Noah Lyles False-Starts for the First Time Ever (Kind Of), Marcin Lewandowski Kicks to Victory Again, & Akani Simbine Runs 9.92

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By Jonathan Gault
June 16, 2019

Editor’s note: Below you will find our takeaways from today’s adidas Boost Boston Games. We don’t recap the whole meet for you. For full results, go here.

BOSTON — Noah Lyles has never false-started.

That statement remains true, though anyone who gathered to watch Lyles race on the temporary track in Boston’s Back Bay at the 2019 adidas Boost Boston Games knows that Lyles got away with one today. Running the final event of the day, the men’s 150 meters, Lyles clearly left the blocks early (but was not disqualified) before getting it right the second time around, dusting the field over the last 50 meters to run 14.69, .08 faster than he ran at this meet last year and #4 on the all-time list behind Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, and Walter Dix.

“Wait for the announcer to kick you out and then it’s a kick-out, but they put up the green card, so it wasn’t a false start,” Lyles said after the race, his wide grin spreading even wider.

The fact that Lyles was not disqualified — thus keeping his lifelong streak of never false-starting alive — was the right decision, if not necessarily the by-the-book legal one. Track & field has been known to shoot itself in the foot from time to time, but for Lyles — the star attraction at an exhibition meet staged by his own agency, Global Athletics — to be disqualified would have been monumentally stupid.

At USAs or Worlds? Throw him out. Them’s the rules.

But today? Who benefits from preventing the fans who came out on a gray, drizzling afternoon, from seeing the brightest star at a meet with no stakes? No one.

Common sense thankfully prevailed, and Lyles, who, somewhat ironically, was trying to focus on his start today, showed what makes him special: a rare ability to hold his speed at the end of the race, which allowed him to pull away from runner-up Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake of Great Britain (15.10) to win easily.

Lyles left with the victory, and a reminder to be extra careful in the starting blocks:

“They say the first time, just get the jitters out, so you make sure it never happens again,” Lyles said.

Results
1. Noah Lyes, USA 14.69
2. Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Great Britain 15.10
3. Jereem Richards, Trinidad & Tobago 15.17
4. Marqueze Washington, USA 15.25
5. Warren Weir, Jamaica 15.44

Lyles wasn’t the only man to run fast today in Boston, as South Africa’s Akani Simbine clocked 9.92 (fourth-fastest in the world this year) to win the men’s 100. And, for the first time in the four-year history of this meet, we saw the middle-distance athletes take to the roads, with men’s and women’s 600s and miles that finished on the elevated 200m track that ran down Boylston Street just past the Boston Marathon finish line.

Below, a recap of the most compelling mid-d race of the day, the men’s mile, followed by a few takeaways from today’s action.

*Full results

***

Men’s mile: Marcin Lewandowski holds off Drew Hunter, doubles up after Oslo win

There were two guys in this field who raced in this week’s Bislett Games in Oslo, Pole Marcin Lewandowski (who won the Dream Mile in 3:52) and American Drew Hunter (who ran a pb of 7:39 in the 3k). You might think that racing in one city on Thursday night and another city 3,500 miles away on Sunday afternoon might be a challenge.

But there’s a reason those guys were running a Diamond League: they’re both studs. And they showed it today, Lewandowski edging Hunter, 3:57.4 to 3:57.6, to cap a huge week: on Thursday, he celebrated his 32nd birthday and earned his first DL win since 2010.

Despite only arriving in town last night, Lewandowski was always going to be tough to beat if he was still around with 100 meters to go, and that was the case today. With a quarter mile to go, nine guys were within a second of leader Sam Parsons, and once they climbed the ramp up onto the temporary track on Boylston Street, Lewandowski got into position to launch his kick. He couldn’t gain much separation, with Brit Chris O’Hare and American Eric Avila both vying for the lead as well, but he got enough by the finish line, holding off a late-charging Hunter, who began his kick just a little too late.

“I’m really tired so I was praying that the race would be slow,” Lewandowski said. “Slow is better for me, because I’m the 800-meter guy.”

Hunter admitted that he wasn’t feeling good at all with 400 meters to go, and it took everything he had at that point just to cover moves and not get dropped.

“I surprisingly made up some good ground the last probably 80 meters, but really I was just hanging on as best I could and then I think the other guys might have gone like literally a second or two too soon, I just didn’t get them at the end,” Hunter said. “…I’ll be honest, I’m pretty pleased with that coming off of Oslo.”

