Weekend Preview: Your Guide to BU, Lilac GP, Dr. Sander Invite, & More
By Jonathan Gault
January 25, 2023
Two weeks ago, we had the Houston Half Marathon. Last week, USA Cross Country. Now it’s indoor track’s time to shine. From Boston to Spokane, and even across the pond to Europe, there’s a ton of indoor action on tap this weekend.
You may want to dip out of work early on Friday as the 2023 World Athletics Indoor Tour begins in Karlsruhe, Germany (2:00 p.m. ET). Then it’s over to Boston for the John Thomas Terrier Classic where a number of US-based pros will be chasing fast times — Luis Grijalva, Yared Nuguse, Mario Garcia Romo, and Hobbs Kessler are among the stars entered. Plus the last two US champions at 10,000, Woody Kincaid and Joe Klecker, headline a hot 5,000 that has the potential to dip under 13:00. The nightcap is the Lilac Grand Prix in Spokane featuring Sinclaire Johnson, Cole Hocker, and Clayton Murphy and the good news is there is a free broadcast for that meet which also only lasts 75 minutes — 9:15-10:30 p.m. ET (free live stream by Tracklandia; for more on the Lilac GP, check out this week’s Track Talk podcast as we talked to meet director and UAC coach Pete Julian).
Then on Saturday, there’s the Dr. Sander Invitational at the Armory, where Sage Hurta-Klecker and Ajee’ Wilson will chase the American record in the 1000 meters and Alicia Monson, Josette Norris, Courtney Wayment, Sinta Vissa, and Katelyn Tuohy will compete in a stacked mile. And for good measure, there’s a loaded college meet as well — the Razorback Invitational at Arkansas, which will feature the first collegiate 800 race for two studs: World U20 champ Roisin Willis of Stanford and NCAA 400 hurdles champ Britton Wilson of Arkansas.
The Ajee’ vs Sage Race is our Race of the Week which we previewed along with all the other weekend action in our Supporters Club only podcast. Not a Supporters Club member? Join today.
(Video clip on Ajee vs Sage below).
That’s a lot to keep tabs on. We’ve distilled the very best elements from each meet to produce this guide to the weekend’s action. And be sure to check back on LetsRun.com this weekend as we’ll have boots-on-the-ground coverage from Boston and New York with interviews and analysis.
Init Indoor Meeting (Karlsruhe, Germany)
When: Friday, 2-4 p.m. ET (live stream, free on youtube for select territories)
Meet Preview: World Athletics Indoor Gold Season Kicks off Friday in Karlsruhe – Full Meet Preview Mid-d and distance wise, the meet has a women’s 800, men’s 1500 and 3ks for both genders.
Less than 48 hours from the meet, Karlsruhe still hasn’t announced full fields (note to organizers: this is a problem!) but based on press releases there are two events worth watching: the women’s 60 and the women’s 3,000. The 60 includes reigning World Indoor champion Mujinga Kambundji of Switzerland, 2019 Euro indoor champ Ewa Swoboda of Poland, and 2019 world 200 champ Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain. The 3,000 meters includes four Ethiopians who earned medals at World Indoors or World Outdoors last year: Lemlem Hailu (World Indoor 3,000 gold), Werkuha Getachew (World Outdoor steeple silver), Axumawit Embaye (World Indoor 1500 silver), and Dawit Seyaum (World Outdoor 5,000 gold). Expect a fast winning time.
John Thomas Terrier Classic (Boston)
When: Friday & Saturday, all day (live stream on FloTrack, sub required)
Indoor races at BU mean one thing: fast times. If you’re someone who prefers racing over time-trialing, you may want to skip this one and watch the Lilac Grand Prix instead. But I’ll be watching closely in Boston because the On Athletics Club boys just told the world they’re ready to rip and I want to see what they can do. (In case you missed it, the OAC recently did a workout posted by Citius Mag where six athletes ran sub-4:00 for 1600 at 5,400 feet in Boulder).
There are some women’s races on Saturday but the two best races of the meet are both men’s races on Friday:
Men’s 5,000 (7:35 p.m. ET): Klecker looks to join sub-13:00 club
Last season, Joe Klecker rabbited his OAC teammate Olli Hoare to an Australian indoor record of 13:09 in the 5,000 meters. Now it’s Hoare’s turn to return the favor as he’ll be pacing Klecker and the rest of a strong field in Boston. The target pace is 13:05, which will give the field a shot to hit the World Championship standard of 13:07.00, but Klecker will be hoping to pick it up and become the 11th American sub-13:00 (and just the second indoors) after running 13:04 twice in 2022.
