Noah Lyles and Aleia Hobbs stormed to 60m success, Femke Bol made a statement with a world 500m best and Grant Holloway maintained a remarkable 60m hurdles win streak at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, this season’s second World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting, in Boston on Saturday (4).
But it wasn’t just the sprint events that thrilled the sell-out crowd as the meeting made its debut at the TRACK at New Balance in Brighton, Massachusetts. Local star Heather MacLean and Neil Gourley gained last-gasp wins in the mile, while Woody Kincaid used his trademark kick to surge to 3000m triumph and Mariano Garcia became a back-to-back winner in the 800m.
The men’s 60m was billed as a head-to-head between Lyles and 2016 world indoor champion Trayvon Bromell and so it proved, two-time world 200m champion Lyles holding off his US compatriot by just 0.002 with a performance that got him the PB he had been craving.
In a photo finish to separate their 6.51 runs, Lyles clocked 6.507 and Bromell 6.509 and once the result was confirmed on the scoreboard, Lyles did another sprint the wrong way down the track in celebration.
“I’ve been waiting on this PR for a long time,” he said. “Now I’ve got a PR that is that close to 6.40, next meet I feel like I can definitely get below that.”
Lyles had been 0.01 off his PB of 6.55 when winning his heat, while Bromell took the second heat in 6.61. Behind them in the final was Ghana’s Benjamin Azamati in 6.62.
Hobbs used a strong start and an even stronger finish to prevail in the women’s 60m. Having begun her season with a world-leading 6.98 in Fayetteville, the US 26-year-old carried that form to Boston, breaking the meeting record with a 7.02 run – the second-fastest 60m performance of her career so far and a time that only 19 other athletes have ever eclipsed.
Hobbs held off her training partner Mikiah Brisco, the world indoor silver medallist, to triumph by 0.08 as Celera Barnes completed a US top three, clocking 7.21.
“It didn’t feel fast but my as coach said, if it feels easy then that’s when you know you’re running fast,” said Hobbs, who moved to joint ninth on the world all-time list with her 6.98 run. “We had different blocks here, so I was a little nervous about that, but I was able to make it work.”
In her first ever 60m race, world 400m hurdles record-holder Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone clocked 7.33 to finish fifth in the first heat and miss out on the final by 0.01. World 200m champion Shericka Jackson was also testing her speed in Boston and ran 7.34, finishing fifth in her own heat. Hobbs and Brisco eased to respective first-round wins of 7.08 and 7.15.
In the women’s 500m, Bol started her season with a bang and broke the 17-year-old world indoor best with a dominant 1:05.63 run.
Femke Bol in 500m action in Boston (© Dan Vernon)
In the pre-event press conference, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles medallist had given a smile and a simple “yes” in reply when asked if she knew the splits she would need to hit in order to launch herself to the top of the all-time list. And on Saturday she ticked them off in controlled fashion before storming over the finish line to take 0.68 off the previous best of 1:06.31 set in January 2006. Behind her, Jamaica’s Leah Anderson claimed the runner-up spot in 1:08.34.
“I’m just super happy to have it worked out like this,” said Bol after racing over the distance for the first time. “No, I’m not planning to go further than 500m. Now I’m moving to some 400s before I do the European Indoor Championships.”
The other non-championship event was won by Olympic 200m bronze medallist Gabby Thomas, who clocked 36.31 in the 300m to claim her fifth consecutive win at the meeting. Poland’s Anna Kielbasinska was second in 36.41.
The men’s 400m was almost as close as the 60m, USA’s Noah Williams finding space on the inside to edge past Trinidad and Tobago’s world indoor champion Jereem Richards and take the win by four thousandths of a second, both athletes recording 45.88.
But there was no question as to the winner in the men’s 60m hurdles, world record-holder Holloway further extending an indoor sprint hurdles win streak that started in 2014, when he was 16 years old.
The world indoor champion and two-time world 110m hurdles gold medallist started his campaign with a 7.39 heat win before going 0.01 faster to win the final. He has now dipped under 7.40 in a total of 16 races so far in his career.
In a US top three, Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46 after a 7.52 heat win and Freddie Crittenden was third in 7.55.
