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Albuquerque, New Mexico

February 18th, 2018

With no Olympic Games or outdoor world championships on the 2018 calendar, the annual USATF indoor showdown took on added meaning as the sole American pathway to the only global championship of the year: Birmingham’s World Championship gathering just two weeks hence. As a result, a somewhat curious and varied assemblage of talented American women – established veterans and rising stars – met in the Land of Enchantment to battle for the coveted spots on the U.S. world indoor team.

As expected, many of the customary elite athletes performed quite well. Tori Franklin successfully defended her national indoor triple jump title with a winning 6th round jump of 14.15m 46’5¼” – #6 on the USA all-time list. Olympian DeAnna Price captured the weight throw crown with a lifetime best throw of 80’5” – #5 on the USA all-time list. Twice jumping a world-leading 22’7”, seasoned pro Brittney Reese looked ready to go after her 4th world indoor long jump title. In the 800 final, old pro and reigning world indoor 800m bronze medalist Ajée Wilson – still only 23 years old – rushed to the front after the starting gun and shrewdly tamped down the pace, splitting 400 in 62.32 and leaving her with plenty unmatched speed over the final lap to grab the victory in a negative split 2:01.60 over young pro Raevyn Rogers [2:01.74].

But the new and younger athletes who seized the moment and upped their game stole the show. Young distance pup Shelby Houlihan won both the two longer running events here last year and she employed a vicious Yifter-like late-race acceleration to win both the 3000 [9:00.08] and the 1500 [4:13.07] this year. “This year there is a team to make so I was just trying to come into both races doing the best I could,” explained the 25-year-old double champion whose American-leading 8:36.01 is #2 on the world list. On her finishing kick: “When I’m shifting, I kind of like to think like a car shifting. I like to make it a strong decisive move. I’m finally trying to get that and it is so exciting.”

The women’s 400m was stark evidence of America’s strength in the event. In the first race of the two-section final, 25-year-old Phyllis Francis pressed hard to post a 51.19 win. It was a world-leading mark that the reigning 400m world champion could savor – for about 5 minutes. In section two, 23 year old Courtney Okolo [51.16] outdueled 22-year-old Shakima Wimbley [51.17] to gain the victory and to take down Francis’ short-lived world leader clocking as these two copped the two world team spots. “That’s what’s so crazy about our sport,” shrugged a gracious Francis afterwards.

20-year-old Vashti Cunningham captured the high jump crown with a best clearance of 1.97m to better Inika McPherson [1.91m]. The young professional’s winning jump is the American leader and is tied #2 on the world list.

The women’s vault is always a top event in the jump-friendly altitude of ABQ and today was no exception as 26-year-old Katie Nageotte [4.91m] produced a dream-like career day for the win. [See Sidebar] A clutch final-attempt clearance by Sandi Morris at 4.76m was critical to her 2nd place finish which will send her – along with Nageotte – to Birmingham. Reigning world indoor pole vault champion Jenn Suhr cleared 4.81 to finish 3rd, denying her the opportunity to defend her world indoor vault title next month.

Youth was served in the women’s 60 meter final as 23-year-old Javianne Oliver dominated a Bowie-less field. Her runaway win in 7.02 is the world leader and makes the young sprinter – competing in her first ever indoor national championship – the tied-for-#5 American of all time. “Honestly, I have been working really hard and I was hoping something like this could happen. But I wasn’t thinking about times.”

Sharika Nelvis [7.70] led Kendra Harrison [7.72] and Christina Manning [7.73] across the line in the 100H final – their clockings ranking 1-2-3 on the world list. Further, the 27-year-old Nelvis’ mark sets a new American record – taking down the prior 60H AR of Lola Jones [7.72] – and is the #3 performance on the all-time world list. “I am happy,” squealed s joyful Nelvis who later downplayed the importance of her record time. “I’m never about numbers. I’m all about winning,” she soberly offered. “You win – you’re on the team. So I got out here, ran my race, stayed in my lane, and I won.”

The confederation of American women – some young, some old, some rookies; some veterans – who will represent the USA in Great Britain’s world indoor championships performed exceptionally well and showed promise in the rarified Albuquerque air. And we will soon see if they can summon the poise to peak on the even bigger stage that awaits across the pond.


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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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