Woody Kincaid is already in the sub-13:00 club and figures to be Klecker’s top competition. Jonas Raess (13:07), Adriaan Wildschutt (13:09), Eduardo Herrera (13:11), Geordie Beamish (13:12), Morgan McDonald (13:13), Wesley Kiptoo (13:14), and Morgan Beadlescomb (13:20) are also entered. And keep an eye on the lone collegian in the field, Tennessee’s Dylan Jacobs. He ran an American collegiate indoor record of 13:14 at BU last year; the overall collegiate indoor record is Lawi Lalang‘s 13:08.28 from 2012.
Men’s 3,000 (5:25 p.m. ET): Serious talent
Half a dozen guys could win this race. Yared Nuguse set the collegiate record on this track last year while running for Notre Dame (7:38.13) and looked smooth as could be in OAC’s workout last week; he’s joined by teammate Mario Garcia Romo, the reigning NCAA indoor mile champ and 4th placer in the 1500 at Worlds. Another 4th placer at Worlds, Luis Grijalva, is also entered (Grijalva is also running the mile earlier in the day), as is 19-year-old American Hobbs Kessler, who opened up his 2023 with a pair of wins at home in Michigan. NAU star Drew Bosley is running too.
Two names you may not be as familiar with: Addisu Yihune and Samuel Firewu, both from Ethiopia. Learn them. Yihune ran 12:58 in 2021 and was the World U20 champ in the 5,000 last year; Firewu took World U20 silver in the steeple and ran 8:19 in 2022.
Lilac Grand Prix (Spokane)
When: Friday, 9:15-10:30 p.m. ET (free live stream by Tracklandia)
A number of West Coast-based pros will be opening up at this World Athletics silver meet organized by Nike Union Athletics Club coach Pete Julian, who joined us on this week’s LetsRun.com Track Talk Podcast to tell us all about it. (Competing in World Athletics label meets is becoming more and more important in getting world ranking points for the World Championships).
The most competitive race should be the men’s 800. Kenya’s Noah Kibet, who earned World Indoor silver last year at 17 and has been training under Julian this winter, faces 2021 NCAA indoor champ Charlie Hunter and veteran US pro Isaiah Harris. The women’s 800 is pretty deep as well and features four former NCAA champions (Sammy Watson, Aaliyah Miller, Kaela Edwards, Michaela Meyer).
I’m most interested in the season debuts of two of America’s top milers, Sinclaire Johnson and Cole Hocker. For Johnson, entered in the 1500 (9:58 p.m. ET), the big question is whether she can remain at the high level she demonstrated in 2022. Johnson was sensational last year: she ran a personal best of 3:58.85, dominated the 1500 at USAs, and was the top American at Worlds (6th). It was a huge breakthrough after a largely frustrating year with the Bowerman Track Club in 2021.
Still just 24, Sinclaire Johnson is smack in the middle of her prime. But, as my boss Robert Johnson (no relation) likes to point out, Sinclaire’s year with Bowerman, despite middling race results, likely produced residual strength gains that helped Sinclaire in 2022. Combine that with a switch to more 800/1500 style training under Julian and she exploded last year. Can she keep it going in 2023 without the same Schumacher-forged endurance base?
Hocker, who will be repping the retooled Oregon Track Club, will run the 3,000 on Friday (10:13 p.m. ET), his first race after a frustrating 2022 campaign. A stress reaction in his foot derailed his season and saw Hocker bomb out of the USA prelims in the 1500, but it’s worth remembering that before that, Hocker was actually running faster than in his historic 2021 season. Last year, Hocker ran pbs in the mile (3:50.35), 3k (7:39.83), and 5k (13:08.55) and won US indoor titles in the 1500 and 3,000. There will be no shortage of challengers in the 1500 this year domestically, but Hocker is a humongous talent and still just 21 years old. Let’s see what he can do now that he’s healthy again.
Dr. Sander Invitational (New York)
When: Saturday, 12-2 p.m. ET (live stream on USATF.TV+, sub required)
There’s some intrigue in the men’s mile, where the winner will earn a spot in the Wanamaker Mile on February 11: American indoor 1000m record holder Shane Streich, 2019 US indoor 2-mile champ Drew Hunter, and Eric Holt, the 4th placer at USAs in the outdoor 1500 last year, are all entered. But the two marquee races come in the women’s middle distances.
