PORTLAND, Oregon -- Home-field advantage paid off in a huge way for Team USA Sunday at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. With eight medals on the day, Team USA broke its own championship record for number of medals won, with 23, and number of golds, with 13. The medal tally crushed the previous records of 19 medals overall from 1999, and 10 gold medals from 2012. Ethiopia finished second in the medal tables with five medals and two gold, as Team USA totaled 249 points on the placing table to Ethiopia’s 56.
Highlighting Sunday competition for Team USA were gold medals from Matt Centrowitz, Vashti Cunningham, Marquis Dendy and both relays. The golds brought a dramatic conclusion to a weekend of competition witnessed by a total of 39,283 fans at the Oregon Convention Center, including a sell-out 7,191 on Sunday.
Centro wins first U.S. gold in 1,500
In perhaps the most exciting race of the meet, Matt Centrowitz (Arnold, Maryland) took a thrilling men’s 1,500m victory, adding an IAAF World Indoor gold to the silver (2013) and bronze (2011) he has won outdoors. It was the first gold medal ever for Team USA in the event.
A masterful tactician, Centro ran comfortably in fourth place, with teammate Robby Andrews (Manalapan, New Jersey) in fifth as Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti did pacing duties through 800 meters. At 1,000m, Dawit Wolde of Ethiopia vaulted to the lead; with three laps to go Centro was striding in third.
The relative peace of the race was turned on its head with two laps left when Nick Willis of New Zealand charged from midpack into the lead in an attempt to steal the race. Wolde and Centro eventually responded, but Willis was still up by a stride with 200m left.
Centro went for the lead down the stretch, passing Willis and holding off a fast-closing Jakub Holusa of the Czech Republic. Centro got the gold in 3:44.22, with Holusa second in 3:44.30, Willis third in 3:44.37, and Andrews fourth in 3:44.77.
Cunningham ushers in new HJ era with gold
The crowd at the Oregon Convention Center has seen the future of high jumping, and her name is Vashti Cunningham.
The 6 foot, 1.5-inch, 18-year-old high school senior became the youngest U.S. medalist ever at World Indoors Sunday afternoon, turning back an experienced field to win the women’s high jump with a best clearance of 1.96m/6-5. The top position was one Cunningham (Las Vegas, Nevada) held all day, clearing all three of her bars on her first attempt. Four jumpers had cleared the first three heights - 1.84m/6-0.5; 1.89m/6-2.25; and 1.93m/6-4 on their first attempts.
On the fourth height, 1.96m/6-5, Cunningham was the only woman to clear on her first run at the bar. Ruth Beitia of Spain and Kamila Licwinko of Poland both cleared on their second attempts, with Airine Palsyte of Lithuania making it on her third try to narrow the field to four. None of the quartet was able to clear 1.99, giving Cunningham the gold, Beitia the silver and Licwinko bronze. Her gold medal around her neck, Cunningham told the media she will become a professional athlete. She is the youngest woman ever to win a World Indoor title.
Team USA crushes relays
There was no contest in either 4x400m relay. In the men’s competition, Kyle Clemons (Jonesboro, Arkansas) opened with 46.47 to narrowly hold the lead over the Bahamas. On the second leg, Calvin Smith (Lutz, Florida) held on to first, splitting 45.66. Third leg Chris Giesting (Batesville, Indiana) was finally able to open up daylight, his 45.34 split giving the U.S. a four-meter lead over the Bahamians. USATF Indoor champion Vernon Norwood (Morgan City Louisiana) didn’t need to run the fastest split of the day to bring home victory, but he did anyway, running 44.98 to give Team USA the third-fastest time in history, 3:02.45. The Bahamas finished second in a national-record time of 3:04.75, with Trinidad and Tobago third in 3:05.51, also a national record.
The women’s 4x400m result was never in doubt. Olympic relay gold medalist Natasha Hastings (Brooklyn, New York) put the U.S. up by 10 meters with her opening leg of 51.89. She was followed by 400m bronze medalist Quanera Hayes (Hope Mills, North Carolina) splitting 51.02; world leader Courtney Okolo (Carrollton, Texas) split 50.71 and 400m World silver medalist Ashley Spencer (Indianapolis, Indiana) anchoring in 52.76 to give Team USA the win in 3:26.38. Poland was a distant second in 3:31.15, with Romania third in 3:31.51.
Dendy takes long jump
Marquis Dendy (Middletown, Delaware) came to Portland as the world leader in the long jump, and he left as the world champion. Dendy and Jeff Henderson (North Little Rock, Arkansas) were in first and second after two rounds of jumping, with both men posting their best marks of the day in round 2. Dendy soared 8.26m/27-1.25, while Henderson posted a season-best mark of 8.19m/26-10.5. Henderson got knocked to third in round 3 by Fabrice Lapierre of Australia’s area-record jump of 8.25m/27-0.75, and China’s Changzhou Huang knocked him off the podium in the sixth and final round with his jump of 8.21m/26-11.25. Dendy’s best held up for the gold.
