All the news from Mens and Womens Track.

Katy Moen-Wappsie Valley-ISU
©Jim Kirby

Iowa’s Simbassa and Moen to Turn Pro by Pat Goodwin


Katy Moen-Wappsie Valley-ISU ©Jim Kirby

Katy Moen-Wappsie Valley-ISU
©Jim Kirby

Four up-and-coming and highly decorated collegiate distance runners have joined Team USA Minnesota, bringing the number of athletes to 11 in the long-time training group that is based in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The recent graduates include Parker Stinson from the University of Oregon, Biya Simbassa of the University of Oklahoma, Katy Moen from Iowa State University, and Megan Goethals out of the University of Washington.

Courtesy Pat Goodwin and Team USA Minnesota

“This is a real exciting group of young runners to bring in,” said Team USA Minnesota coach Dennis Barker. “They have all shown the ability to compete successfully at a high level and they all competed for great collegiate programs under outstanding coaches. They know what it’s like to win and be a part of winning programs and that’s the kind of talent and attitude we were looking for.”

Stinson, whose prep career was in Texas, was a nine-time All American at Oregon, where he was a member of three NCAA Championship teams. He has personal best times of 13:28 in the 5000m and 27:54 in the 10,000m and was the first person to ever win three USA Junior Track & Field Championships at 10,000m, having won twice in high school and again during his freshman year with the Ducks. While finishing his final year in college, Stinson placed sixth at the .US 12k Championships last November in a time of 34:19.

Simbassa, originally from Ethiopia who came to Houston in 2007 at age 13 and became an American citizen, is a 2015 Sooners graduate where he ran times of 3:46 in the 1500m, 14:01 in the 5000m and 28:42 in the 10,000m. In the Big 12, he finished third at the Indoor 3000m and 5000m, fifth at the Outdoor 10,000m and second at the Big 12 Cross Country Championships. The All-American’s best time in 8k cross country was 23:22.

Iowa native Moen, who competed at Iowa State, is a two-time All American who won two Big 12 Championships (5000m and 10,000m) and was a USATFCCCA Midwest Women’s Regional Track Athlete of the Year. In the fall of her final year, she helped lead the Cyclones to a runner-up team finish at the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships while placing eighth overall. She has bests of 9:08 in the 3000m, 15:51 in the 5000m and 33:09 in the 10,000m.

Goethals, who was the 2009 Foot Locker Cross Country Champion out of Michigan, was a nine-time All American at the University of Washington, where she posted personal best times of 9:08 in the 3000m, 15:33 in the 5000m and 32:52 in the 10,000m. She was also a Pac 12 5000m champion and after graduation won the 2015 Disney World Half Marathon and the Gasparilla Distance Classic 15k.

The new athletes join a team that includes three national champions – Heather Kampf, three-time USA 1 Mile Road (2012, 2014 and 2015); Gabriele Grunewald, USA Indoor 3000m in 2014; and Meghan Peyton, who was the 2013 USA 20k champion. Additional athletes are Jon Peterson, who has posted 13:33 in the 5000m; Josh Dedering, who has a best of 1:03:31 in the half marathon and is an Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier; Emily Gordon, who has run 2:39 in the marathon and is an Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier; and Gina Valgoi, who has bests of 15:54 in the 5000m and 33:07 in the 10,000m.

About Team USA Minnesota

Team USA Minnesota is based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Founded in 2001, the purpose of the training center is to improve the competitiveness of post-collegiate American distance running and to develop Olympians. The athletes are coached by Dennis Barker.

Team USA Minnesota’s major sponsor is Twin Cities In Motion ( Its silver sponsors are the Houston Marathon Foundation (, the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon (, Twin Cities Orthopedics (, and the Zero Runner ( It is also the recipient of the Running USA 2015 Allan Steinfeld Development Award. For more information, visit the team’s web site at


Contact: Pat Goodwin, 952-454-8876,

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado
©Jim Kirby

Jenny Simpson: “Personal Bests” by Steve Landells

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado ©Jim Kirby

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado
©Jim Kirby

Reigning 1500m Diamond Race winner Jenny Simpson recently clocked a season’s best of 3:57.30 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco.

The 2011 world champion from the USA delves into her memory bank to talk about some areas of her life which mean a lot to her.