Women’s mile (12:16 p.m. ET): OAC women take on Katelyn Tuohy
On Athletics Club beefed up its women’s team by signing 3:59 American Josette Norris and NCAA champion Sinta Vissa of Italy, and both women will make their 2023 debut in this race against Taylor Made Elite’s Courtney Wayment and Whittni Morgan and NCAA XC champion Katelyn Tuohy of NC State. Tuohy hasn’t run a mile since 2019. Her pb of 4:33.87 dates to her sophomore year of high school, though she’s run 4:06 for 1500. If she’s in shape, she should have the chance to run well under 4:30 given the competition assembled.
The woman generating the most buzz ahead of this race is Alicia Monson. Coming off a 2022 season in which Monson ran 8:26, 14:31, and almost won a Diamond League, expectations are high for the 23-year-old Monson in 2023 and her 4:26 1600 in a workout last weekend poured gasoline on that fire. Given the Boulder altitude and rolling start, that’s worth roughly 4:23 for a full mile or 4:04 for 1500 — a hefty improvement on Monson’s official pbs (4:38 and 4:07). Monson’s main focus indoors is Millrose — her coach Dathan Ritzenhein believes she’s in shape to run 8:20 for 3,000 there — but clearly she’s ready to run a fast mile as well and will get her shot Saturday.
Women’s 1000 (1:45 p.m. ET): Wilson vs. Hurta-Klecker and the American record
Initially, this race was billed as a solo attempt on the American record by Sage Hurta-Klecker. But with the addition of Ajee’ Wilson on Wednesday, it’s now the best head-to-head matchup of the weekend: Hurta-Klecker, who went on a tear during the second half of 2022 by running 1:57.85 for 800 and finishing 3rd at the Diamond League final, versus Wilson, the reigning World Indoor champion at 800. Hurta-Klecker clearly thinks she’s in shape if organizers are billing this as an AR attempt, and it’s unlikely Wilson would want to join in at the last minute just to get her ass kicked. So it’s a good bet Wilson is fit, too.
Wilson has been unbeatable indoors in recent years. Here are the streaks she will carry into Saturday’s race:
- 13 straight indoor wins (last loss: 2018 World Indoor 800 vs Francine Niyonsaba)
- 26 straight indoor wins vs. non-DSD athletes (last loss: 2016 Gotham Cup mile vs Marielle Hall)
- 16 straight wins at the Armory (last loss: 2013 Millrose 600 vs Alysia Montaño)
Hurta-Klecker, 24, is just entering her prime while Wilson, 28, is leaving hers, but Wilson is 4-0 lifetime against Hurta-Klecker lifetime (all in 2022) and won’t go down easy. That being said, the 1000m distance favors Hurta-Klecker given her background (NCAA mile champ in 2021).
What about the American record? Jen Toomey‘s mark of 2:34.19 from 2004 has stood nearly two decades in part because no one ever races the indoor 1000 (Wilson hasn’t run it since 2019, when she ran 2:34.71 in the USA final). Toomey’s lifetime best was 1:59.64, not close to Wilson (1:55.61) or Hurta-Klecker (1:57.85), but she was a decent 1500 runner (4:06 pb) and was in great shape when she set the record in the winter of 2004, running that 1:59.64 pb indoors and finishing 4th at World Indoors in the 800. Her 1000 pb may actually be the best mark of her career, with World Athletics’ scoring tables pegging it as worth 1:58.90 in the 800. Hurta-Klecker and Wilson are good enough to run that but it’s no slam dunk for a season opener in January.
Razorback Invitational (Fayetteville)
When: Friday, 7-8:30 p.m. ET; Saturday, 1:30-6 p.m. ET (live stream on SEC Network+)
There are some DMRs on Friday night featuring Arkansas, Stanford, Oklahoma State, BYU, and Florida that should produce some fast times. But since we don’t know who’s running the relay and who’s not, let’s focus on the individual events. Oklahoma State’s NCAA 3k champ Taylor Roe is entered in the mile and 3k and the Stanford trio of Charles Hicks, Ky Robinson, and Cole Sprout are entered in the 3k alongside BYU’s Casey Clinger.
But the most interesting name in the entries is Arkansas’ Britton Wilson. The 2022 NCAA champion and Worlds 5th placer in the 400 hurdles is slated to make her 800-meter debut two weeks after setting an NCAA 600m record of 1:25.16. She’ll get a baptism by fire against SEC outdoor champ Imogen Barrett of Florida, NCAA indoor runner-up Claire Seymour of BYU, World U20 champ Roisin Willis of Stanford (running her first collegiate 800), and her own Arkansas teammate, SEC indoor champ Shafiqua Maloney. That race is at 4:20 p.m. ET and you don’t want to miss it.
What event most excites you for this weekend? Let us know by talking about in our world-famous fan forum/messageboard.