Hill’s furious kick earns 3000 silver
Portland-based Ryan Hill (Hickory, North Carolina) returned to the track where one week earlier he had won the U.S. national title in the 3,000. With the crowd behind him, a slow early pace saw him comfortable in second through 800m in 2:18.8, with American Paul Chelimo (Portland, Oregon) in sixth. Through 1600m in 4:32.9, Hill continued to draft off the leaders and Chelimo jockeyed for position in the middle of the pack. The pace quickened dramatically with a 1:55 800m in the middle of the race, and Hill was sixth with 600m to go.
With two laps to go, Hill and Chelimo were 5-6 but a big gap opened between the two Americans. The hometown crowd cheering at a deafening decibel level, Hill charged to the outside in the final 100, coming off the curve to run down Augustine Choge of Kenya and grab silver in 7:57.39 behind Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia. Chelimo finished seventh in 8:00.76.
Wilson takes 800 silver
Former World Junior champion Ajee’ Wilson (Neptune, New Jersey) won her first senior-level medal in the 800 with a runner-up finish in the women’s 800. Wilson led the field through 200 in 29.63, but Margaret Wambui of Kenya surged just 300 meters into the race, with Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi on her heels taking the trio through 400 in 60.56. With a lap to go, Niyonsaba picked up the pace and Wambui went with her as Wilson and Laura Roesler (Fargo, North Dakota) worked to stay in medal contention. Down the homestretch, Wilson made up ground on Wambui and passed her in the final 20 meters to take home silver in 2:00.27. Niyonsaba won in a world-leading 2:00.01, with Wambui third in 2:00.44. Roesler was fourth in 2:00.80.
Rowbury bronze in 3k
The women’s 3,000 came in like a lamb and out like a lion, with Shannon Rowbury (San Francisco, California) roaring to a bronze medal. The pack went out at what was almost a warm-up pace, going through 800 meters in 2:37 with Rowbury fifth in the tightly packed field.
At 1,000 meters, defending champion Genzebe Dibaba easily sprinted to the lead and was never threatened, stringing out the field. Rowbury worked her way up to third with 400m remaining as teammate Abbey D’Agostino (Topsfield, Massachusetts) moved from 10th to fifth. Dibaba finished first in 8:47.43, with 8-time World and Olympic medalist Meseret Defar of Ethiopia second in 8:54.26, Rowbury third in 8:55.55, and D’Agostino fifth in 8:58.40.
U.S. goes 4-5 in men’s 60m hurdles
Training partners Jarret Eaton (Columbia, South Carolina) and Spencer Adams (Columbia, South Carolina) ran solid races in the men’s 60m hurdles but came up just shy of the podium.
Eaton got out well but not so well as Omar McLeod of Jamaica, the former NCAA champion from the University of Arkansas who rocketed to the lead and never looked back. McLeod won in 7.41, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde of France rallied for the silver in 7.46, and Dimitri Bascou of France moved up for bronze in 7.48. Eaton was fourth in a season-best of 7.50, with Adams fifth in 7.64.
For a complete list of Team USA superlatives from the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships, visit http://www.usatf.org/News/Team-USA-superlatives---2016-IAAF-World-Indoor-Cha.aspx
For complete results from the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships, visit www.iaaf.org
Team USA Medal Table
Nia Ali, women’s 60-meter hurdles
Boris Berian, men’s 800 meters
Trayvon Bromell, men’s 60 meters
Michelle Carter, women’s shot put
Matt Centrowitz, men’s 1500 meters
Vashti Cunningham, women’s high jump
Marquis Dendy, men’s long jump
Ashton Eaton, men’s heptathlon
Barbara Pierre, women’s 60 meters
Brittney Reese, women’s long jump
Jenn Suhr, women’s pole vault
Women’s 4x400m relay (Natasha Hastings, Quanera Hayes, Courtney Okolo, Ashley Spencer)
Men’s 4x400m relay (Kyle Clemons, Calvin Smith, Chris Giesting, Vernon Norwood)
Ryan Hill, men’s 3000 meters
Sam Kendricks, men’s pole vault
Sandi Morris, women’s pole vault
Brianna Rollins, women’s 60-meter hurdles
Ashley Spencer, women’s 400 meters
Ajee’ Wilson, women’s 800 meters
Quanera Hayes, women’s 400 meters
Erik Kynard, men’s high jump
Shannon Rowbury, women’s 3000 meters
Erik Sowinski, men’s 800 meters
Matt Centrowitz, men’s 1,500m
“I knew it would be physical. Compared to the prelim I had 2 days ago, I wanted to put myself in a better position. I wanted to be on the shoulder on the outside with 2 or 3 laps to go. I figure if I’m on the outside, no one goes by me. Luckily Nick made a strong move 600m out and it replayed like Millrose Games. I used the crowd to my advantage on that last lap and at one point I thought he was looking really good and it was hard to get on his shoulder. With 100m to go, I started to make my move and leveled with him with 50m to go. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. It was an awesome race. Big congrats to Nick. Just shows you how good the Wanamaker Mile is, to have the winner there be the winner here. Now I have a (World) medal of every color and it’s time to get an Olympic medal.”
