Three American Records and 10 National Records Fall at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix
Elle Purrier’s indoor two-mile American record was just one of many highlights in New York.
Many of the best track and field athletes in the world returned to competition—some for the first time in several months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic—at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on February 13. The event, typically held at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, was relocated to the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island, New York, because the Boston venue is serving as a mass vaccination site.
And the athletes made the most of this racing opportunity by breaking three American records and 10 national records total on Saturday.
Almost one year after shattering the American record in the mile at the Millrose Games, Elle Purrier broke another national record by winning the women’s two-mile in 9:10.28. Her time improves on the previous American record (9:18.35) set by Jenny Simpson in 2015. Purrier’s performance is also the third-fastest two-mile ever run in history. For Purrier, the victory follows a runner-up finish and 2:02.05 personal best in the 800 meters at the Prickly Pear Invitational in Phoenix, Arizona on February 6—her first race of 2021.
“I felt pretty confident going in, but you never know when you’re just training,” Purrier told journalists in a virtual mixed zone. “[Coach] Mark [Coogan] felt pretty confident about my fitness level, but after that [race] I’m feeling pretty good now.”
Looking back on her mile record a year ago, Purrier—who trains under Coogan with the New Balance group in Boston—said navigating the challenges of 2020 brought some silver linings to her process.
“Millrose was probably one of the biggest highlights of my career, and I think stopping after that was kind of a bummer because I felt like I was on a roll and the team was on a roll,” Purrier said in the mixed zone. “But we were able to kind of just wait it out this summer and get into some great training. And I went home and I find a lot of happiness there, and so I think that built this up to another great training block this fall and this winter.”
The 2018 NCAA mile champion followed the pacemaking set by Leah Falland, who brought the field through the first mile in 4:41. For the remaining laps, Purrier and steeplechase world champion Emma Coburn ran 1-2 in the front. With three laps to go, Purrier broke away from Coburn to seal the win and the record, running the final 400 meters in 63 seconds.
Five seconds behind Purrier, Coburn finished second in a personal best of 9:15.71. In the same race, Julie-Anne Staehli of Canada (9:22.66) and Amy-Eloise Markovc of Great Britain (9:30.69) broke national records for their respective countries.
Hoppel Sets a World Best for 2021
About 20 minutes later, Bryce Hoppel followed the momentum by running a world lead and U.S. national record in the 1,000 meters. The former Kansas Jayhawk and NCAA 800-meter champion broke the previous American record (2:16.76) set by the late David Torrence in 2014.
“It means everything,” Hoppel said. “It’s just something you dream of as a kid, and I couldn’t have done it without all the support that I have, my family, and my coach. They all make it possible. I mean, it feels awesome to get it. That was what I was going for.”
Behind Hoppel, Marco Arop of Canada finished second in 2:17.10, and Charlie Grice finished third in 2:17.20, a national record for Great Britain.
An American Record for Donovan Brazier
Two weeks after being forced to withdraw from the American Track League meet due to COVID-19 exposure, Donavan Brazier returned to the track with a vengeance.
The 2019 world champion lowered the American record by winning the men’s 800 meters in 1:44.21, more than two seconds ahead of runner-up Jamie Webb of Great Britain. Brazier set the previous American record (1:44.22) at the Millrose Games last year.
After Saturday’s victory, Brazier said his coach, Pete Julian, didn’t want him to hold back, and the strategy proved to be successful.
“Pete wanted me to go out and die. That was literally what he said, word-for-word,” Brazier said. “He said, ‘go out hard, see if you can hold it, and we’ll just gauge where you’re at from a fast pace.’ ... I don’t think I’m quite where I was at in Millrose last year, but I still think I’m in decent shape.”
Ajeé Wilson Returns to Competition
The women’s 800 meters featured an unexpected performance from a four-time world championship medalist and American record-holder.
Ajeé Wilson was a late entry to the meet after receiving treatment for a hamstring injury earlier in the week. Unlike her signature racing tactic of leading from the gun, Wilson ran behind the race-leader Kaela Edwards until the homestretch, where she sprinted ahead to finish first in 2:01.79.
“Not knowing exactly how things will play out with my body, I wasn’t trying to take any chances and felt a little more comfortable hanging behind,” Wilson said. “That’s something that we’ve been working on in practice. We’re maybe five strong in our group now, so that definitely prepared me for today and just being comfortable and also making sure I was still in a good position so when I wanted to move, I could.”
The performance is Wilson’s first race since winning the 800 meters at the 2020 USATF Indoor Championships on February 15, 2020. After Saturday’s race, Wilson said she didn’t feel comfortable traveling for competition last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as she interacts with people who are more at risk of catching the virus. Instead, she focused on training at her home base in Philadelphia. Her next competition will be the Texas Qualifier in Austin, Texas from February 26 to 27.
“Although things aren’t much better, I'm feeling a little more comfortable with the precautions we're all taking to be safe,” she said.
