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Madison_TiannaESPN-USind12.jpg
 
Tianna Madison with ESPN, 2012 USA Indoor champs,
photo by PhotoRun.net


 


Gatlin-TimmonsFH1-USind12.jpgJustin Gatlin, Trell Kimmons, 2012 USA Indoors, photo by PhotoRun.net

 


Claye_WillLJ1a-USind12.jpgWill Claye, 2012 USA Indoors, photo by PhotoRun.net


Lowe_ChaunteAR-USind12.jpgChaunte Howard Lowe: High Jump AR, VISA Series winner,
photo by PhotoRun.net


Simpson_Jenny1500c-USind12.jpgJenny Simpson, 2012 USA Indoors, 1,500m,
photo by PhotoRun.net


Manzano-CentrowitzFV1-USind12.jpgLeonel Manzano, 2012 USA Indoors, 1,500m,
photo by PhotoRun.net


Carter_MichelleWide-USind12.jpgMichelle Carter, 2012 USA Indoors, photo by PhotoRun.net


Williams_JillianWide1-USind12.jpgJillian Camerena Williams, photo by PhotoRun.net


The USA Indoor Track & Field Championships offered a perfect early-season stage for many of America's top track & field athletes to show that they are on a glide path to great performances in this all-important Olympic year. While this championship meet is, of course, intended to cap off the indoor season, in this year of the Olympiad, athletes, their coaches, and those who love the sport view meets such as this as another step in a track & field progression that will crescendo at the London Olympic Games this August.

Simpson_JennyFV1-USind12.jpgJenny Simpson, 2012 USA Indoors, photo by PhotoRun.net

Perhaps the highlight of the concluding day of this national championship meet was Jenny Simpson's attempt to garner her second win in as many days. Coming off a convincing win Saturday night in the Women's 3000, Simpson doubled back to face a solid field in the 1500 Meter Run. At the opening gun, Sara Vaughn took the early lead and paced the field through the first two laps. After the leaders, still tightly bunched, passed 800, Simpson rushed to the lead with 500 meters to go. Simpson controlled the pace and began her drive to the finish over the final 300. Perhaps waiting just a bit to long, Brenda Martinez unleashed a powerful kick that had her closing on Simpson as the runners drove to the line. But Simpson was not to be denied, winning in 4:15.04 and completing an impressive 3000/1500 double victory. After the race, a happy and relieved Simpson confided, "It's tough coming back [after the 3000 win]. I had a big target on my back. I knew when I took the lead I couldn't just get up there and sit around, I had to take command of the lead. I am just really happy that it all turned out as it did." On being the reigning World Champion in the 1500, Simpson observes, "It is my responsibility to continue to carry this with a lot of grace and a lot of respect for the people who have been world champions before me in this event. And so, I just want to take this and not give up an inch and really represent the U.S. well and be someone they can be really proud of." Maybe even more than her athletic success, Jenny Simpson's genuine humility and authentic respect for the sport and its heritage makes her an outstanding ambassador for U.S. track and field.

 

Rupp_Galen1500-USind12.jpgGalen Rupp, 2012 USA Indoors, photo by PhotoRun.net

In the Men's 1500 Meter Run, a pedestrian first 800 meters signaled that a furious finish was in the making. Sensing this, Galen Rupp, doubling back after a disappointing third in the 3000, took the lead and began to force the pace. Matthew Centrowitz, current World Championship bronze medalist in the 1500 and Rupp's former teammate at Oregon, covered that move as Rupp pressed on. A strong move off the final curve vaulted Centrowitz into the lead as he sensed the victory was his. But crafty Leo Manzano, swinging wide of the final turn, powered past first Rupp then Centrowitz to claim victory in 3:48.05. Centrowitz was a step back in 3:48.16 and the hard-luck Rupp was once again relegated to third in 3:48.44.

 

Manzano-CentrowitzFV-USind12.jpgLeonel Manzano, Matthew Centrowitz, Galen Rupp, 2012 USA Indoors, photo by PhotoRun.net

The Women's Shot Put featured a seesaw battle between defending champion and American record holder Jill Camarena-Williams and Michelle Carter. After Carter eclipsed Camarena-Williams' early leading mark with a throw of 63' 2.75", the defending champion uncorked a fourth round throw of 64' 2.25" to seal the win. "I was just doing so many things wrong today - trying to force it," said the American record holder. "It was just a mental game. I knew if I could get my positions, I could throw far." Ultimately, she did. Her trademark good-luck yellow hair ribbon delivered for her once again!

 

Williams_JillianWide-USind12.jpgJilllian Camerena-Williams, photo by PhotoRun.net

With no multi event in the indoor championships, decathlete Ashton Eaton nonetheless made the trip to Duke City to compete in a couple of individual events. On Saturday, Eaton looked sharp in qualifying for the semis in the 60 Hurdles. On Sunday, Eaton upset world class horizontal jumper Will Claye - globally ranked 9th in the long jump in 2011 - with in a P.R. winning leap of 26' 5.5". Eaton is rounding into amazing shape. In a post-race interview he confirmed that Russell Brown had paced him to a 1:52 800 within the past several weeks. "It felt really good," smiled Eaton. "I am physically where I want to be at this time of year." Are we prepared to witness what should be a titantic decathlon battle between Eaton and Trey Hardee in Eugene this June?

