PORTLAND, Oregon -- Two-time defending champion Ashton Eaton (Bend, Oregon) inched closer to his third World Indoor title, while four American women and the U.S. men’s 4x400m relay dominated the heats to highlight Saturday morning action at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
Three-peat in sight for Eaton
Eaton has his third World Indoor gold within reach after two events Saturday, turning in top performances in the 60-meter hurdles (7.78) and pole vault (5.10m/16-8.75) to head into the last event of the heptathlon, the 1000 meters, 147 points off world record pace. His teammate Curtis Beach (Albuquerque, New Mexico) has set himself up perfectly for a shot at the podium, as Beach scored 1,782 points on the morning, including a near-make at his personal best (5.10m) in pole vault, settling for a best of 5.00m/16-4.75. Beach is a tremendous middle distance competitor, famously pacing Eaton to his then-world record in the outdoor decathlon at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. A World Indoor medal is certainly within reach for Beach.
Team USA relay ready to defend gold
The quartet of Elvyonn Bailey (Riverside, California), Calvin Smith (Lutz, Florida), Chris Giesting (Batesville, Indiana) and Patrick Feeney (Indianapolis, Indiana) led the way in the men’s 4x400m relay prelims, as a strong opening leg from Bailey gave Team USA the lead after a 46.55 split of 46.55. Smith, one of two members from the world record relay in 2014, turned in a solid 46.1 split on the second leg to give Giesting a sizeable advantage. Giesting registered a blistering 45.7 leg and handed off to former Notre Dame teammate Feeney, who stormed down the homestretch to cross in 3:05.41 with a split of 46.9.
Wilson, Roesler both through to 800m final
Ajee’ Wilson (Neptune, New Jersey) said in Thursday’s press conference that the theme of Portland 2016 for her was redemption, and she certainly redeemed herself in the first round of the women’s 800 meters. Wilson ran the prelim round and led wire-to-wire en route to a 2:00.61 finish. Laura Roesler’s race was more tactical, as it was obvious just 200 meters in that it would be a mental battle more than a foot race. Roesler (Fargo, North Dakota) rode the rail throughout the duration of the race, making her move after the first 200m and staying out in front. Roesler kept her position throughout the bell lap, despite a surge from Ethiopia’s Assefa, and came away as the sole qualifier for Sunday’s finals in 2:04.38.
Pierre blazes through prelims of women’s 60m
Barbara Pierre (Winter Haven, Florida) overcame a slower start to surge through the final 20 meters and turn in the fastest time of the women’s 60 meter prelims in 7.07. Compatriot Tori Bowie (Sandhill, Mississippi) was second in her heat to automatically advance to the semifinals, staying shoulder-to-shoulder with Dutch phenom Dafne Schippers to cross just .02 behind Schippers in 7.15.
NCAA Champion Orji jumps to a PB but finishes 1 cm short of podium
Keturah Orji (Budd Lake, New Jersey) led in the earlygoing, jumping a then-personal best 14.13m/46-4.25 which was the fifth-best collegiate indoor performance all-time. She improved on that jump on her sixth attempt to leap 14.14m/46-4.75, but finished just outside medal contention by only a centimeter. USATF Indoor champion Christina Epps (Morristown, New Jersey) struggled with the board Saturday and finished 10th overall with her sole legal jump of 13.68m/44-10.75.
Chaplin earns silver in masters women’s 800m
In the masters 800 meters exhibition, it was Lesley Chaplin (Atlanta, Georgia) medaling for Team USA after pushing France’s Douay to her limit on the bell lap. With just 60 meters to go, Chaplin charged down the straightaway but just finished behind Douay in 2:37.57 for silver. Teammates Julie Hayden (Ashburn, Virginia) and Cheryl Bellaire (Wayne, Pennsylvania) finished in the fourth and sixth spots, crossing in 2:40.70 and 2:45.05, respectively.
Action continues Saturday evening with the final of the men’s triple jump at 5 p.m. PT and the heats of the men’s 60-meter hurdles. NBC Sports Live Extra will show all the action from Portland this evening, and fans can also tune in on NBCSN from 6:30-8 p.m. PT.
For complete results and competition schedule, visit www.iaaf.org.
Tickets are still available on Portland2016.com. Join the conversation with USATF on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #Portland2016.
