The stars aligned this weekend for an unbelievable day in indoor track history. Breaking it down by runner, here’s Saturday’s highlights.
At the New Balance games held at the historic armory, Mary Cain, the high school phenom, was about to attack a 41-year-old record in the mile. The oldest female track record on the books was about to go down. The announcer went through the start list as athletes nervously stood on the track and a bittersweet feeling was in the air. Debbie Heald’s mile record was set at a cold-war-era US versus USSR meet. It was a true “do you believe in miracles?” moment when a small American high school girl lined up against and beat the best the USSR had to offer. However, the feeling that the record was going to fall could not be shaken. The field was too good, the crowd too energized, and Mary Cain too strong not to dip under 4:38.5.
The gun went off and the runners filed into a single line on the banked track. Mary Cain looked eager to have the record. Running in lane two on the outside of the pack, she was wasting energy. As the race progressed she slipped into the formation and was pulled through the core of the race.
With one lap to go, Sarah Bowman of New Balance (the eventual winner of the race in 4:31.61) made a move and created a gap. Nicole Sifuentes and Mary Cain responded to the surge and put distance on the field. With 100m to go, Mary Cain looked strong and gained on the leaders. With 50m to go, the leaders made another move, leaving Cain in 3rd.
Mary Cain’s consolation prize is not only besting but also crushing a 41-year-old record in a time of 4:32.78. That’s six seconds faster than the old record held by Heald. The record couldn’t have gone to a better athlete and bright light for the sport. Watch the race on FloTrack.
Galen Rupp is a 10k runner who was criticized during his collegiate career for not being able to kick. So a mile would be the last place you would think to find him. When word spread that he would be going after the American indoor mile record in Boston, honestly it was a bit of a laugh. The odds seemed to be stacked against him.
He was going to try and beat the mile record of Bernard Lagat, one of the greatest milers and indoor runners of all time. Galen ran an indoor mile a week earlier and could only manage a 3:57, eight seconds off the time he wanted to best. In the mile at those speeds, finding eight seconds is as hard as running a world-class mile then proceeding to do a tempo right after. But the race was set, the pacers were found and the gun would go off at almost the same time as Mary Cain’s mile, 200 miles away.
From the gun, the intentions of the race were known. Rupp slid into place behind his pacers and looked smooth every step. Through the 600 the pace was as close to perfect as one could hope. The excitement in the crowd started to build as the first pacer pulled off the track. The pace never let up and on an indoor track the speed is almost dizzying to watch. We have never seen an indoor track so packed and with so many people screaming at the top of their lungs.
With 400m to go, the final pacer stepped off the track and it was now just Galen against the clock. The pace had slipped but not far outside of the target time. With 200m to go, the taxing pace could be seen on Rupp’s face but his pace didn’t slow and the noise inside the facility only grew. Rupp sprinted to a 3:50.92, making him the fifth fastest indoor miler of all time. He missed the moon but ended up amongst the stars. Rupp soon walked off the track to finish his day’s work with a tempo run. If you have not seen it, watch the race on FloTrack. It will be one of the best races this year.
Duane Solomon has not slowed down since last year’s Olympic Trials. He was a 1:45 800m runner a year ago and is now a 1:42 800m world class runner. Now the top American in London can put another trophy on his mantle, an American record.
In his first race of 2013, Solomon broke a 26-year-old record in Glasgow, Scotland. A record that was set when he was 2 years old. He covered 600m of an indoor track in the blazing fast time of 1:15.70. Solomon displayed his dominance by taking the race wire to wire. 2012 was Solomon’s break out year and at this pace 2013 will be the year he cements his place among the American mid-distance greats.