My best friend in athletics
Without doubt it is Emma Coburn (US steeplechase champion). There is nothing like being able on a real mission on your career and having a friend in that fight and I definitely feel that way with Emma.

Steve Landells for the IAAF

My best achievement in athletics
By far it was winning the Diamond Race last year. I have had many high and low moments in my career, but what I am really impressed with is putting together an impressive body of work and I feel winning the Diamond Race is representative of that.

Winning the Diamond Race means I wasn’t great on one day or I was the beneficiary of chance – it means that over the course of an entire season I was the most consistent competitor at the highest level. I’m really proud of having that body of work.

My greatest rival
I would have to say that is Anna Willard from my steeplechasing days. I think to have a great rival, one of the prerequisites is for both athletes to trade wins and that is certainly true of Anna and me. We traded the American record, she won the Olympic Trials and I won the US Championships; we had these back-and-forths.

We also have very different personalities which really added fuel to a rivalry and was fun for fans. In the midst of all that, we were friendly towards each other, so we had all the elements of a great rivalry.

My greatest disappointment
Missing out on the 1500m final at the 2012 Olympics. Coming off a World Championships win (in 2011) put a lot of pressure on me and a lot was riding on that Olympic experience. It was really disappointing to me, although I didn’t feel that anyone stole anything from me because that season I was consistently running 4:05 or 4:06 and in that semi-final (Jenny was 12th and last) my fastest time of the year would not have advanced me to the final, so that shows me I just wasn’t ready to make the final.

My greatest indulgence
This has become a learned behaviour, but I would say since becoming a professional athlete I have allowed myself to feel less guilty about napping. I’m so tempted to fill every hour of my day with meaningful things, but I’ve learned that to be the best athlete I can, I have to simplify my life by resting more, so my greatest indulgence is taking a nap.

The best track venue
Any time I race at an Olympic stadium is my favourite experience. Of course, I have competed at the Beijing and London Games, but outside of that I’ve also competed at the Stockholm, Rome, Berlin, Tokyo and Moscow Olympic stadiums.

You can’t beat the intersection of your own career with the history of the sport. It is so special being able to walk into an Olympic stadium with my spikes on thinking I’m sharing this track with many others who have experienced so many Olympic moments.

My best ever race
It has to be the 2011 World Championships final when I won gold. It was my first time competing in the 1500m at a major championship and just navigating through the rounds was hard enough. In the final I was in seventh or eighth at the bell, but believed in my own kick to charge for the lead and managed to execute the race perfectly. Whether that was more through luck than any technical prowess I don’t know, but I looked like a seasoned 1500m runner, even though I probably had no idea what I was doing.

My best achievement outside of track and field
My younger sister (Emily) and I were typical angry siblings growing up. We got along and then we fought and we didn’t keep in close touch when I left for college. I have always loved her and we would see each other in holidays but despite our different paths (Emily is in the US Army) we have become best friends and I think my friendship with her and learning how to connect with her is one of my greatest achievements.

The best athlete I have ever seen
For sure it is Jackie Joyner-Kersee (world record-holder in heptathlon). I first got to meet her at high school and getting the chance to meet the best in the world at something leaves a strong impression. She was this woman in track and field that could do everything and there is nobody who can quite compare to her. On top of that she is the most incredibly gracious and sweet person in our sport and that makes her very special.


chase madison

Next Level Iowa Pro Thrower of the Year: Chase Madison

chase madisonChase Madison, the former Newton prep started his college career at Iowa State and finished it at Kentucky where he earned both All SEC and All American honors in the Discus. Madison has reunited with his former Kentucky coach, Doug Reynolds. Reynolds is now the throws coach at Alabama. Madison will enter next week’s US championships ranked #2 in the US and #14 in the world with his new PR of 65.42/214-7.

Congratulations to Chase Madison Next Level Iowa’s Pro Thrower of the Year!

Photo ©Michael Scott

Erik Sowinski
©Michael Scott

“Sowinski’s Talent Taking Him Around the World” by Darren Miller

Erik Sowinski ©Michael Scott

Erik Sowinski
©Michael Scott

A passport is required these days to watch Erik Sowinski run in big competitions.

