In a track meet filled with athletes testing their training and looking for a good start to the season, the most notable performance at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix last night was in the women’s pole vault. While 4,072 people at the Reggie Lewis Center rhythmically cheered, Jenn Suhr soared to an American record of 16 feet. It was the third time Suhr set an American record at the Lewis Center.
She is now ranked second all-time on the women’s indoor pole vault list behind Russian Elena Isinbaeva, who boasts a best of 16-4 3/4.
Suhr made one attempt at a world record before packing up her poles. Then, she posed trackside for photos beside the results board with her record-setting number displayed. The record was an early birthday present for Suhr, who turns 30 today.
Asked why she’s been so successful at the facility, Suhr said over the public address system, “It’s the crowd. It’s the Boston people.’’
Given that Suhr no-heighted in a meet last week, the record was especially rewarding. She did not talk with the media after the event but her agent, Rich Kenah, addressed why there was only a single try at the world mark.
“She made one attempt at the world record because her Achilles’ was sore and bothering her,’’ said Kenah. “She’s had some Achilles’ issues in the past. She wanted to get ice and treatment [as soon as possible]. She was ecstatic to have the American record after a no-height last week. I’ve never seen her react with such enthusiasm and relief.’’
Suhr is still scheduled to compete at the Millrose Games Saturday in New York.
The men’s mile started with drama and finished with Ireland’s Ciaran O’Lionaird crossing the line first in 3 minutes 56.01 seconds. Canadian Taylor Milne was second in 3:56.40 and American Galen Rupp third in 3:57.10. There were some tense moments early when one of the prerace favorites, Great Britain’s Mo Farah, fell on the final turn of the first lap. Farah is the reigning 5,000-meter world champion and training partner of O’Lionaird and Rupp.
“I had to get back [in the race] as quickly as possible,’’ said Farah, who finished fourth with a personal best of 3:57.92. “It’s a good thing it happened now than in a major championship. Somebody just caught my leg. I have long strides and they tapped me and I just went down. I’m all right now, but I don’t know what’s going to come. Hopefully, it should be good.’’
For O’Lionaird, it was just the beginning he wanted to the indoor season. And without the mullet he sported last year, O’Lionaird was hoping to send a message for the new season. “This year, I kind of want to set myself apart by my running [not hairstyle],’’ said O’Lionaird.
“[The win] is good for this time of year,’’ said O’Lionaird. “But it’s a long way to the world indoors and an even longer way to Olympics. I’m so new to this game, I’m still learning all the time.’’
Close call survived
Following the women’s 800, Maggie Vessey admitted that her “tendency is for close finishes.” Vessey (2:02.361) narrowly defeated Erica Moore (2:02.365), putting herself in position for the win with a daring inside pass roughly 20 meters from the line, barely squeezing past the competition.
“It wasn’t planned,’’ said Vessey. “There was a little bit of space and I just tried to shoot through. I kind of had to throw my shoulder under to go for it. I really wanted to break that tape. I just had this jump of energy. I don’t even know where it came from. It was like, ‘OK, wake up. Let’s go.’ And as soon as that hole opened up, you couldn’t stop me.’’
Running out of air
Fading badly in the women’s 3,000, American Jenny Simpson finished seventh in 8:58.70, well behind winner Meseret Defar (8:33.57) of Ethiopia.
“I did something risky,’’ said Simpson, the reigning 1,500 world champion. “I went straight from really heavy aerobic work at 7,000 feet and tried to race fast. And whether you’re in middle school or high school, that’s what it looks like when somebody dies in a race. And I think I just overestimated what I was able to do in my first run.
“What I’m going to take away from this is that I didn’t hesitate. I have a lot of enthusiasm for this year.’’
Defar was pleased with her effort, if not her time.
“I have practiced a lot for this race,’’ she said through a translator. “The pace was uneven, but I still raced very well. I was planning to run under 8:30 today, but it didn’t happen. But still I’m pleased with the race I had.’’
Reigning 400 world champion Kirani James of Grenada looked strong in his first competition of the season. He won the 400 in 45.96 and pronounced himself pleased with the performance.
“I wanted to see where I’m at,’’ said James. “I finished strong. I had a great time in the weight room preparing.’’ . . . Olympic and indoor world bronze medalist David Oliver took the men’s 60-meter hurdles in 7.60 seconds . . . In his pro debut, Matt Centrowitz finished seventh in the men’s 3,000, setting a personal best of 7:46.19.
A pair of Massachusetts high school runners represented the state well in the junior boys’ mile and the junior girls’ mile. Joel Hubbard of Marshfield finished second in 4:14.35, less than a second behind Craig Engels (4:13.70) of Pfafftown, N.C. In the girls’ mile, Cayla Hatton of Andover finished second in 4:31.41 behind Haley Pierce (4:30.26) of Wilmington, Del.