8 Takeaways from the 2019 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix
January 26, 2019
We recap the highlights and lowlights from Boston where Donavan Brazier sat and kicked on Clayton Murphy, Yomif Kejelcha looked amazing while Sydney McLaughlin didn’t and Jenny Simpson “borderline” embarrassed herself.
January 26, 2019
BOSTON — We recap the highlights and lowlights from the 2019 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix track and field meet for you below. If you missed the meet and need to catch up by seeing full, compiled results, go here.
To read the IAAF full meet recap, go here: Kejelcha impresses as Nageotte upsets Stefanidi.
To read the Race Results Weekly distance recap. go here: Fast Miles, Close 800 Highlight New Balance Indoor Grand Prix.
Quick Take #1: The men’s 800 was a thrilling race, and the tactics were fascinating
In our preview, we declared the men’s 800 the Race of the Night, and it more than lived up to the hype, with Donavan Brazier running down his NOP teammate Clayton Murphy to win narrowly in the final straight, 1:45.91 to 1:45.94.
One of our immediate observations confirmed something we already knew: Donavan Brazier is insanely talented. Brazier spent most of 2018 rehabbing an Achilles injury and only stepped on a track again the first week of January. Yet after three weeks of workouts, he’s already running 1:45 (indoors!) and beating out the US champ and Olympic bronze medalist. But this is a guy who ran 1:43 as a 19-year-old, so perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised.
Tactically, this race was really interesting as well. Murphy went to the front, and if you’ve watched Clayton Murphy race, you know he’s never at the front early.
“I wasn’t sure if [Brazier] was going to take it so I went for it,” Murphy said. “It was way out of my comfort zone. It’s gotta be one of the first races I’ve ever taken from the gun.”
Though he was ultimately not able to hold off Brazier, this was still a good performance from Murphy. Last year, he ran 1:46.61 indoors and ran 1:43.12 outdoors. In 2016, he ran 1:46.13 indoors and 1:42.93 outdoors. Today, he ran an indoor pb of 1:45.94 (he ran 1:50.47 on the same weekend last year).
Brazier’s tactics were equally fascinating. Brazier usually likes to run at the front or right off the shoulder of the leader, and though he did that for the first three laps, he was content to let Saul Ordonez pass him right before the bell. But Brazier stormed back on the back straight and timed his move perfectly to catch Murphy before the line. It was a tactically great race (although if we were him, we would have waited to try to pass Murphy until the turn was over instead of running extra distance on the turn as 50 meters is enough to do it).
“I just had to remain patient and not freak out like I’ve been known to do in earlier races when I’m not in the position I need to be the last 150 meters,” Brazier said.
Brazier viewed this race as a breakthrough tactically. One of the points of emphasis under new coach Pete Julian has been remaining patient and relaxed in the most hectic event in track and field.
“We talked about that, being in the mix and in the crowd where I can come out that last 150 meters when I’m boxed in,” Brazier said.
That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be in the pack for every race moving forward, however.
“I tried it, it worked out. I don’t know if I’ll do it again.”
Today was also supposed to be Brazier’s first post-race workout — a Nike Oregon Project staple. He was not a fan, but he was good-natured about it.
“That’s stupid,” Brazier said, with a smile on his face. “That’s crazy, right? That’s the last thing I want to think about when I’m toeing the line, is oh crap, I’ve got a hard workout after this. But nonetheless, I guess I’ve gotta go do that now.”
Though the plan was for Brazier, Murphy, and Kejelcha to drive to Harvard and do a post-race workout on their track, Brazier may have lucked out after all. Murphy and Kejelcha stayed at the Reggie Lewis Center and cranked out a session after the meet, but Brazier was nowhere to be seen.
