The inaugural adidas Boost Boston Games ended with a photo finish in the men’s 100-meter dash. To the naked eye, American Marvin Bracy and Jamaican Yohan Blake crossed the line together on Saturday evening. But meet officials determined Bracy (10.223) edged out Blake (10.225) by two-thousandths of a second.
It was a big win for Bracy, a former wide receiver for Florida State and now contender for the US Olympic team headed to Rio de Janeiro. It was also a full-circle moment for Bracy, who won the 2011 high school Dream 100 in the former incarnation of the street meet, the adidas Grand Prix in New York City at Icahn Stadium.
“It was a tight race all the way through, but I persevered and I got the W,” said Bracy. “It’s my first street meet, and I’m just happy to come out with the win. The crowd was more electrifying than anything. They definitely showed a lot of love. It’s amazing to be able to go through what I went through with early success, then go through injuries, then come back, resurrect and get the job done.”
Bracy was not alone in his praise for the event. Ronnie Ash, winner of the men’s 110-meter hurdles in 13.39 seconds, thought the street meet was the perfect way to share the sport with more people and generate greater interest in track and field.
“The fans were amazing,” said Ash. “I believe we should bring more [street meets] to multiple cities in the US so we can get more clout, outside of basketball, football, baseball in the US, bring more people to track and field, get more support. It’s a foot race. Anyone can do it. With the community backing you, it can be much more amazing.”
That said, the athletes voiced mixed reviews of the inaugural adidas Boost Boston Games. While they all praised the concept, competition, crowds and overall atmosphere, they also criticized the 180-meter temporary track on Charles Street, staged between the Public Garden and Boston Common.
After placing second in the 100, Blake found himself surrounded by track fans who wanted photos and autographs. The 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 and 200 obliged the requests with a wide smile. But once he was clear of the track fans, his demeanor changed. He was not happy with any part of his race and not happy with any part of the track.
“The track was really bad,” said Blake. “I’m not finding an excuse . . . It was atrocious out there for me on the track. I kept going up and down, up and down, losing my form, my balance.”
Blake added: “It was more than a little bouncy. It was atrocious. I kept going up and down. I couldn’t feel myself. I was all over the place, to be honest. I give thanks that I came out injury free.”
It was not the running surface that presented issues for some competitors, but the elevated platform constructed of steel and plywood. Basically, it wasn’t as stable as some sprinters would have like and presented unusual challenges.
Ash said it felt like he was hurdling on the Rocky Mountains.
“There were some imperfections on the track,” said Ash. “There was kind of a sway because it was on an elevated platform. Usually, the track is on the ground. It was kind of wavy. Maybe next year, when they lay down the track some of the lumps won’t be there. I guess it was an accelerated schedule to put everything together. They can’t block off the streets for too long in Boston.”
For meet director, Mark Wetmore, there is no maybe about it.
With the street meet a success in almost every other way—perfect weather, competitive fields, a steady stream of foot traffic that lingered to watch, good organization that kept the meet on time for the live broadcast on NBC Sports Network, Wetmore and the track installers will focus on a better track for next year’s races.
“It was the first year we did the event and we hired the best company we could,” said Wetmore, president of Boston-based meet organizer Global Athletics and Marketing, Inc. “We had 15 hours to lay the track down. We’re really happy with the product. We had the best rubberized surface in the world. Now, we have to take the steps necessary to improve the platform under the track to make it better for next year. That’s the feedback we got. And with one year to prepare for the event, the track won’t be a problem again.”
Even with a less-than-perfect track, competitors were thrilled with the opportunity to compete in downtown Boston. Fans edged the track and created a unique environment for many of the elite and high school runners.
In the women’s 150, Tiffany Townsend crossed the line first in 16.99 followed by Shalonda Solomon in 17.01 and Harvard’s Gabby Thomas in 17.20. Thomas, of Ashland, who just completed her freshman year and finished third in the 200 at the recent NCAA Championships, had high school friends and teammates in the stands cheering for her. And she saw the race as important preparation for the upcoming Olympic trials.
“It was really good for me to get some experience with really good girls before the Olympic trials, to shake out the nervous feelings before I head into really, really good competition,” said Thomas. “I was expecting it would be a couple more years before I was competing against the girls I’m competing against, but it’s been a really exciting process.”
In the women’s 100, Tori Bowie crossed the line first in 11.03. While not pleased with her time, she still believes she is on target for fast races at the upcoming US Olympic trials July 1-10 in Eugene, Ore.
“The time doesn’t show what kind of shape I’m in right now because I feel that I’m in 10.7[-second] shape right now,” said Bowie. “But the conditions and setup and everything, I have to be extremely thankful for what I did today. It was my first street race and it kind of put me in the mindset of when I was 15 or 16 years old, racing out in the middle of the road. It was so exciting. I really enjoyed it.”
Jenn Suhr, reigning Olympic gold medalist in the pole vault and owner of the seven highest outdoor jumps by an American woman, never got a chance to hear the roar of the Boston crowd in competition. She didn’t compete due to tight Achilles, figuring it was better not to push her sore lower legs two weeks before the trials.
While Suhr is a familiar face in Boston, having started her pole vault career at the Reggie Lewis Center in 2005 with her first national title and competed in more than a dozen indoor meets in the city, Eric Stokes of Covington, Ga., made his first trip to Boston. And with his win in the adidas boys’ Dream 100 in 10.59, it looked like the start of a promising sprint career, much like it was for Bracy five years ago.
Amaru Patterson of Haines City, Fla., won the girls’ Dream 100 in 11.59, outsprinting fellow Floridian Katia Seymour, who owns the No. 1 time in the US for high school girls this season (11.26).
Patterson and Stokes tightly clutched championship belts that came with their wins as they watched and learned from the elites who competed after them. Stokes, who took his first flight to travel to Boston, said he stole some warm-up routines from the elite sprinters.
When asked how it felt to be in the company of former boys’ Dream 100 winners like Bracy, Stoke added, “It feels amazing because I’ve seen the type of things they can do. I see their accomplishments and I feel I can be just like one of them.”Shira Springer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ShiraSpringer