 

Eaton_AshtonLJ-USind12.jpgAshton Eaton, 2012 USA Indoors, photo by PhotoRun.net

Duane Solomon showed mid-season form in easily capturing the national title in the Men's 800. Leading from the gun, Solomon dominated the race and captured the win in 1:48.58. Michael Rutt [1:49.90] and Mark Wieczorek [1:49.96] finished second and third.

 

Solomon_DuaneLeds-USind12.jpg Duane Solomon leads, 2012 USA Indoors, photo by PhotoRun.net

 

A mid-race surge by Erica Moore in the Women's 800 Meter Run was just the advantage she needed to capture the title with a winning time of 2:01.08. Pre-race favorite Phoebe Wright, caught off guard by Moore's move, finished well back in second in 2:03.07.

 

Moore_EricaFV-USind12.jpg Erica Moore takes the 800m, 2012 USA Indoors,
photo by PhotoRun.net

 

Sunday was Sanya Richards-Ross' 27th birthday and the second anniversary of her marriage to New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross. She showed the crowd that she knows how to celebrate her special day. In the Women's 400 Final, Natasha Hastings grabbed the early lead - often the winning strategy in the rough and tumble of the indoor 400 - yet Richards-Ross maintained her poise and tucked in behind her in second. Moving hard on the back stretch, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the 400 Meter Dash took the lead and drove hard all the way through the finish for a decisive win in a meet record time of 50.71 - a clocking that narrowly missed the American indoor 400 record of 50.54.


 

Hastings_Natasha1-USind12.jpg Natasha Hastings, 2012 USA Indoors, photo by PhotoRun.net

 

In reflecting the classic strategy of her iconic coach Clyde Hart, Richards-Ross confided, "My strategy was to run a fast third 100. I just carried that move on into the lead. I really wanted to set the American indoor record here on this fast track. But it didn't happen. Maybe it can happen at the Worlds." Asked if Aaron had any special dinner plans to celebrate her championship win and the double anniversary, Richards-Ross retorted with a flashing smile, "He'd better!"

 

Richards_SanyaFH1-USind12.jpgSanya Richards-Ross, Victory!, 2012 USA Indoors, 400m,
photo by PhotoRun.net

In the Men's 400, Gil Roberts won the all-important mid-race break for the pole and held on in the final lap to better Calvin Smith and the rest of the field. His impressive winning time of 45.39 gave him a comfortable margin of victory.

In the Men's Shot Put, veteran Reese Hoffa waged a stirring battle with rising star Ryan Whiting. With Whiting taking the lead with an opening throw of 70' 4.25" and later pushing his lead out to 70' 10.5" after three rounds, Hoffa and the rest of the field looked to be on the ropes. But a mighty heave by Hoffa of 71' 4.5" in the fifth round sealed the win for him.

Brad Walker affirmed his dominance in the Pole Vault with an impressive victory. Jumping clean through 19' 2.75" and with his win assured, Walker took three attempts at 19' 8.25" - a height that, if cleared, would represent a new American indoor record [Lawrence Johnson: 19' 6.5"]. Three attempts at this prodigious height were not successful. The crowd showed its appreciation for Walker's efforts, but it was not to be this day.

A lightning start by Trell Kimmons in the Men's 60 was the difference as Kimmons' world-leading winning time of 6.45 allowed him to hold off a rejuvenated Justin Gatlin. With no rust remaining after serving his suspension, Gatlin closed fast to post a second place time of 6.47 - a mark which tied the previous world-leading time.

Tianna Madison matched her own world-leading time of 7.02 to capture the Women's 60 Meter title. Barbara Pierre was an impressive second in 7.06.

The hurdle races offered different types of drama. In the Men's 60 Meter Hurdles, Dexter Faulk, the new world leader after posting a 7.40 qualifying time in Saturday's heats, false started twice - the first when he was in the race, and the second when he was "running the race under protest." No matter. Aries Merritt kept his cool and raced to a narrow win over Kevin Craddock - 7.43 to 7.46. In the women's hurdle final, Kristi Castlin, who had looked razor sharp advancing through the rounds, earned a convincing win in 7.84. Vanneisha Ivy was second in 7.93.

An effervescent Chaunte Lowe, always a crowd favorite, notched an easy win in the Women's High Jump. Her winning leap of 6' 7.5" was 6 inches better than the height cleared by runner-up Inika McPherson. Lowe looks poised to be a serious international competitor in this Olympic year.

In the Women's Long Jump, Janay DeLoach recorded an upset victory over Brittney Reese, current World Champion in the Long Jump. DeLoach's winning leap of 22' 7.25" bested Reese's top mark by an inch.

To end a successful weekend of track and field in the Land of Enchantment, Galen Rupp and Chaunte Lowe tensely watched the final two hurdle races to see if their season-leading performances would hold up and allow them to receive the $25,000 cash awards that are presented to the winners of the Visa Challenge Series. They did. When their wins were assured, each celebrated - but in different ways. Galen blushed. And Chaunte danced.
 

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TAFWA Award

Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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