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Kynard wins historic HJ title at USATF Indoors


ALBUQUERQUE --  Erik Kynard (Toledo, Ohio) made history with his fifth straight win in the men’s high jump as Team USATF’s roster for the World Indoors began to take shape Saturday at the 2018 USATF Indoor Championships. Eight finals were contested on the day.

The top two finishers in each event qualify to represent Team USATF at the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships March 1-4 in Birmingham, England, provided they have met IAAF performance standards.

Sunday’s final day of competition at the USATF Indoor Championships will be broadcast from 5-7 p.m. Eastern Time on NBCSN, serving as a “track sandwich” of TV coverage, in between Winter Olympics coverage on the network.

Champions crowned

Kynard won his fifth consecutive USATF indoor title in the high jump, setting a record for consecutive wins in the event. Previously, only Harold Osborn had won four straight high jump titles, from 1923-26. The 2012 Olympic silver medalist, Kynard took attempts at every height, charting only one miss in the competition en route to his winning clearance of 2.30m/7-6.5, which he made on his first attempt. Jeron Robinson (Houston, Texas) was second at 2.27m/7-5.25.

World Outdoor champion and 2017 USATF Jesse Owens Award winner Sam Kendricks (Oxford, Mississippi) was undefeated in the pole vault in 2017, but Scott Houston (Oak Ridge, North Carolina) was intent on blocking that momentum. Kendricks took attempts at every height of the competition and never missed, until 5.83m/19-1.5. Houston only had one miss until that height and was in second before clearing 5.83 on his first attempt to take the lead and the win. Kendricks was second with a best clearance of 5.78/18-11.5, with Mike Arnold (Carson City, Nevada) third at the same height.

Shelby Houlihan (Sioux City, Iowa) sprinted to victory in an exciting, tactically run Garden of Life women’s 3,000m to take her second straight national title in 9:00.08. Lauren Paquette (Little Rock, Arkansas) handled early leading duties, coming through 1,600 in 4:58.22. With four laps to go, world champion steeplechaser Emma Coburn (Crested Butte, Colorado) took the lead, followed by Katie Mackey (Fort Collins, Colorado) and Houlihan. Coburn then began to ratchet up the speed, increasing the pace from what had been a relaxed 37 per lap to 33.6. The pace only got faster from there. Houlihan’s 28-second final lap gave her the win, ahead of Mackey in 9:01.68 and Coburn in 9:01.85.

The Army World Class Athlete Program took control of the Nike men’s 3000 early, with Emanuel Bor (Colorado Spring, Colorado), Shadrack Kipchirchir (Beaverton, Oregon) and Paul Chelimo (Beaverton, Oregon) running a solid pace from the gun as they led 2016 World Indoor silver medalist Ryan Hill (Hickory, North Carolina) and Garrett Heath (Seattle, Washington). After a slow 11th lap in 35 seconds, the race was on. With three laps to go, Heath ran in second place on Chelimo’s shoulder, and with one lap to go, it was a jam-packed lead pack jostling for position. Chelimo, the Olympic silver medalist at 5,000m, emerged the winner with a 25.04 final lap, finishing in 7:57.88. Kipchirchir was second in 7:58.42, and Hill third in 7:58.69.

In the men’s long jump, the fifth round was the deciding round as World Outdoor silver medalist Jarrion Lawson (Texarkana, Texas) leapt to a winning distance of 8.38m/27-6. Reigning World Indoor gold medalist Marquis Dendy (Middleton, Delaware) vaulted himself from fourth to second in the fifth round as well, with a mark of 8.22m/26-11.75.

With no members of the 2016 Olympic or 2017 World Championships team competing, including World Indoor gold medalist Michelle Carter, the door was open for a new queen of the women’s shot put. Daniela Hill (West Lafayette, Indiana) took full advantage, winning with a toss of 18.10m/59-4.75. Erin Farmer (League City, Texas) was second with 17.98m/59-0.

A lifetime-best 14.05m/46-1.25 in round one gave Tori Franklin (Westmont, Illinois) her second straight USATF indoor triple jump title, and she increased that best to 14.15m/46-5.25 on her final attempt to move to sixth on the all-time U.S.indoor list.