Sowinski enrolled at the University of Iowa in the fall of 2008, armed with a Wisconsin High School 800-meter state championship (1:54.29) and a miniscule athletic scholarship. Less than seven years later he travels the world as a premier middle distance runner.

The most recent accomplishment for the 26-year-old native of Waukesha, Wisconsin, is a runner-up finish in the 800 final at the USA Track & Field Championships on June 28 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. That placed Sowinski on the United States national team that will compete at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships from Aug. 22-30 in Bejing, China.

“It has to be up there in the top two or top three (moments of my career),” Sowinski said about making the national team. “Winning a Big Ten (team) championship at home (in 2011) probably is 1A, this is probably 1B. I made the final every year (at the USATF Outdoor Championships), and to finally make a team is pretty special.”

Sowinski, who is sponsored by Nike, competed in three races over four days at the USATF Championships. He won the second preliminary heat June 25 in 1:47.80. The following day he was runner-up in a semifinal in 1:45.30. He was in lane three for the final.

“The plan was to be in the top three in the first 200 meters and don’t give up that position,” Sowinski said. “If I was first, second, or third, we would have achieved the ultimate goal, so that was the plan.”

The top three finishers in each event earn a spot on the national team.

As the race enfolded, Sowinski went to the rail in fourth place and crossed the 400-meter mark in third, with a time right at 50 seconds.

“We train a lot at 50-second pace for 400; it’s comfortable for me,” Sowinski said. “I do it a lot in practice and doing it by yourself is harder than having guys in front of you.

“With a pace that fast, the field gets strung out, so you don’t have to make a lot of moves, you are at a consistent pace the entire time and not jockeying for position. I knew if I was with those guys with 100 meters to go that I was confident with my strength at the end of the race.”

Sowinski found an extra gear with 200 meters left, briefly taking the lead 95 seconds into the race before being overcome by Nick Symmonds, a six-time US champion and two-time Olympian. After a celebratory pump of the fist at the finish line, Sowinski waved a United States flag toward the west bleachers at Hayward Field before hugging Symmonds.

Symmonds was clocked in 1:44.53, Sowinski in 1:44.84. Former Penn State runner Casimir Loxsom was third in 1:45.35.

“You put so much on the track during the year,” Sowinski said. “I ran six or seven weeks this fall between 70-80 miles a week and that was hard for me. When you have a goal you want to achieve and it finally comes to fruition, that was huge, and at the finish line you saw that. I am excited going forward.”

In the next two weeks Sowinski expects to compete in Canada and Europe.

“I’m in really good shape and I would like to get in a couple races that are going to go fast and see what happens on fresh legs,” Sowinski said. “Between that and World Championships we have about 3 ½ weeks and we will be able to get a good training cycle in then.”

Sowinski’s race calendar will be interrupted July 7 when he closes on a home in Iowa City. While most of the elite runners sponsored by Nike train in Portland or Eugene, Sowinski opts for Iowa City with his coach Joey Woody, director of track and field at the University of Iowa.

“Everything is so comfortable here. I have been here so long, the people around me, the facilities are great,” Sowinski said. “It’s hard to argue with the results; things are going in the right direction and as long as they keep going that way I don’t think there is a need to change anything.”

Sowinski continues to work part-time at Running Wild, a specialty shoe store in Coralville and Iowa City, where he puts a degree in physiology to use. Despite his success as a runner, most of the customers are oblivious to his fame.

“You would be surprised. Actually, very few people (know who I am),” Sowinski said with a laugh.

Sowinski has personal best times of 1:44.58 in the 800 and he is the American record holder in the 600 (1:15.61). On Feb. 5 in the Bahamas, he ran the second leg on a victorious 4×800 relay team at the IAAF World Relays that was clocked in 7:04.84. Other members were Duane Solomon, Loxsom, and Robbie Andrews. Andrews was runner-up in the 1,500 run final at the USATF Championships.

This is the first appearance for Sowinski at a World Championship and his goal is to qualify for the final.

“If you make a final in any major championship, anything can happen,” Sowinski said. “You saw London (Olympics) in 2012, all eight guys ran 1:43 high or faster and most of them hadn’t run even been close to that before. If you get into a major championship in a fast race, anything can happen. Breaking 1:44 would be a huge goal for me.”

