2022 World Indoors AM Day 1: Isaiah Harris Impresses, A New Kenyan 800 Star? & More

By Robert Johnson and Jonathan Gault
March 18, 2022

BELGRADE, Serbia – The 2022 World Athletics Indoor Championships began this morning with a bunch of qualifying rounds and one final, the men’s triple jump, which was won by Cuba’s Lazaro Martinez in a humongous personal best of 17.64 meters to defeat Olympic champion Pedro Pablo Pichardo (second despite a Portuguese indoor record of 17.46). American Donald Scott earned his first global medal in third (17.21) as two-time world indoor champ Will Claye of the US was 4th (17.19). 

It was a good morning session for American mid-d and distance runners as all five entrants – Bryce Hoppel and Isaiah Harris in the men’s 800, Dillon Maggard in the men’s 3000, and Josette Norris and Heather MacLean in the women’s 1500 – advanced to their respective finals. Harris looked the best of the bunch, winning his heat by almost a full second after a commanding move just before the bell, while MacLean was the shakiest as she had to rely on a time qualifier after finishing 4th in heat 3 (the top three qualified automatically, and MacLean was .08 back of third). Both Hoppel and Norris also looked smooth and in control but neither won their heat.

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A few notable international names did not advance. Great Britain’s Elliot Giles, the second-fastest man in history in the indoor 800, was injured in his warmup and withdrew prior to his 800 prelim. Kenya’s Collins Kipruto, who ran 1:43 last year outdoors, was struggling to hold on to a qualifying spot, stumbled late and did not advance either. In the men’s 3000, Berihu Aregawi of Ethiopia, the world leader and fifth-fastest man in history at 7:26.20, looked totally off his game and was dropped before the bell in heat 3, finishing 6th in 7:58.59, not enough to make it through. Neither American woman advanced to the 400m semis either, as Jessica Beard (52.72, 3rd in heat 2) and Lynna Irby (52.78, 4th in heat 4) were both eliminated in the first round.

Below we give you our biggest quick takes from the morning session. *Full Results

Isaiah Harris: “It’s very realistic that we (Team USA) could go 1-2”

No one looked better this morning than American 800 man Isaiah Harris, who closed the last lap of his 800 prelim in 26.35 to win by .97 of a second in 1:47.00. Harris hadn’t been to a World Champs since 2017 outdoors and had never made the final before today, but he now looks well-positioned to continue America’s medal streak in the event. Harris is aiming higher than that, however. When we asked him about his gameplan for the final, he said it was the same as today: “Win.”

Harris won’t be the only American in Saturday’s final as US champ Bryce Hoppel also made it. And like Harris, he will enter the race with the aim of winning it.

“If everything comes together, we’re going for the gold,” Hoppel said. “I think the energy’s there, the strength and we’ve just gotta execute.”

When informed of Hoppel’s comments, Harris said, “I’d expect no less from him…It’s very realistic that we could go 1-2.”

The US has a great recent history in this event – gold and bronze from Boris Berian and Erik Sowinski in 2016, silver from Drew Windle in 2018 – and a 1-2 finish on Saturday is certainly possible. The fact that both are in the final is a huge first step as just making the 800 final is tough at global championships (though slightly easier in 2022 – previously World Athletics ran a six-man 800 final at World Indoors, but they’re doing eight this year). But Spaniard Mariano Garcia, who beat Hoppel at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, also looked strong in winning heat 3, while 17-year-old Kenyan Noah Kibet, the bronze medalist at the World U20 champs last year, was fantastic in heat 1. 

Below we show you the last-lap splits of each heat winner (Canadian Marco Arop won heat 3) and winning times so you can compare them.

Heat  Heat 1 – Kibet Heat 2 – Arop Heat 3 – Garcia Heat 4 – Harris
Last Lap 26.94  26.43 25.99 26.35  
Winning Time 1:48.31 1:48.13  1:48.32  1:47.00

17-year-old Kenyan Noah Kibet was the revelation of the morning session

Watching the first heat of the first round of the men’s 800 today, you’d never have guessed that Kenya’s Noah Kibet was running just his 6th indoor race of his life and had finished in 5th in his last race on the circuit in Lievin. 

