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Tuesday, 04 April 2017 14:46

Albuquerque Diaries: Saturday at the Races... Featured

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John Nunn John Nunn www.PhotoRun.net
By Elliott Denman
 
Down-down-down-down.
 
That's what Noah Lyles does to all his sprint bests, slicing them - down-down-down-down - by chunks even Usain Bolt must be noticing.
 
Just nine months out of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., Lyles is now the proud owner of the world indoor 300-meter record, and of course the world junior and USA citizens (all ages)records that go along with it.
 
This 19-year-old son of former Seton Hall track greats Kevin Lyles and Keisha Caine had barely missed qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympic team, but - look out world - he's now coming on like the next very big thing.
 
Sensational as he was in stopping the clocks at 31.87 Saturday night, Lyles did not have it easy in this lap-and-a-half final at the Albuquerque Convention Center on this first full day card of the USA Indoor National Championships.
 
He was pushed all the way by Paul Dedewo, a totally unsung New Yorker, a Bronxite whose Division III career at CCNY was wrecked by injuries and is finally getting it all together. Lyles just ducked home ahead of Dedewo, whose 31.92 was also far under the prior meet record, the 32.86 Manteo Mitchell notched in 2015.
 
Lyles gave the silver medalist much of the credit.
 
"I had a great guy out in lane six [Dedewo]. I truly wanted to pass him the first chance I got. But he just got out, and I used that to sweep me along. I was definitely trying to battle him. He wasn't letting go, and I'm glad he didn't let go because if he had let go, I wouldn't have gotten that world record.''
Oh, the prior American record - by an athlete of any age - was Wallace Spearmon's 31.88 back in 2006.
 
Spearmon, a two-time Olympian continues competing at a high level and actually qualified for the final in this one. But he scratched out of running that final with apparent leg injuries.
 
Up-up-up-up.
 
That's what Sam Kendricks does.
 
Up-up-up-up over pole vault bars.
 
Americans have forever taken great pride in the lofty achievements of their pole vaulters and over the years there's always been a pack of them fighting for the top spot.
 
Not lately.
 
But then again, things are a-changing.
 
The 24-year-old Kendricks is the unquestioned king of American vaulters and proved it once again with a 5.85 meter/ 19 feet, three quarters of an inch clearance Saturday to win his third consecutive USA National Indoor title.
 
Kendricks took eight sprints down the Albququerque Convention Hall runway and seven of them produced solid clearances. He soared - it seemed to some spectators - nearly to the Convention Center rafters, making bars at 17-4 ½, 17-10 ½, 18-2 ½, 18-4 ½, 18-6 ½, 18-8 ¾, finally 19-0 ¾ and then calling it a day. Only thing marring his daily card was a solitary opening miss at 18-4 ½.
 
For the Olympic bronze medalist at Rio, it was his third USA indoor title, higher than his first (18-10 ¾ at Boston in 2015) but not quite as high as his second (19-4 ¼ at Portland last year.)
 
Logan Cunningham and Chris Pillow both went 18-6 ½ to place 2-3, with Scott Houston fourth at 18-4 ½.
 
Of course, Kendricks, a University of Mississippi graduate and active duty Army officer, had his eye on the win. And one on Budapest, where the European Indoor Championships, were raging, too.
 
"5.85 was the winning height over there, too," said Kendricks. "So that sets things up pretty well for later on. I know I'll be competing against them pretty soon."
 
When Paul Chelimo claimed the silver medal in the 5000-meter final at Rio (topped in Team USA Olympic history only by Bob Schul's epic win at Tokyo in 1964), there were many who wondered this relative unknown was.
 
They did some quick googling to learn he had come to the U.S. from Kenya in 2010, became an NAIA champion at Shorter College, then an NCAA medalist at North Carolina-Greensboro, then an Army technician, and, most importantly, a U.S. citizen. He has risen to the heights as a member of the U.S. Army's World Class Athletes Program and is finally getting some of the recognition that's overdue.
 
He made the two-mile run final two separate races - Chelimo winning by nearly half a lap in 8:28.53; and everybody else relegated to spectator's status. It was Woody Kincaid (8:38.86) and Ryan Hill (8:38.81) leading home the chase pack. "I just wanted to make it an honest race," said Chelimo.
 
Given Albuquerque's 5,343-foot (a mile-plus) altitude, a heap of the distance runners here weren't willing to take their chances of running into oxygen debt.
 
All the women's milers, for instance. After the first few laps run at a marathoner's pace, they finally got with it and started racing. But Shelby Houlihan's winning 4:45.18 and Colleen Quigley's second-place 4:45.58 would only be considered fast if they were in high school.
 
The 2016 Olympic Games were a disappointment to Kansas Erik Kynard, who'd high jumped to the silver medal at London in 2012. But - like Kendricks - he's at the top of his game in domestic competition. His HJ win at 2.30 meters/ 7-6 ½ was his eighth straight in National Meets, the last four Indoors and the last four Outdoors.
 
A three-time USA Olympian - and planning to make it four at Tokyo in 2020 - Staff Sergeant John Nunn is, all at once, both the chairman of the USA Track and Field national racewalking administrative committee, and America's most visible male racewalker.
 
Somehow or other, this member of the Army's World Class Athletes Program finds enough hours in the day to get it all done. He'd won in Portland a year ago and he won this one - at two miles - in 12:38.37.
 
Young USA racewalking prospect Nick Christie, just back from a two-month training trip to Australia, claimed second with Shore AC's Jon Hallman, the four-time Millrose Games winner, taking third.
 
Riley Richards, a senior at China Spring High School in Texas, surely had the genes to get the job done in the men's pole vault. His dad, Brandon Richards, was once the national high school record-setter in the vault.
 
And his grandfather, the famed "Vaulting Vicar," Rev. Bob Richards, is the only man ever to win consecutive Olympic vault titles (1952-56) and was an eight-time winner at USA Indoor Nationals, his first in 1948 and his last in 1957.
 
But he couldn't get it done this time, missing all three attempts at his opening 17-4 ½.
 
Ryan Whiting's portfolio of major shot put honors includes two IAAF World Indoor Championships golds (2012 and 2014) and three USA Indoor National golds (2011-13-14.)
 
But this wasn't the Pennsylvanian's day, either. Still trying to regain form after a stretch of injuries, Whiting wound up eighth in this one at 63-4; as the gold went to another young and unsung talent,Darien Wood, of the Iron Wood Track Club based at Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, with a heave of 68- 2 ¾.
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