The New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, the second meet of 2012 Visa Championship, saw some exciting competitions that resulted in important trends that could impact what goes on later this season.
Jenn Suhr is back
After a few years of inconsistency after her silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, Jenn Suhr looks to be back on her game clearing an American record of 4.88 meters, 16 feet even. The clearance put her in an elite category as just the second woman behind Yelena Isinbayeva to clear 16 feet indoors. The women’s pole vault has been wide open in recent years with Isinbayeva on sabbatical and no clear front-runner so Suhr on her ‘A’ game is surely a gold medal contender.
It’s still early
Russell Brown, the defending champion in the men’s mile, struggled to mix it up in his title defense to finish fifth in 4:00.79. This performance may not be all that bad of a thing. Last year, Brown ran well indoors and then continued the momentum in the spring with personal bests at 800 meters, 1500 meters and the mile but mistimed his peak. At USA’s he failed to get out of the heats after being considered a contender to make the World team. Perhaps he’ll peak at the right time in 2012 and vie for the Olympic team.
Mad Len is the real deal
Ciaran O’Lionaird may have the best nickname in track and field – the bullet with a mullet – but his victory in the men’s mile proves he’s the real deal. The Irishman surprised many by running the ‘A’ standard in the 1500 meters late last summer and went on to qualify for the World final. This year, he joined Alberto Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project and proved 2011 wasn’t a fluke with a win Saturday over teammates Galen Rupp, Mo Farah and the rest of a strong international field.
U.S. women’s 5k wide open
With the likes of Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher opting for the marathon and top track runners like Jen Rhines, Amy Hastings and Molly Huddle likely to run the 10k, the three spots on the Olympic team for the women’s 5000 meters will be up for grabs. A few of the potential contenders for the team raced well on Saturday. Sara Hall backed up wins at her last two races at the Pan Am Games and NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5k with a strong fourth place finish in the 3000 meters ahead of U.S. standouts Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson. Georgetown grad Liz Maloy, whose personal best of 15:15.34 is under the Olympic ‘A’ standard, also ran well in that 3k. In the two mile, Jackie Areson of the Nike Oregon Project led the chase pack behind Tirunesh Dibaba to finish second. Look for these three women to contend strongly in Eugene.