Quick Take #2: The indoor mile world record could be under assault this year
Kejelcha has looked fantastic so far in 2019, first with his 2:18/3:52 double in Seattle two weeks ago and today with a convincing 3:51.70 win in the mile. And Kejelcha did almost all of the work himself as the rabbit only made it 600 meters, and from there Kejelcha looked in total control, unbothered that Kenya’s Bethwell Birgen was sitting right behind him. Kejelcha let him hang around until the bell with a string of 29s before shifting gears and running away with an easy three-second win thanks to a 28.14 final lap.
Today’s run was an Ethiopian national record, but Kejelcha has his sights set on bigger things. He’s running the Wanamaker Mile at Millrose, and when I asked him whether he would try for the world record there (Hicham El Guerrouj’s 3:48.45), he said “maybe.” But he also mentioned that he may come back to Boston University for a true world record attempt later in the season.
If he does that, the world record is certainly feasible. He would need a good rabbitting job (his NOP teammate Clayton Murphy would be the perfect candidate, but they may need to rely on someone slower), but he would be running in a race geared around him on an indoor track many believe to the be fastest in the world (BU’s track is definitely faster than the Reggie, and one media member told us Nick Willis said BU is worth two seconds in a mile over the Armory). Three seconds is a lot in the mile, but considering the ease with which Kejelcha pulled away to win in Seattle and today, sub-3:50 isn’t out of the question.
Quick Take #3: Sydney McLaughlin ran the worst of the three newly-minted New Balance women’s sprint stars
The three NCAA sprint stars that New Balance recently signed to pro contracts — Kendall Ellis, Gabrielle Thomas, and Sydney McLaughlin — all made their pro debuts for New Balance tonight. Ellis (36.97) and Thomas (37.03) were both in the 300 (in different heats; they each won their heat) while McLaughlin was in the 500, which she won in 69.46.
Converting a 300 or a 500 to a 400 equivalent isn’t that easy to do, but we asked our stat guru John Kellogg to do it and the conversions were as follows (he multiplies a 300 by 1.41 and divides a 500 by 1.31).
Equivalent 400 Times Run Tonight
Kendall Ellis 52.13
Gabrielle Thomas 52.22
Sydney McLaughlin 53.03
If 52.13 seems slow, please realize that the collegiate leader right now is 52.36. That being said, McLaughlin did run a 51.44 400 on February 3 last year, but this was the first 500 of her career — and her only indoor race of the 2019 season.
Quick Take #4: It can be hard to get a pro contract — even if you’re an American record holder
Ellis went viral for her heroics in delivering USC to an NCAA title last year, but that didn’t help her as much as you think in securing a pro contract as she only announced she had signed with New Balance on Wednesday. Ellis, who also won the NCAA indoor 400 title last year — in American record time — and owns a 49.99 pb (#6 in the world last year) said she didn’t even hear from New Balance until about four weeks ago.
“Honestly, I don’t know [why it took so long for me to sign a contract]” said Ellis, who is represented by Wes Felix (who also manages two huge names in Allyson Felix and Sydney McLaughlin). “I think it’s a difficult year to come out as a quarter miler. There’s so many women’s quarter milers right now, it’s an oversaturated field. I guess that’s just the business aspect of it, the reality. You can’t take it personally. I know I’m talented, I know I have great times and accolades to my name.”
Quick Take #5: Jenny Simpson was “borderline embarrass[ed]” with her performance tonight
Simpson was running her first indoor 5k in 10 years — and her first 5k, period, in over five years — and it did not go well. She was not disappointed by the time (15:33), as no one ran fast tonight, but to get beaten by Konstanze Klosterhalfen by 17+ seconds was demoralizing. Once Simpson realized the race was going to go slow, she began preparing herself for a change in pace. But Klosterhalfen forced that pace change around the halfway mark, Simpson had nothing and was gapped quickly.
“It’s borderline embarrassing,” Simpson said. “I was probably most prepared for it to be fast. And then when it was slow, I just didn’t feel like I could jump out of that pace. And that really surprised me a lot.”