Sowinski isn’t sure who will be in his entourage to China.

“Neither one of my parents have a passport, so that could be an issue,” Sowinski said. “If they decide they are going to go get passports, that would be awesome.”

Because these days, a passport is required to watch Sowinski run in big competitions.

Erik Sowinski ©Michael Scott

Erik Sowinski
©Michael Scott

jenny simpson

Next Level Iowa’s Pro Runner of the Year: Jenny Simpson

jenny simpsonJenny Simpson, the Webster City native is having a great outdoor season. She was the current US and World leader in the 1500M at 3:59.31 heading into the US Championships, where she was the favorite to win. Even though Simpson had a bye to the World Championships in Beijing, she still insisted in competing with the nations best and proved beyond a doubt that she she is the nation’s reigning queen in the 1500m. Never one to shy away from a challenge Jenny Simpson will be among the medal favorites at the World Championships in China.


Congratulations to Jenny Simpson The Next Level Iowa Pro Runner of the Year.

Lindsay Lettow-DM Christian-ABEO/SBTC
©Jim Kirby

Lindsay Lettow 5th at the USATF Nationals Heptathlon

Lindsay Lettow-DM Christian-ABEO/SBTC ©Jim Kirby

Lindsay Lettow-DM Christian-ABEO/SBTC
©Jim Kirby

Lindsay Lettow-DSM Christian-ABEO/SBTC finished 5th in the USATF Heptathlon in Eugene, OR with a total of 6023 points.  Lettow set personal bests this weekend in the 1oom hurdles in a time of 13:56 and the high jump by jumping 1.76m (5-9¼ft).

Megan Glisar-Sgt Bluff-S. Dakota
©Darren Miller

Iowans Declare for USATF Nationals

Megan Glisar-Sgt Bluff-S. Dakota ©Darren Miller

Megan Glisar-Sgt Bluff-S. Dakota
©Darren Miller

Here is a list of Iowa affilates DECLARED entries for the upcoming USATF championships in Eugene next week (Senior events listed only)


200M-Brittany Brown, U of Iowa
400M-Elexis Guster, U of Iowa
800M-Bethany Praska, former U of Iowa
1500M-Shelby Houlihan, SC East/Az St.
5K and 10K-Meghan Armstrong Peyton, former U of Iowa
100H-Lolo Jones, DM Roosevelt/LSU. Alex Gochenour, Logan Magnolia/Arkansas
High Jump-Megan Glisar, SB Luton, former Morningside, South Dakota
Long Jump-Skye Morrison, former Wartburg
Heptathlon-Alkex Gochenour, Logan Magnolia/Arkansas. Lindsay Lettow, DM Christian/ former Central Missouri

800M-Erik Sowinski, former U of Iowa
1500M-Dorian Ulrey, former UNI/Arkansas
110HH-Aaron Mallett, U of Iowa
400H-LaRon Bennett, Drake Asst. Coach
Steeplechase-Hillary Bor-former Iowa State
Masters 3K-Lance Elliott, Montezuma/former Iowa State
Triple Jump-Troy Doris, former U of Iowa
Discus-Chase Madison. Newton/Iowa State/former Kentucky
Hammer Throw-AG Kruger, Sheldon/former Morningside

Ashton Eaton-Oregon Oregon Nike Project 
©Jim Kirby

“Believing in Super Heroes” by Coach Dan Steele

Bruce Jenner-Graceland-Olympic Decathlete ©Sports Illustrated/CNN

Bruce Jenner-Graceland-Olympic Decathlete
©Sports Illustrated/CNN

Here is an excellent recent post by Coach Dan Steele from his UNI Track and Field Blog

When I was seven years old, my twin brother, Darrin and I watched every second of the 1976 Olympic decathlon. I still remember the two of us on the floor in front of the TV, watching a man named Bruce Jenner break the world record en route to his Olympic gold medal. Like thousands of people around the world, Bruce was like a superhero to us. Without question, he was my first real hero. He inspired in me a love for the decathlon and Olympic Games that remains to this day.

I have been fortunate in my life to have met a good number of famous people. Some have been kind and some of been jerks. I once met one of my greatest athletic heroes who rolled his eyes when I told him what a big fan I was, and asked him for an autograph. I very conspicuously tossed the autographed piece of paper into the trash as I walked away, crushed.

