By Parker Morse, Running USA wire
BOSTON - (March 1, 2009) - David Torrence, Amy Yoder Begley, Rob Myers and Anna Willard became national champions in the men's and women's 3000m and 1500m respectively at the USA Indoor Championships, held Saturday (February 28) and Sunday (March 1) at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center here in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood.
Torrence was the surprise of Saturday evening, winning his first-ever Senior national title when he took the men's 3000m in 7:53.67. Based in Berkeley, Calif. and coached by his college coach, Tony Sandoval, Torrence was a Junior national champion in 2004 and placed 8th at the World Junior Championships that year. In 2007, he ran 3:58.62 for the mile to break Cal's 50-year-old school record, previously held by Don Bowden, the first American under 4 minutes for the mile.
The race's pace was dominated by marathoners, with Nate Jenkins (7th at the Olympic Trials) and Josh Rohatinsky (9th) leading through the 2000m point. Torrence had made his way through the pack by then, and when Daniel Huling made a move for the lead, Torrence moved to follow him. He moved to the lead on the backstretch before the bell, reasoning that others might be saving their moves for the bell. A strong challenge from Brandon Bethke was the only response; Jonathon Riley, a three-time U.S. champion in this event, was in position, but unable to cover Torrence's move.
2008 Olympian Yoder Begley ended a nine-year absence from indoor track when she won the women's 3000m. The 2000 indoor NCAA 5000m champion, Yoder Begley said until this year she hadn't raced indoors since that year. After three-time Olympian Jen Rhines opened the race at 4:40 pace, Yoder Begley took over with seven laps to go and started forcing down the pace. From the pack of five, which had also included Lindsey Gallo, Julie Culley and Sara Hall, only Hall was able to endure Yoder Begley's progressive pace increases. Yoder Begley entered the bell lap with a solid one-stride lead over Hall which turned out to be too much for the Team Running USA athlete to overcome; Yoder Begley won in 8:53.27 to Hall's 8:53.72.
Myers won his third indoor 1500m national title when he held off 2004 Olympian Alan Webb at the finish line of that race. After Webb took the pace with four laps remaining, Myers moved smartly through the pack with two laps to go and burst into the lead at the bell. Webb gave chase and almost caught Myers at the line, when the latter appeared to stumble slightly, but the win went to Myers in 3:45.73 to Webb's 3:45.82. It was the slowest time of Myers' wins.
Steeplechase Olympian Willard ran away from a field including 2004 Olympian Shayne Culpepper and Sara Hall to win the 1500m in 4:17.37 here on Sunday evening. Willard, who ran at the Reggie Lewis Center often as a collegian at Brown, was back for her first indoor season in four years.
Willard grabbed the lead immediately and never relinquished it, passing 400 meters in 1:12.5 and 800m in 2:25.9. Hall moved up to challenge as the pack shrank to five with two laps remaining, but Willard had another gear left and shredded the pack with a 30-second closing last lap. Culpepper moved up to catch Hall in the homestretch.
"I was surprised nobody came up on me in the earlier laps," said Willard, who said she intends to run both the 1500m and the steeplechase this summer. "I wanted to work on my speed" this season, she explained. Willard, a native of Maine, had a family fan base in the stands. "It felt like the whole town was here."
Willard professed to be excited by the 4:25.18 mile run by her steeple rival Jenny Barringer at the Big 12 Championships this weekend. "I love it when my competitors run fast," the Team Running USA athlete said. "It raises the bar."
Willard, who has traded the steeplechase U.S. record back and forth with Barringer for two years, will be looking forward to renewing the rivalry in the spring.
If eligible, the top three finishers at the USA Indoors took home $2500, $1500 and $500, respectively. There is no World Indoor Championships this year.
USA Indoor Track & Field Championships
Boston, MA, February 28 - March 1, 2009
1) Rob Myers (OH), 3:45.73
2) Alan Webb (VA), 3:45.82
3) Steve Sherer (WA), 3:46.14
1) David Torrence (CA), 7:53.67
2) Brandon Bethke (WI), 7:54.20
3) Jonathon Riley (OR), 7:55.79
1) Amy Yoder Begley (OR), 8:53.27
2) Sara Hall (CA), 8:53.72
3) Julie Culley (VA), 8:55.62
1) Anna Willard (CA), 4:17.37
2) Shayne Culpepper (CO), 4:18.82
3) Sara Hall (CA), 4:19.30
Complete results and more at: USATF.org.
Ryan Lamppa, Running USA Media Director
(805) 696-6232; Fax = (805) 659-0016