Today, he was third at 600 but put in a huge spurt and dominated the final lap, clocking 26.94 as he won the heat by 0.46 over Hoppel, one of the pre-race favorites. We didn’t have Kibet as a medal contender before today but most definitely do now. That being said, his last lap close was the slowest of the day and his winning time was the second slowest of the day.

The good news for Bryce Hoppel fans is Hoppel indicated to us that he was holding back and content to stay in second. About a half hour before the race, World Athletics said the top 2 in each race would qualify for final whereas at one point it was going to be winner and next four best times. Most runners we talked to seemed to supportive of that decision as they could focus on racing instead of trying to hit a time.

Donavan Brazier may not be the only 800 runner on the US 4×400 team in Belgrade

The 4×400 prelims and final are both on the same day, with the prelims at 11:10 a.m. local time Sunday and the final at 7:40 p.m. Add in three rounds of the 400 in two days (prelims and semis Friday, final Saturday), and US 400 runners will be busy at these championships. As a result, Harris said it’s possible that he and/or Hoppel will run a leg of the 4×400 in the prelims or Sunday. That means the post-race celebrations might be limited if either wins a medal in the 800, as the 800 final is the night before the 4×400 prelims.

Ethiopia’s dreams of a 1-2-3 sweep in the men’s 3000 are over before the final

Before the meet, we discussed the possibility of Ethiopia going 1-2-3 in the men’s 3000 – something no country has done in any event in the history of the World Indoor Championships. That dream is now dead as Berihu Aregawi, the world leader at 7:26.20, was only 6th in heat 3 in 7:58.59 and did not advance to the final. We tried talking to Aregawi in the mixed zone but he did not understand us given his limited proficiency in English, so we don’t know exactly what went wrong. Heading into World Indoors, we wondered if was carrying an injury considering he hadn’t raced since he gave Daniel Komen’s indoor 3000 world record a scare on January 28. That certainly seems to be the case given how he ran today.

Olympic 10,000 champ Selemon Barega wants to double in Eugene

We caught up with the Olympic 10,000 champ Selemon Barega, after his race and he had a few interesting things to say. Barega ran the first 1600 of heat 2 of the men’s 3000 midpack (4:21.80 for Barega) before going to the front and controlling things all the way home, getting the win in a negative-split 7:51.42 (4:05.50 1st half, 3:45.92 2nd half), 

He said today’s race was very “easy” but admitted it’s different coming into a race as the Olympic champion as he’s the “target” everyone is aiming for. He said after the Olympics that he took a “long time rest” and that he’d only had “one month training” before this, which can’t be entirely true as he debuted for 2022 on February 17 in 7:30.66. Regardless, it’s clear the focus for him is World outdoors in Eugene where he said he’d like to double. “Yes my target [is the]  double but it’s dependent on the federation.”

Geordie Beamish expects a fast final and is hoping to PR

Running in his first global championship, the Kiwi Beamish was content to hang at the back of the pack for most of his 3000m prelim. But he was in position when it counted, swinging wide just before the bell and then riding the shoulder of Selemon Barega the rest of the way to qualify with ease for the final thanks to a 27.10 last lap.

The big-kicking Beamish knows that his best shot at a medal is a slow race, but he thinks it’s unlikely Sunday’s final goes as slow as his prelim today, which was won in 7:51.

“I think there’s no way we’re running 7:50 again,” Beamish said. “I’d love to get a PR (his current best is 7:39 from Millrose) and run fast and maybe fight for a medal.”

That said, the odds of a slow final increased when world leader Berihu Aregawi – the most likely man to push the pace – bombed out in today’s prelims. And the winning times of the last three World Indoor finals aren’t particularly fast: 8:14, 7:57, and 7:54. If that is the case, and Beamish is in position at the

The Bowerman Track Club’s Marc Scott made sure he got the win in heat 3 of the men’s 3000 and feels like he’s ready for any type of final

Even though the top 4 in each heat auto advanced to the final, Scott kicked for the win in 7:54.90 in heat #3 of the men’s 3000 (5th was 7:57.24).

“It’s always great to win the heat. It brings me a little more confidence,” said Scott. “It’s just nice to get the heat win and spin the legs a little bit.”

As for the final, Scott sounded confident he can contend for a medal. He said he’s “definitely ready” and feels like he’s got the “tools” to do well in any type of race but doesn’t expect things to lag for too long. He admitted it was disappointing to miss the “quick 10k” where training partners Grant Fisher and Moh Ahmed set national records but said he’s been focused on excelling at World Indoors since early December.

