Femke Bol entered the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix with a lot of unknowns.
The meet at Brighton’s The Track at New Balance would be the triple European champion’s first race in the women’s 500 meter, and the first time the Netherlands native competed at an indoor invitational in the United States.
What did Bol know? She acknowledged in a pre-event press conference that she knew the exact splits it would take to set a world record. Come Saturday, that’s exactly what she did.
Bol broke the 17-year-old world indoor record, running a 1:05.63. The mark shattered the old record, set by Russia’s Olesya Krasnomovets in 2006, by more than a second.
“I’m just super happy to have it work out like this,” said Bol.
Bol had the victory in hand from the starting gun, and defeated the second-place finisher, Jamaica’s Leah Anderson, by three seconds.
While many of her outdoor opponents take indoor season off, Bol doesn’t want to stop running, and her choice seems to be a good one.
“I love to race and I also love to train,” said Bol. “I think indoor is a nice break. It’s a lot of fun. You get to see where you are at and see what you need to change before outdoor season.”
Not long after Bol’s record ignited the sellout crowd, Aleia Hobbs put on her own show. After favorites Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Shericka Jackson did not make it to the final of the women’s 60-meter dash, Hobbs took advantage of their absence setting a meet record in 7.02 seconds.
“I was like, ‘Let’s give them something to see,’ ” said Hobbs.
The current “King of the Hurdles,” Grant Holloway, kept the audience cheering. He ran the fastest time in the world this year in the men’s 60-meter hurdles, winning with a dominant 7.38, his 61st consecutive win at the distance. Another of the meet’s main draws, Northampton native and Harvard graduate Gabby Thomas, closed out the day’s pro races, winning the women’s 300 meter in 36.31 seconds.
Lyles wins a photo finish
The closest finish of the day came in the men’s 60-meter dash, when American rivals Noah Lyles and Trayvon Bromell were neck-and neck in the final 5 meters. Bromell, a teenage phenom who lost the first few years of his pro career to injuries, had a great start, but Lyles, the reigning world outdoor champion in the 200 meter, chased him down. In the last foot, Lyles’s chest earned him the narrowest of victories, 6.507 to 6.509.
Despite being sick last week, Lyles’s finish was a personal best and his second consecutive win at the Grand Prix. He attributed it to having heats.
“I’m a guy that does better when there are rounds,” said Lyles. “I saw that I was close to my personal best in the heat, and so I knew what I had to do.”
Though Bromell lost by the smallest of margins, he was sullen.
“I feel a big disappointment in me,” he said.
MacLean: meaningful mile
Peabody’s Heather MacLean won the women’s mile on an especially meaningful day.
“It’s the six-year anniversary of my dad’s passing today,” said MacLean. “He was an ironworker, and his union helped build this facility, so there was a lot of good energy for me.”
MacLean, who regularly trains at the Track at New Balance, ran a 4:23.42, both a meet record and a personal best. She battled with Canadian Lucia Stafford, who took a late lead. But with a large contingent of family in the crowd, MacLean was not going to be outrun on her home track. She charged forward at the end, edging Stafford by a tenth of a second.
“I wanted to win today,” said MacLean. “I thought, ‘I can’t settle for second, I know I have more in the tank.’ ”
Breaking ground for India
India’s Tejaswin Shankar won the meet’s first event, the men’s high jump, with a height of 2.26 meters (7 feet 5 inches). With victory in hand, he tried for an indoor personal best of 2.30 meters, but just missed it.
A graduate of Kansas State, Shankar still lives in Manhattan, Kan., where he works a corporate job and trains and competes when he can.
“I work a 9-to-5, so to come here on a Saturday and live my dream is a great feeling,” said Shankar.
The impressive performances weren’t limited to the pros. Three local runners competed in the record-breaking junior girls’ international mile. The top three finishers all broke the meet record, with Belmont’s Ellie Shea finishing third in 4:42.08.
Kat Cornetta can be reached at email@example.com.