The 17-year-old broke her own world junior record in the 1000m.
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BOSTON — Records in the 1000m by Mary Cain and the 4 x 800m relay by a U.S. all-star team were the highlights of Saturday’s 19th New Balance Indoor Grand Prix at the Reggie Lewis Track Facility at Roxbury Community College.
Cain took charge of the women’s 1,000m with about 250 meters to go, breaking her own world indoor junior best of 2:39.25 set earlier this season at a different track at Boston University. The 17 year-old from Bronxville, N.Y., clocked 2:35.80 ahead of Chanelle Price (2:36.63) and Sarah Brown (2:36.90) who both set personal bests.
“I felt really good today,” Cain told reporters. “Once again, I let a little too much of a gap occur probably for Alberto’s tastes, but you know I definitely did better than I did last time with gapping and stuff. That was really my main goal: maintaining my spot.”
PHOTOS: 2014 NB Indoor Grand Prix
Running much of the race with her Nike Oregon Project teammate Treniere Moser (who would finish fifth), Cain said having Moser with her provided a significant boost to her confidence.
“You know, if I had kind of been out there alone with a pacer, you know, maybe there’s kind of that, you know, I shouldn’t be here doubts,” Cain told reporters. “When Treniere’s with me I’m, like, I know I can do this. She’s in amazing shape. I’m right with her; I felt really good.”
In the 4 x 800m relay, the U.S. all-star team of Richard Jones (1:51.01), David Torrence (1:47.46), Duane Solomon (1:47.99), and Erik Sowinski (1:46.67) clocked a new world record of 7:13.11, narrowly defeating a team from the New Jersey-New York Track Club (7:13.22). The previous record of 7:13.94 was set on this same Roxbury track by Joey Woody, Karl Paranya, Rich Kenah, and David Krummenacker in 2000. Woody, who stopped competing in 2008, now coaches Sowinski.
“Coach Woody had it before me,” said Sowinski who had to hold off a credible charge by Mike Rutt on the last lap. “I knew Mike raced yesterday (he ran 1:46.71 for 800m at Boston University yesterday), so I had to break him in the first 400.”
Jones, who ran for Louisiana State University during his NCAA career, was in near-disbelief that he was now a world record-holder.
“No,” replied Jones when asked by a reporter if he thought he would ever break a world record. “I mean, I knew we had the guys to do it, but at the same time, it takes everyone to do it on the same day. And to have four guys do it on the same day is amazing.”
Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet successfully defended his title in the men’s 3000m in 7:34.13, overwhelming compatriot Dejen Gebremeskel (7:34.70) in the last 200m with a 26.3-second closing lap. Americans Ryan Hill (7:34.87) and Garrett Heath (7:37.40) finished third and fourth, respectively, both setting career best times. Every athlete in the 14-man filed broke 7:57.
“I wanted to go for my own record,” Gebrhiwet said through a translator of his 7:32.87 winning time from last year, a world junior record. “But it was a bit windy,” he said, meaning that he had spent too much time at the front.
Hill, who graduated from North Carolina State last year and now trains under coach Jerry Schumacher at Nike’s Beaverton Campus in Oregon, was pleased with the 8-second improvement in his personal best time. He was aggressive and stayed close to the two Ethiopians, but couldn’t cover their big surge in the last 400 meters.
“I felt great; I’m really happy with the performance because it’s such a big jump,” Hill told reporters. “But, looking back it was a lost opportunity to win a race, a big race with an awesome crowd. I could totally tell they really wanted an American to win but I just couldn’t do it for them today.”
Canada’s Cam Levins finished seventh in 7:41.59 despite losing a shoe during the race. He narrowly missed Kevin Sullivan’s Canadian record of 7:40.17.
The highly-touted men’s mile, which featured three Olympic silver medalists, did not produce any fast performances after the athletes decided not to follow the pacemaker, Danny Stockberger, who went through the first 440 yards in 57 seconds as requested. He later slowed after building a four-second lead on the field to bring the race back together.
“They didn’t go with me,” Stockberger lamented. “He (meet director Mark Wetmore) said to slow down and let them pick me up again.”
After the field caught up to Stockberger with three laps to go, 2008 Olympic 1,500m silver medalist Nick Willis took over the lead. As he came out of the turn at the top of the homestretch with two laps to go, Galen Rupp abruptly stopped. The Olympic 10,000m silver medalist said he felt a pain in his left foot and didn’t want to risk further injury.
“I’m just a little sore,” Rupp told reporters. “Nothing serious. It just wasn’t worth the risk to sprint on it.”
By then, Willis had the race well in hand and romped to a 3:57.41 victory over Pat Casey (3:58.18) and his old training partner at the University of Michigan, Nate Brannen (3:58.37).
“My intention was to never get behind the rabbit in this race,” Willis said in his post-race interview. “Last race I led from 800 out in New Zealand, so I wanted to enjoy being in a field to get tactics which would be required in a final for the World Championships. I think it’s pretty similar to that.”
Leo Manzano, the 2012 Olympic 1500m silver medalist, had an off day, finishing last in 4:04.92.
In the women’s 2000m, Olympian Kim Conley dominated the race, winning in 5:41.10 over Olympic teammate Emma Coburn (5:47.20). Conley, who has run the second-fastest indoor mile in the world this year (4:24.54), was never seriously challenged. She was happy with the win, but had quietly hoped to run faster.
“It got all hard out there,” she said of the final laps. “I guess I hoped, secretly, for the record (Mary Slaney’s USA best of 5:34.52).”
In the final event of the meet, the women’s two-mile, Sally Kipyego made a strong comeback from a stress fracture of her foot last fall to win in 9:21.04. Kipyego, the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympic 10,000m silver medalist, got an unexpected scare from two-time world championships medalist Jenny Simpson. Kipyego had a comfortable lead with two three laps to go, when Simpson began sprinting furiously to catch her. Simpson looked like she was executing her final kick.
“It kind of surprised me how hard she was running,” Kipyego said of Simpson. “I was wondering, OK, is she going to be able to run another 200 at that pace?”
Simpson had miscounted the laps. After passing Kipyego when there was still one lap to go, Simpson stopped, thinking she had won the race. After realizing her mistake, she restarted and finished second in 9:26.19, three seconds off of Regina Jacobs’s 2002 U.S. best of 9:23.38.
“I don’t know where I lost track,” said Simpson who was a good sport about her mistake. “I think I just got really excited for the finish. It wasn’t until I came through the finish and saw the clock said 8:36, and I think that image of the clock will be seared in my memory forever.”
In other events, Mike Galoob won the masters mile in 4:23.48 (he turned 40 on Friday), beating John Trautmann in the final sprint, and Maddy Berkson of Rhode Island and Tony Russell of Pennsylvania won the junior miles in 4:11.56 and 4:56.00, respectively.