Donavan Brazier on his way to winning the 800m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix (© Getty Images)
The book of world records may have survived the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, but continental records took a hammering at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Staten Island on Saturday (13).
Middle-distance stars Donavan Brazier, Bryce Hoppel, Oliver Hoare and Elle Purrier all emerged from the meeting with area records to their name, while Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo and US high jumper Trey Culver produced world-leading marks in their respective events.
Brazier, the world 800m champion, opened his 2021 season with a race over his specialist distance, seeking his fifth consecutive victory at this meeting. He passed through half way in 51.16, then by 600m (1:17.37) he had a lead of almost two seconds.
With a final lap of 26.84, he crossed the line in 1:44.21 to shave 0.01 from his own North American indoor record, moving up one place on the world indoor all-time list to equal fourth. Britain’s Jamie Webb was second in a PB of 1:46.26.
“The plan was to go out fast and see if I can hang on,” said Brazier. “I was really hurting at the end. For that entire last 200, I was just thinking, ‘American record, American record’. When I crossed the line and the clock said 1:44.22, I thought, ‘ah dang’, but then the time was adjusted and I was happy.”
While Brazier was the outstanding favourite in his event, Australia’s Oliver Hoare produced one of the biggest surprises of the meeting to win the men’s 1500m, a scoring event on this year’s World Athletics Indoor Tour.
The 2019 NCAA indoor champion positioned himself right behind Jake Wightman for most of the race as the Briton led the field through 800m in 1:54.40 and 1200m in 2:50.45. Wightman started to struggle on the final lap while Hoare breezed to the front and opened up a huge gap, going on to win in 3:32.35.
Not only did Hoare rewrite his outright PB (3:34.63, set outdoors last year), he also smashed Stewart McSweyn’s Oceanian record by almost three seconds. Wightman finished second in 3:34.48, narrowly missing the long-standing British record. In third, Sam Tanner broke Nick Willis’s New Zealand record with 3:34.72.
“I love running indoors, even though I’m an Australian,” said Hoare, who now moves up to seventh on the world indoor all-time list. “I just really wanted to run under that Olympic standard (3:35.00) today.”
Elle Purrier secured back-to-back wins in the two miles at the New Balance Grand Prix, but her victory on Saturday was significantly more notable than her triumph 12 months ago.
The world 5000m finalist chopped almost 20 seconds from her PB and eight seconds from the North American indoor record to win in 9:10.28, becoming the third-fastest woman in history for the distance, indoors or out.
Having followed the pacemaker through the first mile in 4:41.93, she wound up the pace in the second half while 2017 world steeplechase champion Emma Coburn followed close behind. Purrier started to open up a noticeable gap with little more than 400 metres to go, passed through 3000m in 8:36.41, and then kicked hard for the final lap.
She crossed the line in 9:10.28 to win by more than five seconds from Coburn, whose time of 9:15.71 was also well inside Jenny Simpson’s previous area record (9:18.35). Only Genzebe Dibaba and Meseret Defar have ever run quicker indoors; Purrier now moves ahead of Olympic gold medallists Tirunesh Dibaba and Vivian Cheruiyot on the world indoor all-time list.
Like Purrier, 1000m winner Bryce Hoppel also repeated his New Balance Indoor Grand Prix victory from last year, and did so with a North American indoor record.
The 23-year-old, who finished fourth in the 800m at the 2019 World Championships, ran a controlled opening 400m in 55.36 and passed through 600m in 1:23.24, in first place but slightly slower than intended.
Determined to break the record, Hoppel dug in for the final two laps and reached the finish in 2:16.27, taking half a second off David Torrence’s area record. Canada’s Marco Arop came through to take second place in 2:17.10 while Charlie Grice set a British record of 2:17.20 in third.
“Following last year’s race, I decided that I’d go after the (North American indoor 1000m) record next time,” said Hoppel. “Getting into the record books is just incredible. It’s not just me out there – it’s cool to do something for everyone who helps me.”