TV Coverage (all times Pacific)
5-8 p.m. — NBC Sports Live Extra
6:30-8 p.m. — NBCSN (live)
12:30-3 p.m. — NBC Sports Live Extra
1-3 p.m. — NBCSN (live)
Team USA Medal Table
Nia Ali, women’s 60-meter hurdles
Trayvon Bromell, men’s 60 meters
Brittney Reese, women’s long jump
Jenn Suhr, women’s pole vault
Sam Kendricks, men’s pole vault
Sandi Morris, women’s pole vault
Brianna Rollins, women’s 60-meter hurdles
Ajee’ Wilson, women’s 800m
My coach told me to get out if someone took the lead. He didn’t want me any farther back than second off the first turn. I found myself in the lead, so I ran comfortably. I ran within myself. I wasn’t expecting to start kicking at 400 out, but I know I had to respond and I couldn’t let it get far from me.”
Laura Roesler, women’s 800m
I was expecting that (a fast first heat). I said that Ajee was going to take that in two flat. I could’ve made money on that if I’d just bet on it. Then we saw the second heat and had to run under 2:02.23 for time qualifiers. I thought our heat would just go for it because we could easily get the top four under 2:02. It ended up being so slow which plays into my hands, so I can’t complain. It turned into a tactical affair and I was up front and took advantage of that.”
Keturah Orji, women’s triple jump
“I was really happy with my series. I went over 14 meters at least three or four times, so I’m happy about that. I PR’d. I know I lost by one centimeter which is sad, but I’m happy overall with my performance.
“I was really happy out there. Just watching all those girls jump was really inspiring.”
Christina Epps, women’s triple jump
“The first one I backed off the board, the second one I backed off the board and still fouled. My third one, I can’t let anything back off the board. I just went for it and still fouled. I didn’t adjust to the track, I knew the track was fast, so that’s what happened. I’ve learned from it. I feel like I definitely could have made the final. It is what it is.”
Elvyonn Bailey, men’s 4x4 relay
"Not necessarily that there was no pressure - just really wanting to be great. With the history of the 4x4s, the U.S. is just so big and we go so deep. We're stacked in the 400m. I'm really just trying to find my place and state my name is really what I'm just trying to do. It's no pressure when we've got people like Calvin (Smith), Chris (Giesting) and (Patrick) Feeney, it makes it a lot easier when you know they've got your back."
Calvin Smith, men’s 4x4 relay
"We just wanted to go out there and win and let everybody know that these boys really hit and run, so I think we accomplished that today and we've got more to come in the finals."
Chris Giesting, men’s 4x4 relay
On the lineup for tomorrow
"We don't know yet. We're going to talk about it tonight after this race and see who's healthy and who's ready to go because I know they're going to give it their all to bring home the gold for USA."
Patrick Feeney, men’s 4x4 relay
On anchor leg in USA vs. the World and how that helped him today
"It was great that USATF had the confidence in me to anchor it at Penn Relays last year. I was really nervous going into it, but I knew that if this was my first opportunity and I didn't want to let them down. My adrenaline went through the roof and that's what carried me in, so I was pumped again. I knew these three guys were going to give me a lead, and I just wanted to bring it home and get us to that final tomorrow. That was the main thing - just getting to that final tomorrow."
Karen Bellaire, masters women’s 800m
“We wanted to promote healthy women running at any age.”
“I didn’t have too good of a race, considering it’s hard to warm up. But it’s great to be here.”
Julie Hayden, masters women’s 800m
“Because I was in lane 1, I knew I had to get out. I didn’t really want to lead the race. So, I was happy when Helen came across and I could follow her. Leslie overtook me, I almost kind of tripped. I think I touched her spikes when she came across. Twice, Karen came to overtake me and I accelerated a little bit. But at the end, I couldn’t hold her off so I got third place.”
Lesley Chaplin, masters women’s 800m
“My plan was to with whomever went out. I thought it would be Karen. I figured Elaine would go, too. But Karen wasn’t anywhere around, so I went with Elaine and on the last lap, I thought I could kick her out. She took off and I couldn’t catch her. It went by so fast.
“The crowd was incredible. I could hear my name all around the track. It went by too fast. It went by so quickly.
“I think we all are very grateful to the IAAF, the WMA and USATF for including us. It’s great that they spotlighted our age group. It was wonderful to run with these ladies. We’re all just savoring this whole weekend. It’s been incredible. We’ve enjoyed it.”