“I didn’t even want to wait for the [American] flag. I just wanted to go on the victory lap. It was so awesome. I saw just about everyone: my family, my friends who have never seen a track race before, it was just awesome on U.S. soil and in my backyard. I’m just glad it wasn’t disappointing and now they’ll never be able to see another race as exciting as this one.”
“There was a lot of pressure being in this venue. I tried not to think about it, but even just coming into this venue, I tried to use it to my advantage. This is what I wanted. I wouldn’t have wanted this to happen anywhere else but here. The crowd carried me through that last 50m.”
Vashti Cunningham, women’s high jump
“I’m excited on the inside, keeping it calm on the outside. My first attempts in my run-throughs and my warm-ups felt just like last week, so I was thinking the whole time I was going to have a good performance. I had the same feeling I had last time I was here. My first jump, when I made it, my dad [Randall Cunningham] told me I was way above it. He kept telling me I was way above it and I kept making it. I was just calm and I was sure of myself then.
“My dad is coming up with a schedule for me for the summer, for where I’m jumping. I’m going to be trying out for the team (at the Trials), hopefully I’ll made the team.”
Marquis Dendy, men’s long jump
“I had some big ones, but I also fouled some big ones. I can’t really complain too much, I’m now World Champion, but I fouled some 8.50 jumps. So that’s going to haunt me a little. It feels good to medal. This just propels me to outdoors. I’ll be doing long and triple jump, so it helps with getting me bounding and working on this double. I have a lot of stuff to prepare for. I haven’t triple jumped in a while, so I’ll be triple jumping the first three meets and then adding long jump back in.”
Jeff Henderson, men’s long jump
“I have a lot to focus on and work on. I was hoping to get the win but I didn’t. I’m not worried about it, because I haven’t jumped this much in a while. But I PR’d last weekend, so I know I’m in good shape.”
Ryan Hill, men’s 3000m
“I had a really good day. Not a perfect day, a little too conservative. Maybe that ‘just get top 5’ mentality cost me a gold medal. If you look before this race, my best World finish was 7th, so to come back with a silver medal, it’s hard to complain.”
“I knew exactly what was happening, I just wasn’t good enough to cover all of those moves. I had to settle with waiting. I never moved out of my lane. I knew I had a kick left and three of those four guys died. I stayed composed.”
Paul Chelimo, men’s 3000m
“I was feeling strong until three laps to go. At the moment, my level of strength isn’t at that position right now. By the end of this year, I should be in top shape and ready to go for the Olympic Trials. It’s a good experience. You don’t want to go into Trials inexperienced. This has been amazing for me, nationals and Worlds. Getting through the rounds in both has been a great experience.”
“I knew it was going to come down to 6 laps to go, so I was prepared for that, but I Didn’t have enough. I was hurting with 3 laps to go.”
Ajee’ Wilson, women’s 800m
“I took it out in the first 200 and the 400 and at some point, Wambui took the lead. My plan was to sit behind her and tuck in. I wasn’t prepared for her kick. I waited too late to make my charge, so silver is what I get for that. I’m really happy to medal. I found myself in a weird position where in 2013, I was just happy to be there. Silver is great here. I wish I would’ve been able to walk away with gold. It feels great to get my first senior medal.”
Laura Roesler, women’s 800m
“I know fourth is the spot no one wants to be, but I can’t say I’m on the verge of tears or disappointment. After last year, making this final, it’s like my dreams are coming true. It wasn’t a super good race position-wise. People were cutting in front and it was kind of messy. I’m walking away with my head held high.”
Shannon Rowbury, women’s 3000m
“It started out just like Worlds two years ago. I knew watching videos from the past that there would be a hard move and I needed to test my toughness. The move happened at about 2k and Dibaba went. I tried to stay with the lead pack. I thought it was a little bit closer. At a certain point, I knew I needed to close ground on the chase crew. Over the last few laps in the race, I knew it was getting tough. Everyone else was working hard too. The crowd helped bring me home. I brought home a bronze in 2009. You only get so many opportunities in a championship. You only get this once in a lifetime to get Worlds at home and I wanted to take full advantage of that.”