In other middle-distance action, Canada’s Justyn Knight won the men’s two-mile race in 8:13.92 and Heather Maclean won the women’s 1500m in 4:06.32. World bronze medallist Ajee Wilson put together a well-executed race to take the women’s 800m in 2:01.79.
World leads for Miller-Uibo, Harrison, Culver and Thomas
Almost seven years since her last indoor 400m, Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo returned to her specialist distance on the boards and set her second national indoor record of the year.
The 26-year-old, who clocked a Bahamian indoor 200m record of 22.40 in Fayetteville last month, took extremely comfortable as she passed through the first lap in 23.92. World Championships fourth-place finisher Wadeline Jonathas tried to give chase, but Miller-Uibo pulled away to win in 50.21. Jonathas was second in 51.95.
Miller-Uibo’s time took 0.13 off Christine Amertil’s Bahamian record and moves Miller-Uibo to equal eighth on the world indoor all-time list. “I came out here to see where we’re at with my training and I’m very satisfied,” said the winner. “I feel really strong right now.”
World indoor 60m hurdles champion Kendra Harrison is also having a brief but impressive indoor campaign.
Harrison, the outdoor world record-holder, was a clear winner of the 60m hurdles in a world-leading 7.82. Britain’s Tiffany Porter and USA’s Gabrielle Cunningham placed second and third respectively, both clocking 7.89.
Trey Culver equalled his PB to win the men’s high jump with a world-leading 2.33m. He led at the early heights but then needed two tries at 2.25m. Once over that bar, he was the only one to clear 2.28m and he then progressed to 2.33m, clearing it on his second attempt, before bowing out with three misses at 2.36m.
“I go into every competition expecting to jump better than before, so it was a good feeling to win,” said Culver.
Gabby Thomas underlined her reputation as one of the world’s best 300m runners, repeating her New Balance Indoor Grand Prix victory over the one-and-a-half lap distance.
Lynna Irby put up a strong fight and led for most of the way, but Thomas came through in the final 100 metres to win in a PB of 35.73, just 0.02 shy of the US indoor record. Thomas is now the only woman in history to better 36 seconds for the distance on three occasions indoors. Irby finished second in a PB of 35.99.
Norman wins two-lap thriller
Michael Norman maintained his perfect record over training partner Rai Benjamin, but their 400m clash in Staten Island was their closest finish to date.
Norman – who hasn’t raced indoors since 2018 when he clocked 44.52, the fastest indoor 400m in history – started well and seemed to make up ground on 400m hurdles specialist Benjamin, who was drawn in the outside lane. They passed through the half-way point almost in unison with Norman edging into the lead, but Benjamin responded on the back straight.
Norman stood his ground but Benjamin was hardly letting up as the duo entered the final straight both very much still in contention. Norman held on to win in 45.34 with Benjamin close behind in a lifetime best of 45.39.
“It felt good,” said Norman. “I just wanted to knock the cobwebs off because it’s been more than a year since I last ran that distance. It’s always very competitive between us, in training and in competition. It was a lot of fun.”
Trayvon Bromell’s winning margin in the men’s 60m was three times as big as Norman’s margin from the 400m. The 2016 world indoor champion won convincingly in 6.50 with Demek Kemp taking second place in 6.65.
Kayla White won a close women’s 60m in a PB of 7.15 as just 0.06 separated the six finishers. Hannah Cunliffe was second in 7.17 and Candace Hill third in 7.19. Aleia Hobbs was the fastest in the heats, clocking 7.10, but she was disqualified for a false start in the final.
Elsewhere, world 200m champion Noah Lyles won the men's 200m in 20.80, having clocked 6.76 in the 60m heats earlier in the programme. World indoor champion Sandi Morris won the women’s pole vault with 4.60m, while Jereem Richards won the men’s 300m in 32.71
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics