Track Shorts: USA Indoors Recap & World Indoors Preview

Photos: Katie Mackey (FloTrack) | Christina Manning (@shethemanning /IG) | Sandi Morris (PhotoRun) | Daniella Hill (from Daniella Hill)

Well that was some rough and tumble action at the USATF Indoor Championships.  Not sayin’ it was Olympic short track skating but there were several times when the 200-meter oval looked too tight and too crowded for comfort.  In the men’s 3000, Ryan Hill and Shadrack Kipchirchir had more physical contact than most first dates.  All in all though a great meet, and not because we all learned the proper spelling of Albuquerque.

Sometimes the favorites won out but there were some upsets too.  For the AB participants there were surprises – good and bad.  We’ll review the highlights and also take a look this weekend’s upcoming IAAF World Indoor Championships.

Oh To Be in England

AthleteBiz will have a thrower, a jumper, a distance runner and, in a late addition, a hurdler competing in Birmingham after placing first or second in the US Championships – Dani Hill, Sandi Morris, Katie Mackey, and Christina Manning.

Dani Hill had two throws over 18 meters, including a season best 18.10 (59’-4 ¾”) to take first in the shot.  She led wire to wire, though Erin Farmer did make it close.

Mild surprise that Sandi Morris did not win the pole vault but as this was the first time she had vaulted since withdrawing from the Millrose Games with an injury, a gutsy second place effort doesn’t sound too bad.  The bigger surprise is that Jenn Suhr was not the one who beat her.  That honor went to Katie Nageotte, who cleared a personal best 4.91 (16-1 ¼); the mark will carry the dreaded (A) for altitude but we suspect she’s fine with that.

Smart race from Katie Mackey as she ran like she was totally confident of her fitness.  Staying tucked inside but close to the front, she bided her time until the real racing began.  Her last four laps were 35:09, 33:60, 32:24 and 30:27.  Good enough to hold off Emma Coburn for second.  Shelby Houlihan was dropping a 28:83 last 200 on the field so Katie can be forgiven for not bringing home the gold.  First national team for the veteran Mackey and nobody deserves it more.

Christina Manning’s story requires some additional explanation, which we will now provide.

Nearly Missed It by That Much

After the meet, we were ready to report that Christina Manning had staked early claim to the 2018 Maxwell Smart Missed It by That Much Award.  You could easily imagine her standing at the top of the podium in Birmingham but at the US Champs she would finish 3rd, falling .01 short of an automatic WC berth.  The US women’s hurdles scene can be that way – just so deep that anything less than perfection on a given day means you miss out.

Fortunately, the story does not end there.  The IAAF held a six-meet indoor tour that offered a $20k cash bonus and a wild card entry into the World Championships for each discipline.  Recall that Christina had been putting up good performances all over the world.  With a victory at the tour’s last stop in Glasgow on Sunday, she sewed up the title and her spot in Birmingham.  Very convenient that it’s just an easy train ride from Glasgow.  Visions of her standing on the top of the podium can resume.

ABers Make the Race

Good on Rachel Schneider for staying at the front until the final 400; likely she had been hoping to diminish some of the finishing speed of the others, but it was not enough and the toll of leading for that long left her in trouble when the sprinting began.  What about that moment when everybody’s favorite realtor/mom – Sara Vaughn – took the lead?  On the final backstretch and through the final turn! Got me off the couch.  Vaughn’s final 400 was a very credible 63.20 but alas there were some faster and Sara would get 4th.  One of those was fellow ABer Shannon Osika, who was in second in the home stretch behind Colleen Quigley, that is until Shelby Houlihan swept past in the final 50 meters to secure her double.

Though third in the race, visions of a trip to Birmingham for Shannon danced in her head as in a post-race interview, Houlihan said she would not double at the WC.  Might have been the oxygen debt and/or the high altitude because the next day she was singing a different tune – the double is on.  Does not take away one bit from the fine work Osika is doing in her second season as a pro.

Men’s 800

If you assembled, say 32 of best 800-meter guys around for a competition with heats, semi-finals and finals, do you doubt that Erik Sowinski would make it to the finals?  And once there, that he would be a factor in the race, even if he didn’t win?  The guy is a racer’s racer.  In Albuquerque, Erik led the field through a decent 51.82 400 and was still in second (to Brazier of course) with a lap to go but could not match Drew Windle’s closing 26.23 finish and placed third.  Btw, hell-of-a great day for Brooks Beasts with Drew and Katie Mackey punching their ticket to the WCs.

Fine Performances Without A Ticket To Birmingham

As reliable and consistent as Old Faithful, though maybe not for as long, Maria Michta-Coffey and Miranda Melville did their 1-2 thing again in the 3k walk.  But, there’s no walk event at the world championships.  Likewise, Alex Young grabbed second in the weight throw (with fellow ABer Sean Donnelly right behind) but that event is also not on the schedule in Birmingham. Check out this video sequence from Alex featuring first a wild foul then his season best – classic if at first you don’t succeed, heave that 35 pound object again.

Ryan Hill seemed ready to challenge for second in the 3000 (Paul Chelimo continues to run like it’s 2017 and no one can catch him) but, um, there was a bit of contact between him and Kipchirchir.  As we say in soccer, probably not enough for a red card but it certainly didn’t help Ryan’s cause.

Jasmin Stowers (4th) and Queen Harrison (5th) were part of that tight finish in the hurdles.  Two more who might be capable of a medal in Birmingham but tough competition just to make the team.

Andrea Geubelle (triple jump) and Jeremy Taiwo (heptathlon) picked up silver and gold, respectively, but don’t have the WC qualifiers.  In the 3000, Lauren Paquette was in the mix for a while before finishing 6th.  Great overall indoor season Lauren! On the men’s side, Garrett Heath and Reid Buchanan hung with the lead pack for much of the race before finishing 6th and 7th.

Related Reading: Learn the Hustle by Jeremy Taiwo

Prospects in Birmingham

Say we might be wearing rose colored glasses but we will suggest that ABers could come home with two golds.  Sandi Morris has the number two vault this season and will have had more time to recover from the injury.  Her competition looks to include the always tough Katerina Stefanidi plus Russia’s Anzhelika Sidorova and American teammate Katie Nageotte (who has the world lead).

And why not Christina Manning for the gold?  She’s won some tough races and has a competitive time. Teammates Sharika Nelvis and Kendra Harrison will be the main competition but we shouldn’t ignore the Germans Dutkiewicz and Roleder.

Katie Mackey will be competitive but there are a host of runners with times under 8:40 in the 3000 so she will have her work cut out for her.  That sub 8:40 list includes Dibaba, Klosterhalfen, Obiri, Chepkoech and American teammate Shelby Houlihan.

Kind of the same story for Dani Hill.  She has been over 18 meters but Jamaica’s Thomas-Dodd has hit over 19 meters while Martin and Guba has been in the high 18’s.

The meet runs from March 1 to March 4.  Details are available at the IAAF Website here.  TV coverage is on NBCSN Friday (8:30-10:30 pm), Saturday (5-7 pm) and Sunday (4-6 pm).  More complete coverage is on NBC Gold’s subscription service.

Breaking news!! ABers Ryan Hill (3000m) and Shannon Osika (1500m) have been added as provisional entries for the WCs.  Given their performances in Albuquerque, we think it’s more than fair they get to go.

Update: ABers Kyle Merber and Chris Geisting teamed with Joe McCasey and Jesse Garn to break the world indoor 4 x 800 WR at the Boston University Last Chance Meet!

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