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US Looks Strong On Day One In Doha

Lagat appears sharp in 3000m qualifying.

Written by: Sean McKeon

The opening day of the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships in Doha, Qatar was a positive one for the American distance contingent. Here are some of the highlights in the distances on day one:

Women’s 800m Heats

American Anna Pierce won the first qualifying heat in a not-so-taxing time of 2:03.05. Pierce, in the process, defeated the world leader Yevgeniya Zinurova of Russia, setting herself up as the favorite going into the final. Britain’s Jenny Meadows ran the fastest time of the day with her 2:00.39 win in heat two. European champion Mariya Savinova of Russia easy advanced behind Meadows, and will be joined by American Alysia Johnson, a time qualifier, in the final.

Men’s 800m Heats

This was probably the most disappointing event from an American standpoint. Nick Symmonds, the US champion and former world finalist, was disqualified from his heat for stepping out of his lane. Symmonds was a dark horse for a medal in Doha and finished second in his heat before learning of his violation. The other American, Duane Solomon, had a poor race but advanced to the semifinals on time. As expected, favorites Ismail Ahmed Ismail and Abubaker Kaki of Sudan both won their heats and advanced to the next round.

Women’s 3000m Heats

Four-time defending world champion Meseret Defar led the qualifiers in the fast second heat, clocking in at 8:48.23. The second heat put 10 of the 11 finishers across the line before the winner of heat one. However, only four time qualifiers go to the final, and among the four was American marathon specialist Desiree Davila, who set a personal best of 8:51.08 to advance. In heat one, Sentayehu Ejigu won in a fairly pedestrian 9:00.34. Also qualifying for the final were medal favorites Vivian Cheruiyot and Sylvia Kibet of Kenya. American Sara Hall finished in 7th in the slower first heat and failed to qualify to the final.

Men’s 1500m Heats

There were few surprises in the men’s 1500m, with all of the pre-race contenders moving on to the final. Defending champion Deresse Mekonnen of Ethiopia led wire-to-wire in his heat, winning in 3:39.66. The fastest heat of the afternoon was the final heat, won by Moroccan medal favorite Abdalaati Iquider in 3:37.14. American Garrett Heath benefited from being in the final heat, taking a time qualifying spot with his 3:39.25 third-place finish. Fellow American Will Leer failed to qualify in the much slower second heat, clocking in at 3:42.16.

Women’s 1500m Heats

American women posted personal bests in both heats of the 1500m. In heat one, won by gold-medal favorite Gelete Burka of Ethiopia in 4:12.08, American Sarah Bowman grabbed the third automatic qualifying spot in a new indoor personal best of 4:12.91. The second heat featured the other Ethiopian favorite, Kalkidan Gezahegne, Spaniard Natalia Rodriguez, and American Erin Donohue. Gezahegne fell early in the race but rebounded to come back and win in the fastest time of the day, 4:08.91. Rodriguez finished as the runner-up and Donohue ran an indoor personal best 4:10.12 to qualify for the final on time.

Men’s 3000m Heats

Former world 3000m champion Bernard Lagat of the US took home the win in the second heat. Lagat did all he needed to do to easily move on, winning in 7:59.99. Lagat was followed closely by defending champion Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia (8:00.29). Fellow American Galen Rupp had a tougher time, but came in less than a second behind Lagat in 5th to secure a time qualifier in 8:00.90. The first, and faster, of the two heats was won by Keyan favorite Augustine Choge in 7:43.80, more than 16 seconds faster than Lagat’s heat one winning time. Other key qualifiers to the final were European record holder Sergio Sanchez of Spain and Sammy Mutahi of Kenya.

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