Simpson admitted that since she doesn’t run many 5ks, she didn’t know exactly what it would take to run well in a race of that distance tonight — something that was evident by her result. But while she wasn’t pleased with how she ran, she said she’s not going to panic about the result of one indoor race.
“Psychologically, when you think you’re ready and you put yourself to the test and you don’t deliver, that takes a little bit of processing. But as far as what it means for my future in the 15, I don’t think a January 26 race, even if it was a 1500 meters, would worry me in August, September, October.”
We also quickly spoke to Stephanie Bruce, who was running her first indoor race ever at the age of 35. And despite running a marathon in November and December, Bruce managed to run a 5k PR of 15:44.77 (her outdoor best was 15:49.40) — and she did it by leading the first half of the race.
“I came out here to PR, so if I have to do the work, I’m really comfortable in the lead,” Bruce said. “I don’t feel like they’re sucking off me. I’m just like, keep running your rhythm. I kind of only had one gear today, which is not surprising where I’m at in training, having the marathon two months behind me, but I’ll take it.”
Quick Take #6: And the award for the breakthrough performance of the night goes to Elinor Purrier.
The first-year pro Elinor Purrier certainly didn’t come into the meet as unknown as she was the NCAA mile champion last year for New Hampshire. However, to run an outright lifetime PB in your first race of the year is unusual and that’s exactly what Purrier, now training under coach Mark Coogan, did in the women’s mile. She ran 4:24.88 to nab second in the women’s mile behind Canada’s Gabriela Stafford (4:24.80). That 4:24.88 is a big PB for Purrier no matter how you look at it as her mile PB was 4:26.55 and her 1500 pb was 4:07.79 and today’s run equates to a 4:05.22 1500.
Quick Take #7: Desire (and coaching) still matter — If you want to be great, you must be willing to move across the world
As mentioned above, Canada’s Gabriela Stafford won the women’s mile in 4:24.80, her second strong showing of the year as she smashed the Canadian 5000 record in her 2019 debut with a 14:57.45. It also was her second straight great showing since she decided to relocate from Canada to Scotland to train with Laura Muir and her coach Andy Young (though she’s back in Toronto temporarily to finish her degree).
The winner of the men’s mile was also someone who also has relocated across the globe to train — Yomif Kejelcha. So was the winner of the 5k tonight in Konstanze Klosterhalfen (who moved from Germany to Oregon to train with the NOP coaches). They all seem to be following in the footsteps of Mo Farah, who became really good after moving across the globe to train in the US.
One thing that hasn’t been mentioned enough about Farah is that he so wanted to be good that he was willing to relocate his entire family to train in the US. Lots of runners claim to be fully dedicated to being the best they can be, but when someone moves across the globe, it proves they want it very badly.
We’re not saying all runners need to move to another country to be great, but to be truly great, they need to be so dedicated that they’d at least consider it.
Quick Take #8: Edward Cheserek has been dealing with injuries and “family stuff” lately, but he doesn’t want to talk about it
Last year, Edward Cheserek completed a thrilling two-day double by taking down Olympic bronze medalist Hagos Gebrhiwet in the 3k here, but tonight Gebrhiwet earned some revenge, laying the smackdown over the final mile to win handily, 7:37.41 to 7:42.93.
Cheserek wasn’t too down on himself after the race, however.
“It was a good race for me,” Cheserek said. “Coming up from a little injury and then opening up, I think that was what I wanted, to see the pace if I still have the speed.”
He didn’t want to talk much about his injury, however. When we asked him what the injury was, he told us “I had something a little bit in my knee. But move on.” When we asked about when he had been battling the injury, he refused to answer, saying only, “Ask me something else, man.”
He also mentioned that he’s been having “a lot of issues — a little bit injuries and family stuff” which has led to inconsistent training, but he believes those issues are now in the past.
“I think this is all set to go back and focus on things that I want to do.”
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