Yomif Kejelcha on his way to winning the mile at the Millrose Games (© Kirby Lee)
Near-world-indoor-record performances from Yomif Kejelcha and Michael Saruni were the highlights of an eventful night at the Millrose Games in New York City on Saturday (9).
In the days leading up to the competition, Kejelcha had declared his intentions to go after Hicham El Guerrouj’s world indoor record of 3:48.45 in the mile. The two-time world indoor 3000m champion had shown great form so far this indoor season, winning all of his races with ease and posting world-leading marks in the 1000m and mile.
Up against a strong field at the Armory, Kejelcha knew the Millrose Games would be an ideal opportunity to attempt to break the world record. The Ethiopian had a pacemaker lined up for the first five laps, but Kejelcha caught him after just four, passing 800 metres in 1:51.7.
Running alone for the second half and with Edward Cheserek leading the chase pack a couple of seconds behind, Kejelcha churned out consistent 29-second laps and was always close to world record pace. After charging through the finish line and awaiting the official confirmation of the time, he found he was an agonising 0.01 shy of the world record, clocking 3:48.46, an outright Ethiopian record.
“I’m very happy but I came very close,” said Kejelcha. “I will try it again this year and I’m confident I can break it.”
Cheserek held off a strong challenge from Olympic 800m bronze medallist Clayton Murphy to take second place, 3:53.29 to Murphy’s 3:53.30. Britain’s Josh Kerr was fourth in 3:53.65.
Continental records for Saruni and Wilson, national record for Klosterhalfen
Kejelcha was the second athlete of the evening to climb to the No.2 spot on a world indoor all-time list.
Little more than an hour earlier, Michael Saruni pulled off a stunning victory in the 800m. The Kenyan had closely tracked USA’s Donavan Brazier through 200 metres (24.60) and 400 metres (49.89).
Brazier still led through 600 metres in 1:16.21 – just 0.75 shy of the PB he set for that distance last month – but Saruni made his move on the final lap and pulled ahead of Brazier before crossing the line first in 1:43.98.
Saruni, who is coached by 1988 Olympic 800m champion Paul Ereng, became just the second athlete in history to better 1:44 for the distance indoors after world indoor record-holder Wilson Kipketer. It also broke the African indoor record set at last year’s Millrose Games by Saruni’s training partner Emmanuel Korir.
Having come close on several occasions, Brazier was rewarded with a North American indoor record of 1:44.41 in second place, moving to fifth on the world indoor all-time list.
World bronze medallist Ajee Wilson won the women’s 800m by a similar margin. She went through the half-way point in 57.19 and held on to her lead over the final two laps, stopping the clock at 1:58.60 to break the North American indoor record.
Natoya Goule was second in 1:59.13, a Jamaican indoor record.
Two weeks after convincingly winning the 5000m at the IAAF World Indoor Tour meeting in Boston, Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen produced a similarly dominant display in the mile.
She followed the pacemaker for three laps and then passed through 800m within 2:10. With a series of 32-second laps, the European indoor 1500m silver medallist reached the finish in 4:19.98, breaking the long-standing German indoor record set 31 years ago by Vera Michallek and moving to fifth on the world indoor all-time list. Her 1500m split of 4:02.70 was also a national indoor record.
Steeplechase specialist Colleen Quigley was second in 4:22.86, making her the fourth-fastest North American woman for the distance indoors.
Crouser climbs world all-time list
It wasn’t just the middle-distance runners making an impact on the world indoor all-time lists.
Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser opened his 2019 campaign with a stunning series of throws, all of them beyond 21.30m. He opened his account with 21.60m and produced his best mark of the night, 22.33m, in the fourth round.
Not only was it the best indoor throw for 11 years, it added 21 centimetres to the 30-year-old meeting record and moved Crouser from 18th to fourth on the world indoor all-time list.
US compatriot Joe Kovacs, the 2015 world champion, was second with a season’s best of 20.86m.
English Gardner showed she had fully recovered from the knee injury that kept her out of action for the second half of 2017 and most of 2018. The world and Olympic finalist sped to a lifetime best of 7.10 to win the women’s 60m from Michelle-Lee Ahye (7.15).
John Teeters, meanwhile, won the men’s 60m in 6.56.
In a race where the first eight finishers set indoor PBs, Grant Fisher won the men’s 3000m in 7:42.62. But the race was overshadowed by the fate of Jamaica’s Kemoy Campbell, who paced the field through the first 1000 metres before crashing to the ground. He was treated trackside by the event’s medical team before being taken to hospital. Three hours later, Campbell’s agent Ray Flynn confirmed that Campbell was in a stable condition.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF