Sounds crazy, but it's true: we've already reached the unofficial midway point of the professional indoor track season.
With just over 30 days until the 2018 World Indoor Championships kick off in Birmingham, England, there are some indicators of who will factor into the medal hunt at the beginning of March. Since there's only a month of results to draw from, it’s difficult to come to any solid conclusions; however, each week the picture gets a little clearer.
As always, Jojo has your college recap. Here are a few of the professional storylines from last week:
The women’s 800m has no shortage of subplots, particularly in the United States. Outdoors, there’s a logjam of women within two seconds in either direction of 1:57. This has made the U.S. championships and Olympic Trials fascinating in recent years, as there are more than five women fighting for the three spots on the national team. Indoors, it’s even tighter. The fields may not be as strong outdoors, but there are only two spaces on the U.S. team that make the world indoor championships.
Ajee Wilson’s American outdoor record last season gained her some separation from the rest of the Americans. At the outset of 2018, she looks to be holding on to that position. On Saturday, Wilson won the Dr. Sander Invitational at the Armory in 2:00.90, beating Natoya Goule of Jamaica.
Entering the weekend, Goule was the only woman to break two minutes this season (Laura Muir ran 1:59.69 on Sunday to edge Goule for the yearly lead). Wilson has two qualities that make her tough to beat indoors: she doesn’t take a long time to get into race shape (especially useful in a season that lasts eight weeks), and she's comfortable running from the front.
Outdoors, the 800m is rarely tactical. Indoors, it’s a rarity to see a race go out slow. The tight spacing and the sharp turns reward someone like Wilson who can get ahead early and hold her position.
The men’s 800m at the Armory provided more of a surprise. Erik Sowinski won the race in 1:46.98, while Robby Andrews finished fifth and Clayton Murphy took seventh.
Excited to get the W at the Dr. Sander Invitational this weekend. Always thankful for the opportunity to return to the Armory! Back on the track 🔜 to chase the indoor standard . 🥇🏃🏻♂️🌍 📸 : @notafraid2fail #Nike #NikeRunning #DrSanderInvitational pic.twitter.com/CnQFwyZpvn— Erik Sowinski (@eSowinski) January 29, 2018
We shouldn’t be too confused by Sowinski winning the race in 1:46.98 — he’s an indoor ace and has thrived during the winter months throughout his career. Andrews and Murphy running 1:50 was a bit tougher to predict. But the benefit of the truncated indoor season is that both men won’t have to wait long to bounce back. Andrews is entered in the Wanamaker Mile at this Saturday’s Millrose Games.
Murphy’s Nike Oregon Project teammate Craig Engels fared well in the mile at the Armory. Engels ran 3:57.35 in his second pro race to finish ahead of Julian Oakley, who posted a 3:57.45.
The women’s mile grabbed headlines with Missouri star Karissa Schweizer’s excellent performance to take third, but the pros ran pretty fast as well. Kate Van Buskirk ran 4:26.92 to win the race and Rachel Schneider took second in 4:27.30.
Doubles & Altitude
Every race in 2018 has looked like a manageable workout for Yomif Kejelcha. In Seattle at the UW Invitational, Kejelcha teamed up with Galen Rupp to run 13:34 on Friday night. The two traded off the lead and ran comfortably across the line together. The next day, Kejelcha came back to win the mile in 3:56.95. The mark was quite a bit quicker than his 4:02.70 debut in Seattle two weeks ago, but it looked just as easy.
Shadrack Kipchirchir ran personal bests in back-to-back days at the Terrier Classic in Boston. On Friday evening he ran 7:42, smashing his personal best and taking the world lead. The plan entering the race was for the pacer to set Kipchirchir up for a time under 7:40. The early pace was quick, but Kipchirchir had to run the last seven laps all by himself once the pacer stepped off. A world lead and a enormous personal best are good consolation prizes.
Watch the Terrier Classic Men's Mile featuring Shadrack Kipchirchir:
The next day, Kipchirchir took the mile in 3:55. Again it's a personal best, and again it's evidence that Kipchirchir is developing the speed necessary to make him even more dangerous when he runs the 5000m and 10,000m outdoors. The mile race in Boston was deep with seven men breaking four minutes. The seventh, Emmanuel Bor, became the 500th American to break four minutes in the mile.
However, the best mile performance of the weekend came from Edward Cheserek. Cheserek ran 3:54.73 in Albuquerque to easily win the New Mexico Team Invitational. Using NCAA conversion charts for altitude, the time converts to a 3:49. 3:50 has only been broken three times indoors.
Marathoners On The Track
Speaking of conversions: what is Shalane Flanagan’s 8:43 worth in the midst of a 110-mile week? Sure, Sifan Hassan put serious distance on her in the last lap at the Dempsey, but Hassan is one of the best in the world at that distance. Flanagan hung tough and ran 12 seconds faster than she did two weeks ago in Seattle. Hassan’s 8:34 was a facility record and puts her right on track to compete for gold in either the 1500m or 3000m at the world indoor championships.
Watch the UW Invitational 3000m with Sifan Hassan and Shalane Flanagan:
Another marathoner prepping for Boston took to the track this weekend. Kellyn Taylor ran the mile in 4:33.40 at the Terrier Classic to finish second to Natalja Piliusina. Taylor beat her personal best in the distance from 2009 in a race that probably felt very, very short for her.
Obscure Records & Other Odds & Ends
The quartet of Kyra Jefferson, Deajah Stevens, Asha Ruth, and Daina Harper set the American indoor record in the 4x200m. The group ran 1:32.67 at the Armory beating the old record was from 1994.
Not nearly as obscure — but worth a mention — was Laura Muir’s 1:59.69 800m on Sunday. The time is a Scottish record. The mid-distance runner announced early this year that she isn’t racing Commonwealth Games, but she is running the 2018 World Indoor Championships. She could have a chance to medal in any of three events: the 800m, 1500m, or 3000m.
Mariya Lasistkene high jumped 2.04 meters on Saturday. That is two centimeters off her personal best and five centimeters from the world record.
Hello 2.04 ✌🏻 pic.twitter.com/eq57rimjF6— Maria Lasitskene (@MariaKuchina) January 27, 2018
Lasistkene was one of the 18 Russian athletes who had their status as “authorized neutral athletes” renewed last week by the IAAF. She won the world championships last year competing as a neutral athlete as Russian continues to be banned by the sport's governing body.