And then there was Bruce Jenner. In 1995 I emerged on the scene as a rookie, national class decathlete. In 1990, Visa became the signature sponsor of the US decathlon, sponsoring the top ten US decathletes each year. It was an amazing partnership, connecting current decathletes with the greats of the past. I finished 5th at the ’95 US Championships and was named to the Visa USA Decathlon Team. The morning of the ’95 team announcement I stepped into an elevator that Bruce was in. I’d like to say I introduced myself in that moment and finally met my childhood hero. Instead, I was transported back in time, a seven year old, too star-struck to say a word to his hero. Through the Visa sponsorship I did eventually meet him, along with all the other living US decathlon gold medalists. I found Bruce easy to talk with and genuine. In fact, I am very happy to say they were all great, great guys.
One year later I was in my Atlanta high rise hotel room the night before the 1996 Olympic Trials. It was after midnight and I was too keyed up to sleep. I decided to take a walk. I remember riding down an enormous escalator and seeing Bruce all by himself in the lobby. He saw me as I stepped off the escalator, smiled and walked up to me. He correctly assumed I couldn’t sleep and asked how I was feeling about my chances of finishing top three. I played it cool, but was thrilled to run into him.

Then, in one of the most surreal moments of my life, he told me a story. He told me how he had been in the Quad Cities (where I grew up) a couple of weeks earlier for an appearance. He said he was at a media event where local reporters were asking him questions. “One of the reporters asked me if I thought you had a chance to make the Olympic team in the decathlon,” he told me. “I told them, You know, I just watched him compete, and that guy’s pretty darn good. I said, Yes, I think he’s got a real shot.” His words just hung in the air. Here I was in front of my childhood hero, and he was telling ME a story about a reporter asking HIM a question about me. And he knew me well enough to answer the question.

I remember very distinctly thinking to myself that I have no idea what it feels like to “make it,” but this was good enough for me. Bruce didn’t have to share that story with me. I wasn’t a star of any kind, and he had been around long enough to know that I would never be one. The generosity he showed me in that moment has always stayed with me. My first hero in life was worthy of my admiration.

Through the years it has pained me to see and hear the ridicule directed at Bruce Jenner. I’ve always been quick to defend him. I have watched the Kardashians, and my opinion of Bruce hasn’t changed. Even on the show I find him kind and generous. I see him as the voice of reason. This past year the rumors regarding his gender identity have been frequent. Selfishly, I’ve not accepted any of it. “It’s for the show,” I’d say. “Nope. No way.” I am accepting this is a very real issue thousands of people (millions?) must deal with. But Bruce Jenner was my hero. I just couldn’t accept that someone so influential to me was somebody else.

This weekend I brought my athletes to the Drake Relays. My famous former athlete, and his coach, Harry Marra were there as well. I’ve known Harry since 1995- he was instrumental in the Visa partnership and is a personal friend mine, and of Bruce. A more decent man- more committed to the decathlon, you’ll never meet. Friday evening Harry and I ran into each other outside of Drake stadium, right around the time of the Bruce Jenner, Diane Sawyer interview. We discussed Bruce and our take on this- both wishing we were watching the interview instead of waiting for the hotel shuttle. We casually explored ulterior motives and possible explanations outside of face value. Finally, Harry said, “You know, I don’t know what the truth is, Dan. But I consider Bruce a friend. I’ll always consider him a friend.” And that pretty much summed it up. I can’t personally say he’s a friend because I don’t know him that way. But I can say he always was and always will be my hero.

Ashton Eaton and Daniel Gooris-UNI ©Jim Kirby

Ashton Eaton and Daniel Gooris-UNI
©Jim Kirby

The next day I was able to watch Ashton interact with fans. I’ve known Ashton since he was a high school senior and I am proud of whatever role I played in his assent to becoming the world’s greatest athlete. I swell with pride watching the kindness and generosity he shows to a young athlete I currently coach who says Ashton is his hero. Just last week I told Ashton’s mom, Roz that I was more proud of the man Ashton’s become than I am the athlete. Of course, she concurred. Watching Ashton with his fans is surreal. I see myself with Bruce and sit in awe at the incredible connection between the seven year old I was, Bruce, Ashton and the current generation that sees Ashton as a hero.

