Ethiopia's Hagos Gebrhiwet at the 2013 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston (© Victah Sailer)
When there’s already a winning formula in place, you don’t want to tinker with it too much. So the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, an IAAF Indoor Permit meeting, on Saturday (8) will feature world and Olympic medallists in the 3000m, two miles, one mile, and 1000m, as well as an attack on the world indoor 4x800m record – a mark set at this meeting back in 2000.
The meeting, which has traditionally centred on strong fields and occasional record attempts in the middle and long distances, is now in its 19th year at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston’s Roxbury neighbourhood.
Three medallists, two miles
The closing race of the meeting is often the longest men’s race, but this year’s honour has gone to an unusually deep women’s two-mile, which will include three World Championships medallists: Jenny Simpson, who won 1500m gold in 2011 and silver in 2013; Shannon Rowbury, a 1500m bronze medallist in 2009; and Sally Kipyego, silver medallist at 10,000m in 2011 and at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Simpson was one of the first athletes announced for the meeting, back in December, and coming off her third-place finish at the Cinque Mulini cross-country race might be the most race sharp of this trio.
However, Simpson also has a longstanding and very friendly rivalry with Kipyego dating back to their days in the NCAA, and if Kipyego thinks herself fit to race, she will see herself nowhere far behind Simpson.
Much of the pre-meeting buzz has surrounded the men’s 3000m, which has taken on an unusual depth. Two globally-known names familiar to the Boston crowd are Hagos Gebrhiwet, who ran the world junior indoor record here last year before his devastating win in the junior race at the World Cross-Country Championships, and Dejen Gebremeskel, the Olympic silver medallist who won a thrilling duel with Mo Farah here in 2011 after losing his right shoe early in the race.
The two Ethiopians will be joined by Garrett Heath, who knocked off Asbel Kiprop and Kenenisa Bekele in the 4km cross-country race in Edinburgh in January, along with a selection of hungry young talents hoping to be the next Hagos Gebrhiwet.
Record-setting Rupp and Cain
Mary Cain and Galen Rupp, two more names already associated with both Boston and records this young indoor season, are scheduled to hit the track on Saturday.
Cain, who lowered the world junior indoor 1000m record to 2:39.25 in January on the Boston University track, will be racing the same distance on Saturday. Her record mark was achieved in an effort to challenge the ten-year-old US indoor record of 2:34.19 by Jen Toomey.
This time, she’ll have competition from the likes of Ajee Wilson (like Cain, a finalist in Moscow last summer), Treniere Moser, and Chanelle Price, as well as Kenyan Viola Lagat and Ethiopia’s Dureti Edao. Pacing the women’s 1000m is Canada’s world heptathlon silver medallist Brianne Theisen Eaton, who will also contest the long jump.
Rupp was a late entry in the men’s mile, and his appearance at “the Reggie” marks a change of plans; Rupp had previously announced an attempt on the world indoor record in the mile at Boston University a week later.
“After my American indoor records in the 5000m and two miles, my coach, Alberto Salazar, and I decided that a competitive mile race would be the best preparation for the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque on 22 February and the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Poland on 7 March,” Rupp explained, although so far they have not indicated in which events Rupp hopes to compete there.
In Boston he will face Olympic silver medallists Nick Willis (2008) and Leo Manzano (2012) along with a raft of top US milers Rupp can expect to see in Albuquerque later this month.
A relay record
It’s fair to say the men’s 4x800m relay is rarely run indoors; the NCAA runs a distance medley instead, and the World Indoor Championships is anchored on the 4x400m.
The standing world best mark of 7:13.94 was set at this meeting in 2000 by a quartet including indoor and outdoor World Championships bronze medallist Rich Kenah (now a senior executive for the meeting organisers), Joey Woody, Karl Paranya, and David Krummenacker, the 2003 world indoor champion.
Interest in challenging that mark doubtless springs from the event’s inclusion in the inaugural IAAF World Relays approaching in late May, and leading the charge is world silver medallist Nick Symmonds, who has publicly stated that lowering the outdoor mark of 7:02.43 from 2006 is one of his goals for 2014.
Symmonds’ quartet will also include well-respected pacemaker Matt Scherer, Mark Wieczorek, and 2010 world junior silver medallist Cas Loxsom. Their combined PBs are well under the record, but there’s more to running records than having fast PBs.
Other teams will include Loxsom’s World Juniors teammate (and bronze medallist in Moncton) Robby Andrews, leading a team from the New York/New Jersey Track Club, and an “all-star” team led by world and Olympic finalist Duane Solomon.
In even less standard events, a women’s 2000m will be on the track, including middle-distance ace Morgan Uceny among the entrants as well as steeplechaser Emma Coburn.
The Boston program typically features a few field events, and this year that means the return of Jen Suhr, the world indoor record-holder in the pole vault.
Suhr set American records here in 2009 and 2012, is undefeated in six appearances at this meeting, and had her breakthrough here when “the Reggie” hosted the US Indoor Championships in 2005. Suhr told a teleconference on Tuesday that she “hopes to have a little fun” in Boston.
Also on the infield will be a men’s shot put, which will welcome two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski to join world indoor champion Ryan Whiting, Christian Cantwell and Corey Martin. Fireworks in the shot are not unheard of at this meet, although Whiting’s two marks over 21m this season mark him as the clear favourite with Martin and Majewski still warming up.
Also of interest on the infield, but not including any implements, is the men’s 60m. The biggest name entered isn’t a sprint specialist, but decathlon world record-holder Ashton Eaton; however, he’s unlikely to get a stride on the likes of Nickel Ashmeade and Michael Rogers.
Parker Morse for the IAAF