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March 4, 2017

USATF Indoor crowns several first-time national title holders with Shelby Houlihan, Paul Chelimo

The second day of the USATF Indoor Championships saw several first-time champions and a taste of who some rising stars could be fun to watch for the outdoor season.

The marquee distance events of the day were the women’s mile and men’s two-mile but there were also record-setting times run in the sprints and women’s weight throw. (This is something we hinted at when he looked at how altitude may affect the sprints, distances and throws.)

  • The first big mark of the day was a world best of 25.60m/84-0 from Gwen Berry in the weight throw. Berry served a three-month suspension for a positive drug test that was taken and she overcame recent injury to make it to Albuquerque. Good on her to put all of that behind her to kick off the USA Indoor festivities with a bang.

  • Shelby Houlihan of the Bowerman Track Club completed the first leg of her mile/two-mile double by taking a slow 4:45.18 victory in the mile. The final time won’t show you that she closed in 60.48 for the final 400 meters and then 28.78 for the last lap. Houlihan’s work under coach Jerry Schumacher has made her a force to be reckoned with in any event from 1,500 to the 5,000. She turned 24 years old just a month ago so this is the first of many possible U.S. titles to come.
  • Noah Lyles captured his first national title at just 19 years old and he did it in world-record* (the IAAF recognizes it as a world best) fashion by clocking a 31.87 for the lap-and-a-halfer. He is coached by Lance Brauman, who coached Wallace Spearmon to the previous world best of 31.88 that was set in 2006. In his post-race comments, he joked about a comment that he made to Brauman where he said that he thought the record by Spearmon was a little soft. Brauman told him to do something about it. On Saturday, Speamon failed to make it out of the first round and the young pup set a new world best. If you talk the talk, you better walk the walk…or run the run.
  • The women’s 300 meter final was broken up into two heats and the first one saw Candace Hill set a new world junior best of 36.56. The time would be topped in the second heat by Queens, New York native Phyllis Francis‘ U.S. Indoor Championship record of 36.15. Of our track champions crowned on Saturday, Francis is the only one who has an Olympic gold medal as a member of the U.S. 4×400 meter team in Rio.
  • Paul Chelimo won the strangest race of the day. After about two laps, he was not feeling the pedestrian pace and leaving the two-mile to a sit-and-kick, so he pulled up to the front and successfully took the race from 418 meters to the finish line in 8:28.24.
    • Chelimo vowed that he would not lose a race in 2017 – a New Year’s Resolution that could get tougher around the Diamond League season with potential clashes against Mo Farah. He’s made good on that through his indoor season and next weekend, he’s going to go up in distance and try to win the 15K title. Saturday night’s two-mile title was the first national track title of his career and he’s just 26 years old.

So our champions on the track on Saturday are a 19-year-old, two 24-year-olds and a 26 year-old. Admittedly, the fields are not as deep as you would find during the outdoor season. (Heck, the women’s mile was just five people and they all went home with some cash)  Maybe it’s because some of these are odd distances. Maybe it’s because some people just want to focus on the outdoor season now. Based off the fields that we have in Albuquerque, the next gen of track and field is closing the gap on some of the veterans. We totally expect trend of newly-minted champions could continue tomorrow with the men’s mile and the women’s 1,000.

We’ll be back at the track tomorrow with more updates on Twitter.

If you want to go back and read our live blog from the meet, you can catch that here.

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