Results
1. Marcin Lewandowski, Poland 3:57.4
2. Drew Hunter, USA 3:57.6
3. Chris O’Hare, Great Britain 3:57.6
4. Eric Avila, USA 3:57.8
5. Nick Willis, New Zealand 3:57.9
6. Sam Prakel, USA 3:58.1
7. Sam Parsons, Germany 3:58.7
8. Daniel Herrera, Mexico 3:58.8
9. Jordan Gusman, Australia 3:59.6
10. Jordan Mann, USA 4:00.3
11. Brian Barraza, USA 4:03.8
12. Mac Fleet, USA 4:07.8
13. Robby Andrews, USA 4:09.1

Marcin Lewandowski is hoping to get down to 3:31-3:32 range this year

Lewandowski is an accomplished 800 runner, a 1:43 guy who was 4th at the 2011 and 2013 Worlds and has won titles European titles (outdoors 2010 and indoors 2015), but since 2017 he’s been focused on the 1500. He won Euro Indoors that year in the 1500 and finished 7th at Worlds, and since then he’s continued to impress, earning World Indoor silver in 2018 and another Euro Indoor gold in March, taking down Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the process.

As he showed in Oslo, Lewandowski still has plenty of speed in his 32-year-old legs, and is a threat in any tactical race (when he medalled at World Indoors, the winning time was 3:58). Still, Lewandowski can put in the miles. He said that over this winter, there were weeks when he would put in as many as 110 miles, and even when he was an 800 runner, he ran 140-150 km/week (87-93 mpw).

Drew Hunter is still undecided between the 1500 and 5000 at USAs

Hunter has had a strong 2019 so far, winning the 2-mile at USA Indoors, clocking a 5000 pb of 13:21 at Payton Jordan, and running 7:39 for 3k in Oslo. Hunter believes that 3k is his best distance right now, but, unfortunately for him, that’s not a distance offered at Worlds outdoors. Which means he has to choose.

If Hunter had to choose right now, it would be an easy decision. He has the World standard in the 5k and not the 1500, and USATF isn’t allowing athletes to chase the standard after USAs this year.

Hunter said that the 1500 is a “glory event,” so if he does get the standard in that event this year, he’d probably run that at USAs (he said he has to sit down with agent Ray Flynn and decide whether it’s worth trying to get the 1500 standard before USAs). But long term, he believes his best event is the 5k.

“If I’m a good 1500 runner, I can be pretty deadly if I get strong enough to run a good 5,” Hunter says.

Nikki Hiltz stays hot, Robby Andrews continues to struggle

Three days ago and 17 miles west, Nikki Hiltz won an 800 and Robby Andrews finished dead last in an 800 at the Adrian Martinez Classic in Concord. It was more of the same today, as Hiltz separated late to win the women’s mile in 4:31.6 over Kenya’s Violah Lagat while Andrews finished last in the men’s mile in 4:09.1. Hiltz now has six wins from seven races outdoors in 2019.

Akani Simbine throws his hat into the 100m ring

I wasn’t expecting any truly fast times in the sprints today given the cool, damp conditions (60s and rainy) and the temporary track. In the three previous editions of this meet, the winning times in the men’s 100 were 10.23, 10.21, and a wind-aided 9.99; in 2016, Yohan Blake went as far as to call the track “atrocious” for how bouncy it was.

One key difference: in previous years, the meet has been held on Charles Street in the middle of Boston Common, which slants, making it a challenge to build a perfectly even track. This year, the track was on Boylston Street, which is flat.

Simbine, who was 5th at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds, took advantage. Despite a tight turnaround of 68 minutes between the semis and final — Simbine said he basically just sat on a chair and chatted with his coach between races — he ran 9.92 in the final, which is .03 faster than his Diamond League opener in Shanghai and puts him #4 on the 2019 world list. Simbine believes his pb, which doubles as the South African record at 9.89, could soon fall.

“I believe that I can break that record and get closer to the African record (9.85), and hopefully break our African record as well,” Simbine said.

Simbine is not alone in that quest; Divine Oduduru of Nigeria and Texas Tech barely missed the record at NCAAs, running 9.86. Watching those two battle Americans Lyles and Christian Coleman this year will be fun.


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