Abbey D’Agostino, women’s 3000m
“I was psyched. I didn’t know until a few minutes after the race [that she was fifth]. I didn’t have a number in mind. I believed in what we’ve done until this point. I’m really starting to adjust and be able to stay relaxed in this sort of environment. It felt good and I trusted it would come together. I wanted to be ready no matter how the race turned out.”
Robby Andrews, men’s 1,500m
“I tried to get out harder and be up front. I kind of got moved around a good bit and that gets in my head. I tried to stay inside a bit and Souleiman was coming backwards. I thought about moving with him but it was too much, too early. I wish I would’ve been closer to the front. I’m so happy for Centro. You want to see USA on top of the podium for sure. He’s the best in the World. We’re one team right now. ”
Women’s 4x400 Relay
Natasha Hastings: “I just wanted to get out. First leg is always a lot like running the open 400. I wanted to get to the break first. We made a pact early in the week that we’d get out front and stay out front. That was the goal.”
Quanera Hayes: “My job was to finish what she started. It was to get out strong, open up the lead even more to pass it on to Courtney.”
Courtney Okolo: “This was the biggest meet I’ve ever been to. It’s a great experience going into the future. I just wanted to maintain the lead and pass it to Ashley.”
Ashley Spencer: “I really didn’t think about anything else but finishing up for my team. Finishing what they had put forth for all of us is the most important thing. I’m really happy with how it turned out and I’m looking forward to outdoor season.”
Men’s 4x400m relay
Kyle Clemons: “I got out first leg. The first race leg is pretty tough. I got out there, we started bumping. We were first to the break. Belgium got out really good, he came up beside me. There were little bumps between us and Belgium. My job was definitely to clear the pack, hand off first and let Calvin do his job. That’s what I did.”
Calvin Smith: “Kyle, he gave it to me in front. I just wanted to stay out there. I felt Bahamas on my heals, I actually felt him hit my heals a few times in the race. I just wanted to get front out and finish strong and get it to Chris.
Chris Giesting: “I was really nervous going in and I was more nervous when I saw him in the lead coming right at me. I was like, “oh, no, now it’s on me!” But, it was really fun being out here in this crowd. Everyone was cheering hard around the turns. Right when you’re getting tired, that’s when the crowd came through for you. It was a lot of fun.”
Vernon Norwood: “My job today was just to bring it home. To have the lead, keep the lead. If I didn’t have the lead, go get the lead. My job was pretty simple, just get it done, go get a gold medal.”
Jarret Eaton, men’s 60m hurdles
“I had a great start but going over the first hurdle was slower than I’d like. The midsection of my race, I feel comfortable about it but I don’t really remember it. I wanted to dip as hard as I could. 7.50 is my season’s best and one one-hundredth off my personal best, just off a medal. I’m happy but it hurts.”
Spencer Adams, men’s 60m hurdles
“A little disappointed but my first world experience, first USA team…I’m really disappointed. But I have outdoors coming and this is my best indoor season ever. I just have to take care of some things outdoors and work on making this team for Rio.”
“The race was sloppy from the start. I didn’t have the best start, it was decent. I rode every hurdle down with my lead leg. Things could have been a lot more tight and compact, a bit more smooth, but I’m trying not to hang my head. These are the experiences you want to push you to do better.”
Tim Cawley, Team USA women’s head coach
“Our performance was fantastic. I’m just so honored to have been the head coach of this team. The staff and everyone on this team has been amazing. It really was a team effort. The athletes, the way they acted together, they way they gelled. It was a calm, relaxed atmosphere. Part of it was being at home, and part of it was the athletes and the way they carried themselves. They were confident and it was an absolute pleasure to be a part of this team.”
“With the relay, I knew that Natasha could be the veteran and hold them together. She has so much relay experience and success, and the other three could use her as a team captain of sorts. It’s interesting because you have a veteran like Natasha on this team and then you have someone like Vashti, who is the youngest on this team and carries herself like no teenager I’ve seen. She’s a remarkable young talent. This was just an absolute honor and pleasure.”
Ron Allice, Team USA men’s head coach
“One of the most significant things about the timing of this meet is that it’s an Olympic year and this team got to compete at home. And there are some young athletes on this team who got the chance to compete on a World team and veterans who have yet to start their seasons. I’m just really impressed with the production level, talent and composure of Team USA and setting records with a team of this caliber...it was just amazing. I said it in our team meeting, but this is our house and we defended it.”