(NER Ed. note: homepage photo is of Saratoga Springs (NY) junior Kelsey Chmiel winning the Junior Girls Mile in 4:44.84, just off the meet record of 4:44.o8.)
SECOND DAY OF GLORY FOR CHESEREK IN BOSTON AT NEW BALANCE INDOOR GRAND PRIX
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BOSTON (10-Feb) — Less than 24 hours after becoming only the second man in history to break 3:50 for the mile indoors, Edward Cheserek came roaring back with a decisive victory here at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in the 3000m. The 24 year-old Kenyan, who has lived and trained in the United States since he was in high school, ran a personal best 7:38.74 to defeat 2016 Olympic 5000m bronze medalist Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia by more than two seconds. That was the third-fastest time of the 2018 indoor season.
“It was a good weekend, not bad for me,” Cheserek said, keeping his cool as he spoke to reporters. “I just came here to try to enjoy the ride with these guys.” He continued: “I’m going to just go with the leaders. Whatever happens, happens.”
Halfway through the 15-lap race, Cheserek, Gebrhiwet and his Ethiopian compatriot Dejen Gebremeskel, the 2012 Olympic 5000m silver medalist, were well behind the leader, Adel Mechaal of Spain, last year’s European indoor 3000m champion. Mechaal was running alone with a four-second lead after pacemaker Jordan Mann had dropped out. Mechaal was on a fast pace, but was clearly working hard.
“I was trying to break 7:40,” an exhausted Mechaal told Race Results Weekly after the race.
But lap by lap, Mechaal’s lead eroded. The Spaniard started to labor, and Cheserek and Gebrhiwet passed him with about one lap to go. Gebremeskel was too far back to contend for the win and had to settle for third. It was just Cheserek and Gebrhiwet who were left to battle for victory. Cheserek had timed his move perfectly.
“I knew that guy (Mechaal) was keep looking back,” Cheserek said of the last laps of the race. “You know what? I think I have something left. Let me just save it for the last three laps.”
Leaving nothing to chance, Cheserek ran three sub-30-second laps to close the race, and the last one was a sizzling 27.53. Gebrhiwet gave chase, but there was no way he was going to catch the 3:49 miler who is undefeated this indoor season.
Cheserek, who has said previously that he would like to represent the USA, reiterated that he has no intention of representing Kenya in international competition, despite fast that the IAAF has temporarily frozen changes of allegiance. Arguably, he’s the best middle distance athlete in the world right now and he won’t be on the field of play at the IAAF World Indoor Championships next month. He said simply that running for Kenya was not a priority for him.
“For now, I’m just focusing as much as I can, and run as fast as I can,” said Cheserek who ran 100-mile weeks at high altitude in Flagstaff, Ariz., to get ready for this weekend’s races. “I’m not worried about other things like that. I’ll skip over that question.”
In the women’s 3000m, Jenny Simpson was able to prevail over both former University of Colorado teammate Emma Coburn and young Ethiopian Fotyen Tesfay with a well-timed last-lap surge. Simpson, who said that this would be her only indoor race this season, took the lead with about 300 meters remaining, then smoked the last lap in 29.86 seconds to clinch the win. Simpson clocked 8:40.31 to Tesfay’s 8:41.08. Coburn finished fourth in 8:43.57 behind Britain’s resurgent Steph Twell who got third in 8:41.94, a personal best and an IAAF World Championships qualifier (sub-8:50.00).
“This race today was just about winning,” Simpson told reporters. “Every single time we talked about strategy it was not about the splits, it was not about the clock. I’m pleasantly surprised with how well I felt at the end.”
Scotsman Chris O’Hare backed up his NYRR Wanamaker Mile win last Saturday in New York with another convincing victory here, winning the 1500m in a pending Scottish indoor record of 3:37.30. His Scottish teammate, Jake Wightman, gave a good chase in the last lap, but couldn’t catch O’Hare. Still, Wightman ran a very solid 3:37.43 and how has a qualifying time for the IAAF World Indoor Championships a week ahead of the U.K. Athletics Indoor Championships next weekend where the British team will be selected.
“We wanted to make sure we covered all the bases going into championships,” O’Hare explained. He added: “Today was just about making sure I was sharp enough.”
Jamaican steeplechaser Aisha Praught-Leer nearly stole the women’s 1500m. On the heels of her NYRR Millrose Games 3000m win a week ago, Praught-Leer was leading with 200 meters to go, but was passed by Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum, the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships 1500m silver medalist, who had better closing speed. Seyaum clocked 4:04.38 to Praught-Leer’s 4:04.95, a Jamaican indoor record.
“That’s PR for me,” said Praught-Leer, who was pleased with her time. “The training (with coach Joe Bosshard in Boulder, Colo.) is clearly working. We do so much strength stuff and occasionally we get on the track and do speed. It’s surprising what strength work can translate to.”
In the men’s 800m, Donavan Brazier benefited from both good pacemaking by Jamaica’s Sadiki White and ambitious front running by Boris Berian, the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships 800m gold medalist. The hot early pace set Brazier up for a sensational 1:45.11 victory, the third-fastest time ever by an American indoors and just 11/100ths of a second off of the USA indoor record of 1:45-flat set by Johnny Gray back in 1992. Berian, who missed all of last year with an Achilles injury, faded to seventh place in 1:50.17.
“When you’re in a race with Boris and all these competitive guys, a win’s going to come with a fast time,” the 20 year-old Brazier said. A reporter asked if he would buy Berian a beer, but Brazier reminded the reporter that he still wasn’t old enough to purchase alcohol in the state of Massachusetts.
Jenna Westaway of Canada was the surprise winner in the women’s four-lap contest, clocking a personal best 2:01.22 ahead of USA stars Raevyn Rogers (2:01.73) and Charlene Lipsey (2:02.05). Coached by Carlos Handler, Brenda Martinez’s husband, Westaway has likely locked in her team berth for the IAAF World Indoor Championships. She’s run under the championships qualifying standard of 2:02.00 twice this season.
“It was exactly as I had planned,” said Westaway softly so as not to disturb the women racing the 400m who were just getting settled in their blocks. “Definitely looked at the start list and there were some high-caliber names that I had seen for years at the top. I was definitely prepped for that.”
The New Balance Indoor Grand Prix was the fourth stop on the 2018 IAAF World Indoor Tour. Still remaining are the Copernicus Cup in Torun, Poland on February 15, and the Müller Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow on February 25. The IAAF World Indoor Championships will be contested over four days, from March 1 – 4 in Birmingham, England.