I got home last night from the Drake Relays and the first thing I did this morning was watch the entire interview of Bruce on Hula Plus. Maybe I’m naïve, but I didn’t see any ulterior motives. I saw my childhood hero, bravely telling a story that most of us would be terrified to tell. I take him at his word. Clearly, I know very little about the transgender community, but I have great compassion for anyone trying to navigate this life with a gender identity different than their gender assignment. I can’t imagine the courage it takes to go public with this. As if life isn’t challenging enough.
So as it turns out, the man I idolized in childhood, (in his words) “has the soul of a woman.” At the age of 65, Bruce Jenner is courageously telling his story because he can’t live a lie anymore. And so begins his brave new authentic life as a woman. He aspires to change the world by bringing front page awareness to the transgender community. And I am forced to come to terms with the following truth: The man I saw as a superhero in childhood turns out to be a genuine, bonafide superhero. Who knew? And how lucky am I?

You can read more from Coach Steele’s blog by Clicking Here.

Erik Sowinski-Iowa
©Jim Kirby 2012

Former Hawk Breaks World Record

Erik Sowinski-Iowa ©Jim Kirby

Erik Sowinski-Iowa
©Jim Kirby

Utilizing a tremendous opening leg by Olympian Matt Centrowitz, Team USA shattered the previous men’s distance medley relay world record at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory on Saturday. The first stop of the USATF Championship Series, the Armory Track Invitational kicked off the 2015 professional indoor track & field season.

Centrowitz, along with Oregon standout Mike Berry, USATF Indoor Champion Erik Sowinski, and American 4x1500m record holder Pat Casey, knocked over six seconds off the previous record, set by the University of Texas in 2008 (9:25.97). The quartet crossed the finish in 9:19.93. Watch Team USA’s world record on here.

Centrowitz ran a phenomenal opening 1,200m, splitting 2:49.47. Handing off the baton to World Championships relay gold medalist Berry, the 400 meter leg only aided the quartet’s cause, as Berry passed the stick to Sowinski in a 46.40 400m split. Sowinski is no stranger to breaking world records in Team USA relays, having anchored the Team USA All-Stars to the 4×800-meter relay world record just over a year ago.

Sowinski ran a 1:47.60 800m split before Casey, who ran the opening leg of the American record 4x1500m at the IAAF World Relays last May, took over the final 1,600m. Casey finished his leg in 3:56.48 and carried the U.S. to a 9:19.93 finish

Another big winner Saturday was Jordan Hasay, who took home the women’s 2-mile invitational in 9:38.28. Hasay bided her time behind Buze Diriba, waiting to make her move until the final two laps. Hasay comfortably took the lead just before the bell lap and powered through the final 200 meters to take home the win in front of a packed crowd at the Armory. Watch Jordan outkick Buze Diriba on here.

Ajee’ Wilson looked to be in great form early in the season, taking the women’s 800m in 2:01.63. The race didn’t seem to go to the pace as planned, but Wilson powered through to take the win. Treniere Moser surged in the final 150 meters to earn the runner-up finish in 2:01.79. Watch Ajee’ take the women’s 800m on here.

Next weekend holds something for everyone, as the USATF Cross Country Championships kick off viewing on Saturday, Feb. 7. Fans can then catch the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix Saturday as the USATF Championship Series rolls on to Boston with broadcast coverage on both and NBCSN.

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado
©Jim Kirby

Webster City’s Jenny Simpson Breaks American Record

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado ©Jim Kirby

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado
©Jim Kirby

Records were broken in bunches at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Saturday night, with two world and one national mark falling on an exciting evening of track and field. The Team New Balance USA quartet of Sarah Brown, Mahogany Jones, Megan Krumpoch, and Brenda Martinez combined to time 10:42.57 for the distance medley relay, shattering the previous world record of 10:50.98. The team’s performance kicked off what would be a night of fast performances on the newly resurfaced Reggie Lewis Center track, as American Jenny Simpson broke the national record for two miles and Bernard Lagat set a world masters best for 3000m.