“It felt good,” said Holloway. “A couple of technical errors that I could clean up but you know, it was my second race of the season, so I’m excited to see what happens in two weeks and then in four. It’s a new year, so the record is 0-0 and the main goal is to get to Budapest (for the World Championships).”
Another global medallist won the women’s 60m hurdles, Bahamas’ world indoor silver medallist Devynne Charlton striding ahead to triumph in 7.87 ahead of USA’s Sharika Nelvis in 7.93 and Australia’s Celeste Mucci in a 7.95 PB.
Mile magic for MacLean and Gourley
MacLean and Gourley were not willing to give up in the mile races and it paid off as they claimed respective PB wins of 4:23.42 and 3:52.84. On her home track, USA’s NACAC 1500m champion MacLean battled with Canada’s Lucia Stafford, who the weekend before had broken the area 1000m record in Boston. MacLean led through half way in 2:11.59 and while Stafford attacked on the final bend her rival had enough left to fight back and pip her on the line. Esther Guerrero set a Spanish record of 4:24.92 to finish third.
“I decided to take the initiative, which if you know me as a racer, I haven’t been known to do in the past,” said MacLean, whose performance broke the meeting record set by Stafford’s older sister, Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, in 2019. “I was happy to have the extra little push to get to the finish line.”
Heather MacLean leads the women’s mile in Boston (© Dan Vernon)
Gourley also had a powerful finish in a men’s mile race that came down to a home straight sprint. Fiercely chasing New Zealand’s Sam Tanner, they were both rewarded with PBs and were separated by just 0.01. USA’s Sam Prakel was third in 3:53.58.
Kincaid was another athlete to show a strong finishing kick, but he used his from much further out in the men’s 3000m. Taking the lead at the bell, the 30-year-old – who ran 12:51.61 for 5000m last week to break the North American indoor record – again finished like a train and a 25.79 last lap carried him to a 7:40.71 PB for an almost two-second victory ahead of his compatriot Christian Noble (7:42.55). The top eight all ran PBs while the first six finished under 7:44.
World and Olympic 1500m medallist Laura Muir was making her US indoor race debut in Boston and started with a win, clocking 8:40.34 to lead a British top four in the women’s 3000m. Following the pacemaker through 1000m in 2:51.09, Muir and Melissa Courtney-Bryant were more than five seconds ahead of the chase group, led by Ireland’s Ciara Mageean, an advantage they had taken to around 15 seconds by 2000m. Mageean later pulled up and the chase group closed on the leading duo but Muir still held on for victory, with Courtney-Bryant second in 8:41.09, Katie Snowden third in a PB of 8:47.41 and Hannah Nuttall fourth in a PB of 8:47.72.
Garcia ran a Spanish indoor record of 1:45.12 to win the 800m at this meeting last year. Returning as the world indoor champion, he repeated the feat and came close to that mark with 1:45.26 to hold off USA’s Isaiah Jewett in a 1:45.75 PB. Ireland’s Mark English was third in 1:46.57 and USA’s world indoor bronze medallist Bryce Hoppel a further 0.01 back in fourth.
USA’s Ajee Wilson was another athlete to extend their win streak, hers dating back to March 2018. Running 2:00.45, the world indoor champion’s well-judged race saw her move past her compatriot Kaela Edwards in the closing stages, Edwards being rewarded with a 2:01.09 PB for the runner-up spot.
There was a significant personal best performance for Bridget Williams in the women’s pole vault as the 26-year old added six centimetres to her previous best when clearing 4.77m to beat a field featuring two Olympic gold medallists in Katie Moon and Katerina Stefanidi. It was Williams’ US compatriot Gabriela Leon who claimed the runner-up spot with an indoor PB of 4.55m, while Stefanidi was third and Moon fourth.
Encouraging the crowd to show their support in the first event of the meeting, India’s Commonwealth bronze medallist Tejaswin Shankar was cheered to a faultless performance up to his winning height of 2.26m in the men’s high jump.
Tejaswin Shankar celebrates his high jump win in Boston (© Dan Vernon)
In his first competition out of college, the 24-year-old, who won his second NCAA title for Kansas State last year, cleared 2.14m, 2.19m, 2.23m and 2.26m on his first attempts before taking three attempts at a would-be PB of 2.30m.
Bahamas’ 2007 world champion Donald Thomas was second with 2.23m.
Jess Whittington for World Athletics