Hopes for a world record over 60m were met – and then some – on the third day (18) of the USA Indoor Championships as Christian Coleman roared to a 6.34* clocking in the short sprint, cutting 0.05 off the previous best.
USA's Maurice Greene first set the accepted 6.39 mark in Madrid in 1998 and then tied it at the 2001 US Indoor Championships. But Coleman’s first final of the 2018 indoor campaign showed the record’s days likely were numbered when he sped to 6.37 on 19 January.
But that mark, set in Clemson, South Carolina, never would have received record ratification since there were neither wired starting blocks used nor drug testing done immediately after the race.
At the US Indoor Championships, staged in the helpful thinner air of 1507m Albuquerque, Coleman showed he had plenty of speed to burn as he clocked 6.46 in Saturday’s heat and then 6.42 in Sunday’s semi-final. He eased back noticeably in the final meters of both his preliminaries. Defending champion Ronnie Baker had taken his semi with an equal PB of 6.45, setting the table for a climactic final.
More than three hours later, Coleman lined up for the title race in lane five with Baker to his left in four and veteran Mike Rodgers inside both in lane three. After a false start eliminated one sprinter, the field got away on the second attempt.
Baker got an excellent start, but led for only a few steps as Coleman was right with him. Coleman never surrendered the lead he grabbed and opened distance over the field in the final 10 metres. He threw his arms wide as he crossed the line, his speed taking care of Greene’s official record as well as settling any questions about Coleman’s own earlier record claim.
The 21-year-old Coleman hopped and skipped in glee as he ran back up the sprint straight before turning to accept the accolades from the Albuquerque Convention Center crowd.
“I wanted to go get it, but it pretty much felt like a blur,” Coleman said of the record. “I just wanted to be the first to get to the finish line. I had put in a lot of work on my start, so it feels pretty good to do it.”
Baker distinguished himself as well, clocking a PB 6.40 to become the third fastest ever. Rodgers claimed third in 6.50, just 0.02 off the PB that won him the 2011 national title, also in Albuquerque.
In the women’s 60m, first-year professional Javianne Oliver sped to PBs in both her qualifying heat at 7.11 and then to claim her first national title with a convincing 7.02 in the final. She trimmed down the world lead by 0.01 as she came home comfortably ahead of the PB 7.19 for second-placer Destiny Carter. World 100m champion Tori Bowie didn’t appear for her heat.
“Even after getting the 7.11, I just told myself to stay relaxed," said Oliver. "I didn’t know what to expect for a time in the final. Now I’ll just go home and train for the World Indoors.”
Nelvis hurdles 7.70, third fastest of all time
Speed also was in abundance over the hurdles, especially on the women’s side. World 100m hurdles record-holder Kendra Harrison had tied the 7.72 North American record earlier this winter and paced the semi-finals at 7.77. Harrison and other semi winner Christina Manning got out together in the final and traded strides the entire race.
But right with the pair was 27-year-old Sharika Nelvis, who had placed eighth at the 2015 World Championships. Nelvis kept bearing down the entire race and off the last hurdle, she leaned sharply to cross the line first – and with a North American record of 7.70 as a bonus. Harrison (7.72 to match her PB) and Manning (7.73 PB) followed.
“I’m so excited!” Nelvis bubbled after claiming her first-ever US title, indoors or out. “There were such great women in this race, yet I told myself just to treat it like any other race and not put pressure on myself.”
Nelvis moves to third on the world indoor all-time list, trailing only world record setters Susanna Kallur (7.68) and Lyudmila Engquist (7.69).
Over the men’s barriers, 2016 champion Jarret Eaton matched strides all the way with Aries Merritt and Devon Allen before edging ahead off the fifth barrier to win in 7.43, just 0.01 off the world-leading time posted earlier this month by US collegian Grant Holloway. Merritt ran 7.46 for second, his fastest since his all-conquering 2012 season, while Allen cut his PB to 7.49 in third.
Nageotte clears four PBs en route to 4.91m world lead
Vying for attention with all this speed was the leading field event, the women’s pole vault. World and Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris rebounded from a sore back at the early-February Millrose Games to clear 4.86m on her first attempt. World indoor champion Jenn Suhr had made 4.81m on her first, but missed her initial try at 4.86m, then passed to 4.91m.
But both veterans were trailing new face Katie Nageotte, who had first-attempt makes through seven heights, including an equal PB of 4.76m and then lifetime highs at 4.81m and 4.86m. The 26-year-old Ohio native then was the only jumper to top 4.91m, again on her first effort.
Then Nageotte had the bar elevated to 5.04m, one centimetre above Suhr’s world indoor record from 2016. While that setting proved unattainable, Nageotte moved to fourth on the world indoor all-time list and became only the sixth woman in history to top 16 feet (4.88m) indoors.
Clay, Reese and Cunningham prevail
In other jumping events, multiple international medallist Will Claye triumphed in his debut triple jump competition this winter, bouncing a victorious 17.28m in round four to out-distance the 17.20m PB by Chris Carter from the third frame. Omar Craddock also exceeded 17 metres with 17.11m to take third.
In the women’s long jump, world champion Brittney Reese won her 11th national title overall, and fourth indoors, as she twice reached a world-leading 6.88m and heads to Birmingham to defend her world indoor title. Another athlete who will return to defend is Vashti Cunningham, who high jumped 1.97m to claim her third consecutive US crown.
Back on the track, the two-section format for the 400m finals produced intriguing finishes. World champion Phyllis Francis clocked 51.19 to take the first women’s section, only to see Courtney Okolo just outlean Shakima Wimbley in the second, 51.16 to 51.17. In the men’s races, Aldrich Bailey clocked a PB of 45.59 to take section one, but Michael Cherry claimed the title with his own indoor best of 45.53 in the second heat.
Pre-race favourite Fred Kerley almost came to a stop after being nudged at the bell. He then got back into his running, but his 45.63 was only enough for third place in his heat and fifth place overall.
In the 800m finals, Donavan Brazier consolidated his position as the second-fastest North American ever with his PB victory of 1:45.10, while Ajee' Wilson led the entire women’s race to win in 2:01.60, 0.16 ahead of Raevyn Rogers, who had run sub-2:00 in her heat.
Successful 1500m/3000m double victories were claimed by 3000m champions Paul Chelimo (3:42.91 from the 3:43.09 by Ben Blankenship) and Shelby Houlihan (4:13.07 ahead of the PB 4:13.21 by Colleen Quigley).
Jon Hendershott for the IAAF
*Subject to the usual ratification procedures