A week ago in New York City, the men’s indoor world record for the distance medley relay was broken by a Nike-sponsored American team. Tonight, it was the women’s turn, with all eyes focusing on Team New Balance USA. With Brown and Martinez serving as bookends to the relay, many predicted the University of Tennessee’s 2009 world mark of 10:50.98 would fall.

Leading off the 1200 meter leg, Brown found herself slightly adrift of the front, passing the baton off in second behind the New York All Stars. Attempting to set a world record held extra meaning for Brown, who was part of the University of Tennessee team that set the existing mark six years ago.

“When I knew that they [the team] was going after it, I said I really want a chance to be a part of it,” said Brown, “There’s something just extra special about being on a relay.”

Running the 400m leg for Team New Balance USA was Jones, formerly of Penn State University. Jones quickly caught up to the New York All Star team, clocking a 53.59-second split for two laps. From there, it was Krumpoch’s turn, battling with New York’s Latavia Thomas.

Nearly neck-and-neck, Thomas passed her baton first to Nicole Tully, while Krumpoch exchanged the Team New Balance baton to Martinez less than a quarter second later.

Martinez, the 2013 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist at 800m, regained the lead early on, though never quite shook the tenacious Tully. With fewer than 400 meters remaining, Tully surged trying to distance herself from Martinez. While she did gain the lead, the 28-year-old had a feeling that Martinez would come on strong in the final meters.

“I know Brenda’s got incredible 800 meter speed and a great kick so I figured, I was feeling pretty good with 400m to go so I needed to make a move early,” said Tully. “I could tell by the crowd in the last lap that Brenda was making a comeback.”

Looking at the big screen with 100 meters to go and then glancing back once again with 60 meters left, Tully knew that Martinez was gaining ground. All she could do was swing wide down the homestretch, but that was to no avail. Martinez broke the tape in 10:42.57, giving her team the new indoor world record. Tully’s New York All Stars team placed second in 10:42.79, also under the previous record.

“It was a strong group and I just trusted the girls,” said Martinez, relieved to have achieved the record. “We had a discussion last night saying ‘just give us your best leg at your current fitness and we’ll do just fine’… I really needed to dig down and get after it. I didn’t know it was the last lap, that’s how lost I was out there. I kinda snapped out of it and was like I got to go right now.”

Martinez’s teammate, Brown, said she had no doubt that Martinez had enough left in the tank to make the winning move.

“Brenda is one tough cookie. You can see it in her face when she has that determination,” said Brown. “When Nicole went around and I saw Brenda’s face didn’t falter whatsoever, I was like she might have this. She brought a tear to my eye when she was coming down that homestretch. She was fighting it out and doing it for all of the girls who ran before her. I was so proud of her.”

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado ©Jim Kirby

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado
©Jim Kirby

Cheers for the world record distance medley relay were loud from the near capacity crowd, though they were matched by the roar Jenny Simpson received when setting a new national record in the two mile.

Returning here one year after mistakenly miscounting laps (and costing herself a shot at the two mile national record), Simpson toed the line tonight with motivation. She knew Regina Jacobs’s 9:23.38 time from 2002 was well within reach.

After pacesetter Heather Wilson stepped off shortly after 1200 meters, it was Simpson leading a string of three Ethiopians: Sentayehu Ejigu, Buze Diriba, and Gotytom Gebreslase. Running lap after lap in the 34 to 35 second range, Simpson kept calm up front by listening to meet announcer Toni Reavis rattle off split times.

With her mind set on the national record, Simpson remembered a lesson she learned while chasing NCAA marks in her final year at the University of Colorado: keep your foot consistently on the gas.

“There’s a very fine balance between settling down and not pushing yourself past that threshold of going to the well, but also still grinding so that you’re keeping the pace up,” she said. “When you start slowing up even just tenths of a second, that can slip away really easily.”

By maintaining her hard pace, one by one the Ethiopians behind her dropped off. First it was Gebreslase, then Diriba, and finally Ejigu. Running her final 200 meters solo in 30.69 seconds, Simpson used the crowd’s adrenaline to power her through the finish in a new national record of 9:18.35.

“No leading, no kicking down people, none of that can help as much as having a rowdy crowd,” said Simpson. “Indoors that’s so much more vibrant and so much more in your face and it really, really helps.”

