.m. ET): World champ Tori Bowie vs. hurdle star Keni Harrison
World champ Tori Bowie is the headliner, and she’ll race here for the first time in almost a month (her last outing was a 22.75 200 win in Grenada on April 21). Expect a comfortable win for Bowie. But we’re interested to see how 100 hurdles world record holder Keni Harrison fares without the barriers. Per Tilastopaja, Harrison has only run two 100s since high school, the most recent an 11.35 from May 2016. With 12.20 hurdles speed, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Harrison approach 11 seconds on a fast track such as Hayward Field, but it will be more of a challenge to do it on the temporary layout in Boston.
Men’s 100 (2:25 p.m. ET): Former world champs Yohan Blake & Tyson Gay square off against Commonwealth champ Akani Simbine
South Africa’s Akani Simbine earned Commonwealth Games gold last month in Australia, edging out Yohan Blake in the process. Blake will get another shot at Simbine here on Sunday.
Women’s 150 (2:44 p.m. ET): Shaunae Miller-Uibo aims to challenge the world best
Shaunae Miller-Uibo is essentially the female equivalent of Steven Gardiner in that she’s from The Bahamas and a stud over both 200 and 400 meters (plus, unlike Gardiner, she has an Olympic gold medal). Miller-Uibo blitzed quality fields to win the 200 at the Commonwealth Games and Shanghai Diamond League, and she’ll take aim at the 150 here.
Miller-Uibo already has some odd-event world records as she’s the fastest ever in the indoor 300 (35.45) and straight 200 (21.76, which she ran at this meet last year). The mark to beat in this race is 16.30, which Tori Bowie clocked here last year. The 150 may favor Bowie, who went on to win the 100 at Worlds in 2017, a bit more than Miller-Uibo. But if you can run 22.06 for 200 into a headwind (as Miller-Uibo did last week), you’re gonna be pretty good in the 150 as well.
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Men’s 150 (2:52 p.m. ET): Noah Lyles brings the curtain down on the meet
We explained above why we’d rather see Lyles in the more competitive 200, but with that said, we’re still excited to see him run the 150. Not to sound too ominous, but fans of the sport should treat every chance they have to see a talent like Lyles as a blessing as he is a rare talent. While the optimist would argue If he’s this good now, just wait a few years until he hits his prime the realist would argue that injuries are a part of the sport, and can be particularly nasty for young sprinters. Two years ago, Trayvon Bromell and Andre De Grasse were set to take over the world of sprinting. Flash forward to 2018 and Bromell is totally MIA, having raced once since the start of last year, while De Grasse is slowly returning to competition after a hamstring issue (though he has yet to regain his pre-injury form). Yohan Blake has not been the same since his hamstring problems; who knows what Wayde van Niekerk will be like when he returns from his ACL tear?
All of this is to say that we’re happy that Lyles is healthy and running well. Don’t take it for granted.
As for Sunday’s race, Lyles’ biggest competition is Brit Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, who anchored Great Britain to 4×100 gold at Worlds last year and ran 20.37 (to Lyles’ 19.83) in Doha on May 4. We expect Lyles to win, but Mitchell-Blake actually has the faster 100 pb (9.99 to Lyles’ 10.14).
The world record for the straight 150 is 14.35 and it’s quite unlikely that that mark goes down considering it was set by Usain Bolt three months before he ran 9.58/19.19. In fact, as Athletics Weekly points out, no human has ever recorded a faster average speed in a race than Bolt did in that 150 in Manchester, with his 23.38 mph average just edging out his average speed in his 100 (23.35 mph) and 200 (23.31 mph) world records. If Lyles can even come within a few tenths of 14.35, that means he’s seriously fit right now.
Talk about the meet on our fan forum: 2018 adidas Boost Boston Games is Sat/Sunday. Lots of big stars will be there. Official Discussion Thread.