Wed, Mar 23, 2016 - Page 18 News List

US dominate at world indoors

OLYMPIC BUILDUP:Men’s coach Ron Allice said that he was ‘impressed with the production level, talent and composure of Team USA’ as they look forward to Rio

AP, PORTLAND, Oregon

US 4x400m women’s relay team members from left Ashley Spencer, Courtney Okolo, Quanera Hayes and Natasha Hastings hold flags after their win at the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday.

Photo: AP

The US team set the bar high for the world indoor championships: Bring home a record bounty of medals.

They accomplished that with the help of an 18-year-old high jumper, whose father was a longtime NFL quarterback, and an 800m runner who worked at McDonald’s to earn extra money for training.

The final tally: 13 golds out of a possible 26 events and 23 medals in all, making it the biggest haul in the history of the event. Granted, some of track’s biggest names were missing — Usain Bolt and Mo Farah, although Farah showed up in the stands — while the Russian team were absent because of pending doping charges. However, it could not have gone much better, especially with the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games just around the corner.

“For Team USA as a whole, it’s definitely a confidence booster,” said Natasha Hastings, who helped the 4x400m relay team to a gold medal on the final day. “To do this on home turf, that makes it even more special.”

This was pretty much the official world introduction to high-jumper Vashti Cunningham, whose father and coach is Randall Cunningham. The teenager beat a field including second-placed Ruth Beitia of Spain, who is twice her age. Cunningham became the youngest female to win a world indoor title.

He father, calling in plays from the stands, had a fitting analogy for the crowd support.

“They were like the Seattle Seahawks — the 12th man,” said Randall Cunningham, who was inducted into the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame in 2009.

One of the more intriguing story lines from the weekend belonged to Boris Berian, who used to work at the popular fast-food chain to support his training. His impressive win in the 800m — he took the lead early and held on — inspired such headlines as: “From Golden Arches to gold medal.”

“I’m just really impressed with the production level, talent and composure of Team USA and setting records with a team of this caliber,” men’s coach Ron Allice said. “I said it in our team meeting, but this is our house and we defended it.”

Other stories to emerge from the meet were the Eatons: the “first couple” of multi-events. Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Canada won the pentathlon with a fantastic performance in the final race of her event, while the US’ Ashton Eaton heptathlon title was more of a walk in the park as he cruised to his third straight indoor title. They were crowd favorites, which was no surprise since the couple met at the University of Oregon. They will be favored in Rio.

Michelle Carter set a US indoor shot put record with a throw of 20.21m. She captured gold by beating New Zealand’s Valerie Adams, who is the gold standard in the event. Adams was the defending champion.

With his win in the 1,500m, Matthew Centrowitz now has a medal of every color at major meets. He also captured silver (2013) and bronze (2011) at the outdoor championships. This was the first men’s 1,500m gold for the US and Centrowitz savored the moment on his victory lap.

“I saw just about everyone: my family, my friends who have never seen a track race before, it was just awesome on US soil and in my backyard,” Centrowitz said.

With some of Jamaica’s best not competing, the stage was set for others to shine. Americans Barbara Pierre and Trayvon Bromell captured the 60m titles in close women’s and men’s races. Pierre edged favorite Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands, while Bromell held off Jamaica’s Asafa Powell.

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