“I made it known [to coach Jerry Schumacher] this is what I wanted to do. I’ve never been to a major indoors,” said Scott. “I wanted to establish myself indoors. It’s a little step in the puzzle on to a big summer ahead.”

Kenya’s Jacob Krop didn’t let a fall prevent him from making the final

In the first heat of the men’s 3000 prelims, the results of the fastest heat of the day where the top 7 finishers all made the final (the third time qualifier was 7:51.89) don’t tell the whole story as there was a fall early in the race involving Kenya’s Jacob Krop. The 20-year-old Krop, who was 6th at the 2019 Worlds and 3rd in the DL final last year, ended up getting up and auto qualifying in second in 7:46.43 behind Olympic steeple silver medallist Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia (7:46.21), but he had a pretty big gash on his leg after this one.

Dillon Maggard auto-qualifies for the final

 

The US only had one entrant in the men’s 3000 after US runner-up Emmanuel Bor withdrew last week, but Maggard, who is currently unsponsored, made sure the US will have a finalist as he finished 4th in heat 1 in 7:48.58 to grab an auto qualifier.

Josette Norris thinks she is in better shape than when she ran 3:59 and finished 3rd in the Diamond League final last summer

Norris is a World Championship rookie but didn’t run like it today as she was near the front of her prelim throughout and cruised into the final in second place. In the final, the gold medal will almost certainly go to world record holder Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia, but silver and bronze are up for grabs and Norris has as good a shot as anyone. Remember, last year she was 3rd in the DL 1500 final behind only Faith Kipyegon and Sifan Hassan, and Norris said that based on her recent workouts, she thinks she’s even fitter than that right now.

“In the Diamond League I ran 4:00 a couple times and then that 3:59 and I think I’m ready to go under a little bit more,” Norris said.

Whether she gets the opportunity in Saturday’s final likely depends on whether Tsegay chooses to make it fast, but no matter how the race shakes out, Norris will have a great chance to medal.

Heather MacLean is hoping to run her best race in the 1500 final

MacLean was toward the back of the pack for most of the third heat of the women’s 1500, and though she did make it to the lead pack by the bell, she could not get around third placer Sara Kuivisto of Finland and missed out on one of the three auto qualifiers. But she made the final on time and channeled Jim Valvano – appropriate given the time of year – to describe her race.

“Survive and advance,” MacLean said. “I wish I had a little bit stronger last two laps, but every race is a learning experience, so I learned from it a lot.”

Based on today, MacLean will have a tough time contending for a medal on Saturday, but it’s worth remembering that she barely made the Olympic Trials final last year before going on to make the team.

No Americans made the semifinals in the women’s 400

America didn’t send its best 400 runners to World Indoors as outdoor stars such as Allyson Felix, Sydney McLaughlin, and Dalilah Muhammad skipped the indoor season and the top collegians were all focused on NCAAs. The two American entries for this meet, Lynna Irby (51.88 sb) and Jessica Beard (52.05 sb), were seeded just 9th and 13th. Still, with 12 advancing from today’s first round, you’d expect at least one of them to qualify. It is startling to see no American 400 runners in the semifinals of a major championship as both women were well off their sbs (52.72 for Beard, 52.78 for Irby).

Cuba’s Lazaro Martinez jumped out of his mind today

BELGRADE, SERBIA – MARCH 18: Gold Medallist Lazaro Martinez of Cuba CUB celebrates after the Men’s Triple Jump on Day One of the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 2022 at Belgrade Arena on March 18, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images for World Athletics)

Martinez, who had not competed at a global championships since London 2017 (he was 12th as a 19-year-old), entered today’s men’s triple jump final as the #1 seed thanks to his 17.21m jump in Lievin on February 17. So it was not a total shock that he won the gold medal today. What was a shock is how far he jumped to do it. Before today, Martinez had a career best jump of 17.28, which he achieved outdoors back in 2018. Yet on his very first jump today, he improved that best by 36 centimeters (14 inches) to 17.64 and, to show it wasn’t a fluke, jumped 17.62 in round four. Olympic champ Pedro Pablo Pichardo of Portugal jumped well – his 17.46 was an indoor pb – but he was no match for Martinez today.

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