Behind Wilson, Sophia Gorriaran—a 15-year-old high school sophomore from Rhode Island—finished fifth in 2:03.94. One week earlier, Gorriaran notched the standard to compete at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials by running 2:02.44 against a professional field at the American Track League meet in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Two National Records in the Men’s 1500
The men’s 1500 meters featured two national records. Oliver Hoare—who trains under coach Dathan Ritzenhein with the On Running pro group in Boulder, Colorado—kicked to victory in 3:32.35, a national record for Australia. Jake Wightman of Great Britain finished second in 3:34.48, and Sam Tanner—a sophomore at the University of Washington—finished third in 3:34.72, breaking the national record for New Zealand.
The women’s 1500 meters was won by Heather MacLean who out-paced Cory McGee in the final lap to win in 4:06.32.
Michael Norman Races the 400 Meters for the First Time in a Year
For the first time since the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, track fans got to see Michael Norman compete in his signature event, the 400 meters.
The former USC Trojan and NCAA champion—who broke the world record in the indoor 400 meters (44.52) at the NCAA championships in 2018—battled with his training partner Rai Benjamin down the homestretch to secure the victory in 45.34. Benjamin finished second in 45.39.
“The instinct just kicked in,” Norman said. “We're very competitive at practice, especially when it comes to competition. So having that little fun practice rivalry going on, I couldn't have Rai beat me in the race, but he's an amazing competitor, so it was a lot of fun.”
In 2019, Norman failed to make the world championship final in Doha after suffering from an injury in the semifinals. He raced once in 2020—9.86 in the 100 meters at a COVID-adjusted meet in Fort Worth, Texas last July. After a long hiatus from competition, Norman said he felt pleased with the effort on Saturday.
“I’m feeling good,” Norman said. “There's a lot of work that needs to be done, but the main purpose of today was just to go out and compete, have fun and to kind of knock the cobwebs off because it's been over a year since I’ve run that distance.”
Another National Record for Shaunae Miller-Uibo
In her second meet of the year, Shaunae Miller-Uibo broke another Bahamian national record by running 50.21 to win the women’s 400 meters. The time makes her the eighth-fastest performer all-time indoors. The 2016 Olympic champion achieved the mark two weeks after breaking the national record in the indoor 200 meters at the American Track League meet, where she ran a personal best of 22.40.
World record-holder Keni Harrison also ran a world leading time on Saturday. The 2018 world indoor champion won the 60-meter hurdles in 7.82 seconds.
In the same race, Sydney McLaughlin finished last in 8.56. The race was McLaughlin’s highly anticipated return to the track after earning silver in the 400-meter hurdles and contributing to Team USA’s winning performance in the 4x400-meter relay at the 2019 World Championships. Saturday’s race was McLaughlin’s first time contesting the event since 2015, when she was in high school.
After the race, she said the race was an exercise in training with her non-dominant leg over hurdles. “It’s something we've been thinking about for awhile, just being able to hurdle efficiently with both legs, and what better way to do that than the short hurdles?” McLaughlin said. “It's such a short race and such a fast-paced race that you can really work on that technique. It was good to get into a fast race and really be forced to use it without being able to think that much.”
Noah Lyles Keeping His Eyes on Tokyo
Noah Lyles did double duty in the sprints on Saturday. The 2019 200-meter world champion ran the first round of the 60 meters in 6.76 seconds and returned to the track to contest the 200 meters. Holding off competitors Deon Lendore and Jaron Flournoy, Lyles made it to the finish line in 20.80, well off the typical winning times in his signature event.
While Lyles admitted he wasn’t pleased with the time (and his body language conveyed as such), he still took the experience as a lesson moving forward in his bid to represent Team USA and win more medals at the Tokyo Games this summer.
“We’ve been training for a lot of strength and endurance and it obviously paid off because I was able to come into the 60, warm up, and then I was able to shake off any type of fatigue I had from it,” Lyles said. “I still feel really good, even coming off of the 200, like I could run three more. So I actually feel strong, which is really what we were trying to get out of training, and coming here was to see how much speed we got in the tank. To be honest, it actually proved that what we’re doing is working.”
Trayvon Bromell Crosses First in the 60 Meters
After battling a series of injuries for the past few years, Trayvon Bromell returned to his winning ways on Saturday. After leading the 60-meter semifinal in 6.53, the 2016 world indoor champion won the final in 6.50 by breaking away from his competition in the second half of the race. Runner-up Demek Kemp followed in 6.65.
Looking back on the challenges of the past few years, Bromell credited his spirituality with his return to form and a newfound motivation.
“I'm here to run and make an impact on kids, adults who may have lost hope,” Bromell said. “I feel like my testimony of what I’ve been through gives people that, and it shows the sport in another light than just winning medals or running fast times. That’s all good, but what impact do you leave? I’m trying to be impactful, not impressive.”
posted Sunday February 14th
by Runner’s World