February 9, 2019
NEW YORK – 21-year-old Donavan Brazier got what he wanted. Johnny’s Gray’s indoor 800 American record of 1:45.00, which had stood since March 8, 1992 — more than five years before Brazier was even born — was broken today by Brazier, who became the fifth-fastest man in indoor history with a 1:44.41.
That’s the good news for Brazier.
The bad news for Brazier is he didn’t win the race as NCAA outdoor record holder Michael Saruni (1:43.25 pb) became the 2nd-fastest man in indoor history and won with a 1:43.98 clocking.
Russell Dinkins rabbited this one out very fast. Pre-race, they said he’d be shooting for a 51 at 400 but he took it out in 49.69 and Brazier was right behind him in 49.89 with Saruni a few meters back in 50.41. At 600, Brazier still had a few meters on Saruni (1:16.21 to 1:16.63) but Saruni soon started to come back on Brazier. Brazier still led coming off the final turn but he was tying up and had no response as Saruni took the lead and powered home to just the third sub-1:44 in indoor history (world record holder Wilson Kipketer broke 1:44 twice in his career, two days apart at Worlds in 1997, running 1:43.97 in the first round and 1:42.67 in the final). In addition to breaking Gray’s long-standing American record, Brazier moved to #5 on the all-time indoor performers’ list (with the 8th best mark ever).
Quick Take: One of the world’s top 800-meter training groups is located in El Paso, Texas
In 2018, Donavan Brazier ran incredibly fast at Millrose but lost to a Kenyan NCAA champion from UTEP. In 2019, Donavan Brazier ran even faster at Millrose, but lost to a Kenyan NCAA champion from UTEP.
Last year, it was Emmanuel Korir clocking 1:44.21 indoors to record — at the time — the fastest indoor 800 in 17 years, putting him #3 on the all-time list, with Brazier second in 1:45.35. This time, it was Korir’s training partner Michael Saruni who ran even faster — only Wilson Kipketer has ever gone faster than Saruni’s 1:43.98 today — as once again, Brazier’s blazing time (1:44.41) was relegated to second.
Korir and Saruni are both pros now, but both still train in El Paso under college coach (and 1988 Olympic champion) Paul Ereng. Korir was the best 800 runner in the world last year, and it’s quite clear that Saruni is very close to that level in 2019. That’s a scary talented group — even if it is just the two of them.
Saruni said also that he and Korir both train in the US shows it’s a new era in Kenya 800 running.
Quick Take: After knocking on the door, Brazier finally gets the AR
Brazier was equal parts happy and relieved in the mixed zone today. After running 1:45 indoors five times — including 1:45.11 and 1:45.10 last year — he finally dipped under the 1:45 barrier at Millrose to break Johnny Gray’s American record.
“It’s finally getting the monkey off the back,” Brazier said. “…It’s been on my mind for sure.”
Brazier said he could hear the PA announcer yelling the splits out during the race, and knew that after hitting 200 in 24.60 and 400 in 49.89, he was on track for something fast.
“I think we came through in 1:15-high, 1:16 (1:16.21, actually),” Brazier said. “I was like, as long as I don’t die right now, I should get it. I tried my best to hold Saruni off. He just got me today.
Surprisingly, Brazier said that running the American record was not the primary goal going in. He said that after coming from behind at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, he wanted to work on forcing a fast pace from the front and trying to hold off all challengers. That strategy obviously helped him break the AR, but Brazier said the primary goal was to win.
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