BOSTON –Russell Brown and Phoebe Wright aren’t yet household names in U.S. middle-distance circles, but they may well be after Brown won the New Balance men’s mile and Wright took the women’s 800 Saturday night at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix.
Competing in the most anticipated race of the night and the meet’s finale event, Brown convincingly defeated an illustrious field in the mile. Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis of New Zealand led a strung-out field through 800m in 1:58 and looked to be in control of the race, but Henok Legesse of Ethiopia took the lead with 500m left, and the race was on.
Garrett Heath assumed the lead with one lap left and was followed by Willis and Brown. With half a lap to go it was Brown, sporting the bright green singlet of the Oregon Track Club, who had the speed to take the victory impressively in 3:54.81, the fastest time in the world this year. A nine-time NCAA All-American at Stanford and the U.S. indoor runner-up in 2008 after completing his collegiate eligibility, Brown is no slouch, but Saturday was his first high-profile win and a personal record. Brown’s former Stanford teammate and fellow All-American, Heath was second in 3:55.87 with Willis third in 3:56.29.
Phoebe Wright made clear she will be a major player in the professional 800m ranks with an impressive win Saturday night. The former walk-on at the University of Tennessee and 2010 NCAA indoor champion held off a surge from 2010 USA indoor 1,500m champion Morgan Uceny to win in 2:01.01, with Uceny second in 2:01.65. Maggie Vessey was third in 2:01.87.
The second stop of USA Track & Field’s 2011 Visa Championship series, the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix will be broadcast on ESPN2 from 2-4 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, February 6.
Hastings wins again
Natasha Hastings remained undefeated in the 2011 Visa Championship Series, winning the women’s 400m in 51.88 eight days after taking the title at the 104th Millrose Games. Hastings held off 2004 Olympic Trials champion Deedee Trotter on the final backstretch, with Trotter finishing second in 52.37 and Mary Wineberg third in 52.78.
2005 World Outdoor champion Lauryn Williams continued her return from what was essentially a season off in 2010, coming from behind to win the Visa women’s 60m in 7.17 seconds. Marshevet Myers narrowly missed the win, taking second in 7.18, and 2006 World Indoor champion Lisa Barber was third in 7.23.
The New Balance women’s 3,000m was a showcase for some of the world’s best young distance talent. Nine-time NCAA champion Sally Kipyego of Kenya, 25, led for the first part of the race, and fellow former NCAA champion and multiple collegiate record holder Jenny (Barringer) Simpson, 24, surged to the lead with about 900m to go. Kipyego returned the favor with 500m left, with 19-year-old Ethiopian Kalkidan Gezahegne and veteran Megan Wright, 29, of Canada following her. At the bell, Kipyego took control and went on to win in 8:49.74. Simpson moved from fourth to second in the final straight, finishing in 8:50.01; Wright was third in 8:52.01 and Gezahegne was fourth in 8:52.05.
The men’s 3,000m provided the most thrilling race of the night in what was practically a three-man boxing match between Britain’s Mo Farah, Kenya’s Nixon Chepseba and Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel.
Farah handled pace-setting duties for most of the race, although Chepseba briefly took the lead. But with one lap to go, it was Farah-Chepseba-Gebremeskel, and the jostling began. Through the backstretch, it became a two-man race between Farah and Gebremeskel as Farah held the rail. But with a partisan Ethiopian crowd in the stands, Gebremeskel prevailed in the final straight, running 7:35.37 to Farah’s 7:35.81. Chepseba was third in 7:37.64.
More American wins
Trell Kimmons came on in the last half of the race to win the men’s 60m in 6.60, with Chris Davis second in 6.66 and Ivory Williams third in 6.68. American record holder Jenn Suhr was an easy winner in the women’s pole vault with a clearance of 4.61m/15-1.5, and Calvin Smith breezed to victory in the men’s 300m in 32.93.
In exhibition races, Millrose high school mile runner-up Lindsay Crevoiserat led New England to a team victory over New York in the junior women’s mile, winning easily in 4:52.60. Miles Schoedler paced a 1-2 finish for New York in the boys’ junior mile in 4:15.92, but New England took the team competition in the race. Charlie Kern won the MBTA men’s masters mile in 4:09.73, the Cambridge Jets dominated the Ask, Listen and Learn Youth Relay in 1:48.42.
Heading into the USA Indoor Championships Presented by BMW at the end of this month, weight thrower Amber Campbell and shot putter RyanWhiting remain atop the standings for the Visa Championship, their performances at the Millrose Game earning Campbell 1178 points and Whiting 1199.
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