Looking to add a second USATF indoor heptathlon title to the one he won in 2015, Jeremy Taiwo (Renton, Washington) stayed close enough in the 1000m to win with 5,935 points, 12 ahead of Wolf Mahler’s (Temple, Texas) lifetime best in second. Going into the seventh and final event, Devon Williams (Marietta, Georgia) held a slender lead of 14 points over Taiwo, and was 37 up on Mahler. Mahler burst to the front with a lap to go and won with a 2:40.43, with Taiwo at 2:41.36 and Williams fourth in 2:51.43. Taiwo and Mahler both had set PRs in the pole vault after Williams opened the day with a dominant 7.79 win in the 60m hurdles.

Conor McCullough (Woodland Hills, California) captured his first U.S. indoor title in the 35-pound weight throw with a best of 23.84m/78-2.75 on his first attempt. Last year’s champion, Alex Young (Nashville, Tennessee), climbed to second with a 23.50m/77-1.25 in the third round, four centimeters ahead of Sean Donnelly’s (Willoughby, Ohio) lifetime best in third.

Swift rounds in 60m sprints, hurdles

Only 10 other men in U.S. history have run as fast as Christian Coleman’s (Atlanta, Georgia) first-round 6.46 in the 60 meters, and likely none of them made it look as easy. Coleman, who ran the fastest time in history with a 6.37 earlier this month, blasted out of the blocks in heat two and cruised to the line at a canter. Reigning champion Ronnie Baker (Louisville, Kentucky) opened the heats with a 6.47, and 2010 World Indoor silver medalist Mike Rodgers (St. Louis, Missouri) won the final section in 6.52.

Christina Manning (Waldorf, Maryland) had the fastest time in the heats of the women’s 60m hurdles, clocking 7.84 to win the third section. Outdoor world record holder Keni Harrison (Clayton, North Carolina), who tied the American indoor record last week at Clemson, won heat 1 in 7.87, and Sharika Nelvis (Memphis, Tennessee) won heat 2 in 7.91. Emily Sloan of Rock Canyon (Colorado) High School posted the #2 time ever by a high schooler with her clocking of 8.07.

World outdoor record holder and defending champion Aries Merritt (Marietta, Georgia) was an easy winner of the final heat of the men’s 60m hurdles in 7.66. 2016 champion Jarrett Eaton (Abington, Pennsylvania) won heat 2 in 7.53, the fastest time of the day, with Olympian Devon Allen (Phoenix, Arizona) taking the first heat in 7.58.

Qualifying in 400s, 800s

In the women’s 800 semifinals, World Outdoor bronze medalist Ajee Wilson (Neptune, New Jersey) won heat 1 in 2:01.95, while collegiate record holder Raevyn Rogers (Houston, Texas), Wilson’s teammate on the world record-breaking indoor 4x800m relay team, won heat two in 1:59.99, the fastest American time of the year. Ce’Aira Brown (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) won the final heat in an indoor lifetime best 2:01.43.

Each heat was progressively faster in the men’s 800m as only the heat winners and next three fastest times would advance to the final. Drew Windle (New Albany, Ohio) outleaned Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy (New Paris, Ohio) in the first section, finishing in 1:49.20, and then Donavan Brazier (Grand Rapids, Michigan), the second-fastest American ever indoors, ran a very controlled 1:48.53 to take heat two. Regaining the lead over the final 200m of the third section, Erik Sowinski (Waukesha, Wisconsin) claimed first in 1:47.69. All three time qualifiers came from that final heat, with Murphy missing out on the final.

In the timed first round of the women’s 400 meters, Shakima Wimbley (51.39) (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Courtney Okolo (51.75) (Carrollton,Texas), Joanna Atkins (51.95) and Natasha Hastings (52.11) (Brooklyn, New York) posted the fastest four times of the round. On the men’s side, Fred Kerley (45.18) (Taylor, Texas), Vernon Norwood (45.58) (Morgan City, Louisiana), Dontavius Wright (45.76) (Oxford, Alabama) and Michael Cherry (45.83) (Chesapeake, Virginia) were the quickest qualifiers.

Click here for full results. To see video interviews of event championships from the USATF Indoor Championships, visit USATF’s Instagram.

Competition continues tomorrow with a full slate of finals starting at 12:00 p.m. MT. Click here for a full schedule.

Fans can tune in to commercial free coverage on NBC Sports Gold starting at 2:00 p.m. ET, followed by a broadcast on NBCSN from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. ET.


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