NEW YORK – Dior Hall had run a slew of fast times and even won some big races. But during Sunday’s finals in the 60-meter hurdles, the sophomore from Denver, Colo. took it to the next level.
Hall blitzed U.S. Junior and World Youth champ Trinity Wilson and the rest of the New Balance Nationals Indoor field, running 8.19 seconds for No. 2 all-time and another new sophomore class record. It was arguably the most impressive performance of the final session of the three-day affair at The Armory.
Three weekends earlier, in Pocatello, Idaho, Dior ran 8.30 in the prelims of the Simplot Games and then hit the last hurdle the next day as Wilson sped off with the victory and a then-US#1 8.23. Then, on Feb. 26 in Seattle, Wash., Hall lowered her time to 8.28 and bettered Wilson’s class record and won the race. But Wilson was elsewhere.
It all came together in New York. First she ran 8.25, fastest overall in the semifinal round. In the final, Hall got a huge advantage on Wilson at the start and the Californian – who last lost to a prep in 2010 – could never catch up. After the championship race, Hall found her mom – Yolanda Johnson, a former all-time hurdling great – and shared an emotional moment with her.
“I was excited,” Hall said. “I was crying with my mom. I feel like I’m on the right track and (now) it’s on to the outdoor season.”
Before the curtain closed on the indoor season, many of the country’s top athletes took a final stab at leaving their mark on it before moving on to outdoors.
In the boys 400, the highly anticipated showdown with trio Aldrich Bailey (Texas), Najee Glass (N.J.) and Arman Hall (Fla.) lost some of its sizzle when Hall didn’t run fast enough in the prelims to make the fastest section of the finals. So the big show turned into a rematch of the Brooks PR meet – with a nearly identical result.
Bailey got into the lead by the end of the stagger, but Glass was right behind him. Bailey left a seam open on the inside and Glass pressed through it to take the lead. Bailey went wide on the final straightaway to try and win – and was a little short. It was Glass clocking 46.57 and Bailey right there in 46.59.
“I forced myself in,” Glass said. “It was not a big gap. I had to be aggressive.”
Bailey certainly wasn’t expecting the pass on the inside and wasn’t even sure it was legal. “When Najee passed on the inside, I was like ‘What’s going on?’” he said. “I lost my form when he did that.”
Bailey recovered in time to win the 200 meters in a meet record 21.07 seconds, but it didn’t quite make up for the second straight loss to Glass (the difference in Seattle was .01 seconds).
For Edward Cheserek, the final day of NBNI provided an opportunity to pursue individual titles after anchoring two relays wins for St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, N.J.).
It started with the two-mile, but Cheserek ran even splits on the way to 8:50.53 – a great time by anyone else’s standards, but seven seconds slower than he’d already run in this winter.
It was about 75 minutes that Cheserek took to the track again for the mile, but the race did not turn into the four-event coronation that he may have imagined. At the front, Jacob Burcham (Ona, W.V.) went after Cheserek, trying to surge his way to the lead. Each time, Cheserek responded and rebuffed him.
Laying in the weeds, right behind them, Brad Nye of Kaysville, Utah was watching and waiting. “With 400 to go, I was still in the race,” he said. “I said ‘I’m right here. This is perfect.’”
Nye moved off the final curve, ran past Burcham and Cheserek and took it through the tape in 4:08.67. The Foot Locker champ and 5,000-meter U.S. record-holder was next in 4:09.07 and Burcham was third in 4:10.82. Nye also had a performance at Simplot that set the stage for nationals, except in his case it was a 1,600 victory so dominant – an easy-looking 4:12.39 at high altitude – that many believed he could improve significantly.
Nye was almost stunned by his achievement and quick to be humble. He had watched each of Cheserek’s previous three races and noticed that he was being pushed – or pushing himself – in all of them.
“Wow, he is such a stud,” Nye said. “His whole attitude, his ability, I have nothing but respect for the guy. It was a great opportunity to run with him.”
Two of the other big matchups came in the 800-meter races.
Ben Malone of Pascack Valley, N.J. kicked late and ran a junior class national record and No. 2 all-time 1:49.94 to beat a field that included Zavon Watkins (N.Y.) and Ned Willig (Pa.), who were second and third, respectively. It concluded an amazing undercover campaign for Malone, who is also US#1 at 1,000 meters and has shown great range from 600 to cross-country.
Ajee Wilson and Mary Cain had a rare chance to go head-to-head, and get to know one another. The senior from Neptune, N.J. and the sophomore from Bronxville, N.Y. don’t live far apart, but they really didn’t know each other. Cain approached Wilson in the bathroom and asked if she’d like to warm-up together.
“She’s run 2:02 (for 800), so I just wanted to go out and do my best,” Cain said. “I tried to go after her that last 150. Why not? But that last 100 it was hard to find that other gear.”
Wilson had her eye on Cain all along and was wary of getting into a kicking contest with her. “I wasn’t asleep on (Cain),” she said. “I knew I needed to save something for the last 150.”
Leading off the field events, it was hard to top Avana Story of Woodward Academy (Georgia), already the national leader in the girls weight throw. She hit a two-foot personal best 63-1.5 to move to No. 2 all-time behind her former Throw1Deep Club teammate Shelby Ashe.
“After my third throw of 60 (feet), it was time to go all-out,” Story said. “I’ve been waiting for that 19 meters to come up all season.”
Ashe, who took the year off from entering college in order to train for the Olympics, continues to work out with Story and her teammates. “She’s like my big sister,” Story said of Ashe. “She told me I could do it.”
In the boys weight throw, Rudy Winkler of Averill Park, N.Y. had the four longest throws of the competition – all of them over 24 meters (78-8) – and hit the first 80-foot throw of the year for the winner, 80-11.75 (#8 all-time).
Carla Forbes of Newtonville, Mass. won a horizontal jump title for the third year in a row. The junior won the triple in 2010 and the long jump last year. On Saturday, she was fifth in the long jump with a respectable 19-7.
In the triple jump, Forbes improved to 42-5.25 for a 19-inch season’s best. It was good for No. 10 all-time. “I was kind of angry,” she said of her morning after the long jump. “I said ‘You know what, I’m going to win something this weekend.’ I had to focus on a new day.”
Ariah Graham of Wakefield, N.C. went 3-for-3 in her events. She anchored Wakefield (N.C.) to victories in the 4x200 and 4x400, and also won the individual title in the 400 with 53.95, fourth-fastest in the nation this season.
Wakefield’s 4x200 relay turned in a meet record 1:36.35, also #2 all-time. The 4x400 ran a US#1 3:43.01, good for #8 all-time.
Robert Rhodes anchored the boys of Boys and Girls (Brooklyn, N.Y.) to a relay win for the second straight day. After an emotionally draining 4x800 win on Saturday, Rhodes recovered in time to help his team take the 4x400 decisively, in 3:16.78.