Taking to the track for the first time since he turned 40, Bernard Lagat wanted to set a record of his own: the masters indoor world record for 3000m. Finding himself tucked in behind Will Leer, Dejen Gebremeskel, and Hassan Mead, Lagat comfortably ran within himself for the race’s first half.

The 3000m turned out to be more like a 300 meter sprint, as no moves would be made until a lap and a half remained. That was when Gebremeskel got anxious and charged to the front.

Lagat, not wanting to lose, quickly matched Gebremeskel’s move and took over pole position. Laser-focused, Lagat made his way down the backstretch with Gebremeskel hot on his heels in full sprint mode.

“He is good at finishing,” said Gebremeskel of Lagat. “I know him very well, so especially if the race is a little bit slow I know he can kick so I was expecting that.”

Lagat did his best to hold off the lanky Ethiopian, pumping his arms faster than he had all race. Yet it was Gebremeskel who had one final gear coming off the last turn.

“I give more time to training this year for Boston Indoor. Three months, around that, I’ve been ready for this. I was working on finishing and sprinting because I was expecting it with Lagat coming,” said Gebremeskel, who won in 7:48.19.

Lagat was still pleased with his 7:48.33 performance, obliterating the previous world master’s record of 8:01.44. However, he thought he could have gone faster.

“I am satisfied but I think we could have gone a little faster. I think we could have gone faster because I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel but I really felt great during the race itself,” said Lagat before appearing on USA Track & Field’s ‘The Cool Down’ post-race show. “This one gave me a lot of confidence.”

In the men’s mile, New Zealand’s Nick Willis was a man on a mission. Having just completed a stint training at altitude in Flagstaff, Ariz., the 2008 Olympic silver medalist over 1500m felt sharp entering today’s race. He looked in prime form, taking over the lead after 1000 meters and never looking back.

Breaking the tape in 3:51.61, Willis set a New Zealand national record for the indoor mile. He eclipsed John Walker’s mark of 3:52.8, which was set in 1981 and matched in 1982. Willis is also running the NYRR Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games next weekend.

“I had forgotten about that [record],” Willis told Race Results Weekly, standing feet away from his longtime coach Ron Warhurst. “It’s always an honor to come alongside or ahead of John Walker, a legend in our sport.”

The women’s 2000m was won by Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum in 5:35.46. While the discipline is rarely contested, Seyaum’s time is the third fastest ever run indoors according to Seyaum did not speak to the press, as she got sick shortly after entering the media mixed zone.

Sally Kipyego, fresh off of a training camp in Kenya, finished second in 5:40.35, while steeplechaser Emma Coburn took third in 5:41.11.

Executing a finely timed kick, Nike Oregon Project’s Treniere Moser swung wide to pass teammate Mary Cain with a straightaway remaining in the women’s 1000m, going on to win in 2:37.86. Moser, 33, said the victory was a testament to the training she has completed under coach Alberto Salazar.

Cain, who led nearly the entire race after the rabbit had dropped off, admitted she ran hesitantly knowing that at some point Moser would likely strike with a killer kick.

“I think that was the problem. I think I was waiting for it, being like ‘When’s she coming? When’s she coming? When’s she coming? Rather than thinking Go! Go! Go!” said an honest Cain. “I think that reverse mental attitude, that kind of messed me up a bit.”

Cain and Moser will both run the NYRR Women’s Wanamaker Mile next week at the NYRR Millrose Games in New York City.

Another Nike Oregon Project victory came in the men’s 1000m, as Matthew Centrowitz timed a meet record of 2:17.00. Centrowitz’s time was less than a quarter second shy of David Torrence’s national record.

“This is great preparation,” said Centrowitz, who is running the NYRR Wanamaker Mile next Saturday. “Going through the half [800m] today in 1:50, whatever we go through next week will be obviously slower, and the aim is to make that [pace] feel good and we most likely will.”

North Carolina’s Ryen Frazier won the Girls Junior Mile by nearly ten seconds in 4:44.02; she will be attending North Carolina State University next fall. In the Boys section, Michigan’s Logan Wetzel defeated Rhode Island’s Jack Salisbury by one-one hundredth of a second, 4:08.75 to 4:08.76.

“I just wanted to put myself in position to finish well at the end and I was able to do that. It definitely came right down to the end,” said Wetzel. “This is the biggest win of my career so far.”