USA's Jenn Suhr at the 2013 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston (© Victah Sailer)
New Balance Indoor Grand Prix seats are less expensive along the backstretch, but it’s entirely likely that the fans who snapped up tickets for there will get the best show at the second of this year’s IAAF World Indoor Tour meetings on Sunday (14).
This is because the pole vault runway is along the backstretch and, after her world indoor record vault of 5.03m, Suhr has made it clear she thinks she can jump a lot higher.
In deference to the event, which can see even the greatest athletes turn in a less-than-great performance, Suhr has been careful not to make any promises but she’s also explicitly set no upper limit on where the bar might go should she clear her opening height and then go on to win without too many difficulties.
The Reggie Lewis Center, in the Boston suburb of Roxbury, has been good to Suhr, hosting her breakthrough national title in 2005 and well over a dozen wins since, between this meeting and national championships.
Suhr is not the only world record-holder competing on Sunday; there’s one in the men’s pole vault too: Ashton Eaton, the decathlon world and Olympic champion and world record-holder.
He will be sharing the spotlight in this event with Canada’s world champion Shawn Barber, who was second in the opening IAAF World Indoor Tour meeting in Karlsruhe last Saturday.
Eaton will be doubling in Boston, contesting both the 60m and the pole vault.
The competition at 60m will be as challenging as in the vault, with Eaton’s best of 6.66 just barely keeping him in the race.
Bromell on a learning curve in Boston
World 100m bronze medallist Trayvon Bromell admitted on Friday that he is still figuring out the shorter indoor race. He characterises the indoor 60m as “not my strength,” and that’s before paying due respect to a field that includes 2010 world indoor silver medallist Mike Rodgers.
Bromell said his eyes are very much in his own lane, and he’s out to “run better and improve my times,” a strategy which, pursued successfully, inevitably leads to thrilling races.
He has also said he has designs on winning the 60m in the IAAF Indoor Tour, and to do that he’ll need to get the better of Rodgers, who leads after winning last weekend in Karlsruhe.
However, Boston is a distance-loving city, with its venerable marathon the highlight of its annual calendar, so the distance races usually anchor the evening. (It’s a tribute to Bromell that the men’s 60m has been moved nearly to the end of the meeting.)
The highlights this year promise to be the return of Meseret Defar in the 3000m, Nick Willis in the men’s mile, and multiple medallists in the women’s 1500m.
Long a favourite here after seven wins in eight appearances and a 2008 world best at two miles, Defar is back racing on the track for the first time since 2013.
The two-time Olympic 5000m champion wants to beat her best Boston time in the 3000m, an 8:30.05 clocking from 2006; if she does it, she may find herself alone for much of the race.
Willis, the 2008 Olympic 1500m silver medallist, will face a steeper challenge defending his mile win from 2015.
Last year, Willis stole the show with his 3:51.61 win over Abdalaati Iguider and Ben Blankenship. This year, Kenyans Vincent Kibet and Bethwell Birgen will join Willis on the start line. Birgen is the better known of the two, with a 3:50.42 best outdoors, but neither is to be taken lightly.
Martinez out to make her mark over 1500m
Brenda Martinez has been highlighted in the women’s 1500m but the 2013 world 800m bronze medallist will also have a tough time with rivals Violah Lagat, a younger sister of Bernard, who represented Kenya in Beijing last summer, and world junior champion Dawit Seyaum.
Dejen Gebremeskel, the Olympic 5000m silver medallist who became a crowd favorite here in 2011 when he outkicked Mo Farah in the 3000m despite losing one of his spikes early in the race, returns to headline the men's 3000m.
Gebremeskel will face a mixed bag of challengers, most notably Kenya’s US-trained Lawi Lalang, a training partner of the elder Lagat.
A remarkably deep women’s 60m hurdles includes the top three finishers from Karlsruhe – Kendra Harrison, Nia Ali, and Tiffany Porter – as well as 2013 world champion Brianna Rollins and 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.
The women’s flat 60m is nearly as deep, including English Gardner, Tori Bowie, Tianna Bartoletta, and Sherone Simpson, just to name four.
On the infield, the men’s shot put features 2007 world champion Reese Hoffa and two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski.
The men’s 600m brings an interesting matchup, with 2005 world 400m hurdles champion Bershawn Jackson meeting the 2015 US-leading 800m runner Boris Berian halfway. Berian ran 1:16.57 at the 2015 US Championships here; Jackson’s best (and only) mark is a 1:18.65 from 2006, also at the Reggie Lewis Center.
Parker Morse for the IAAF