ATHLETICS: Kejelcha misses World Indoor Mile mark by 0.01 at Millrose Games

Ethiopia's Yomif Kejelcha

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but it was a thrilling try as Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha made a brilliant effort at breaking Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj’s 1997 mile mark of 3:48.45 at the New York Road Runners Millrose Games at the Armory in New York.

He ran 3:48.46.

Kejelcha got a fast pace from American Rob Napolitano through four laps (809 m/885 y), with Kejelcha leading in 1:52.99, well within world-record pace. But as Kejelcha moved out on his own, his pace slowed in the third quarter. In a race of 9 m more than eight laps, he ran the first two laps (447 yards) in 56.25, then another 400 m in 56.75. But he was slower on the fifth and sixth laps, slowing to 57.96 and that cost him the record. He rallied in the final two laps to run 57.54, but it was just barely too slow.

Kejelcha ran all alone and that hurt him as well. Kenyan Edward Cheserek, admittedly not in top form, still ran a highly creditable 3:53.29 for second and Clayton Murphy finished in 3:53.30 for third (and no. 13 all-time U.S.). Kejelcha passed 1,500 m in a world-leading 3:33.17 as well (=6th performer all-time), with Clayton at 3:37.40 (no. 7 all-time U.S.).

As he streamed across the line, Kejelcha looked for the clock and then fell to the ground and shook his head in disbelief as he saw the final time posted and how close his record attempt had been.

That was the highlight, but was just one of six world-leading marks during the meet:

Men’s 800 m: 1:43.98, Michael Saruni (KEN),
Men’s 1,500 m: 3:33.17, Yomif Kejelcha (ETH)
Men’s Mile: 3:48.46, Yomif Kejalcha (ETH)
Men’s Shot Put: 22.33 m, Ryan Crouser (USA) (73-3 1/4)
Women’s 800 m: 1:58.60, Ajee Wilson (USA)
Women’s Mile: 4:19.98, Konstanze Klosterhalfen (GER)

The details:

World lead no. 1:
American Donavan Brazier had been threatening Johnny Gray’s 1992 American Record of 1:45.00 for two seasons and was determined to get it at Millrose.

The pace was hot at 50.41 through 400 m, but Brazier was being shadowed by Kenyan Michael Saruni, last season’s 800 m champ for UTEP, a 1:43.25 man. Brazier led into the final turn, but Saruni had more gas left at the finish and burst ahead on the straightaway to win in 1:43.98 to make him the second-fastest performer in history with the third-fastest race ever.

But Brazier did get Gray’s mark, finishing in 1:44.41 and moving to no. 5 on the all-time world list, with the eighth-fastest race ever. At 25 (Saruni) and 21 (Brazier), both have a lot more to show on the world stage later this year.

World lead no. 2:
The men’s shot was a showcase for 2016 Olympic champ Ryan Crouser. Healthy again, he put together a sensational series of 21.60 m (70-10 1/2), 21.34 m (70-0 1/4) and 21.51 m (70-7) to take complete control of the event, with Joe Kovacs (USA) next best at 20.40 m (66-11 1/4).

In the fourth round, Kovacs improved to 20.86 m (68-5 1/4) and Crouser responded with a fabulous 22.33 m (73-3 1/4), a lifetime best indoors, and the no. 4 throw in indoor history. It’s the longest throw indoor since Adam Nelson’s 21.40 m (73-6) back in 2008.

The final round in the shot was delayed because Jamaica’s Kemoy Campbell collapsed while leading the men’s 1,000 m just behind the ring at the end of the Armory. NBC’s Lewis Johnson reported that Campbell was unconscious, but was revived and was shown being carried out of the building by paramedics.

The final round of the shot was held, but without improvements. Crouser reached 21.39 m (70-2 1/4), so all of his throws were beyond 70 feet. Very, very impressive.

World lead no. 3:
In the women’s mile, Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen ran away from the field after halfway and rambled to a brilliant win in 4:19.98, fastest in the world for 2019. It’s German indoor record and moves her to no. 5 all-time. At 21, she is clearly a rising star.

Even though not in contention to win, Americans Colleen Quigley and Kate Grace ran very well, finishing 2-3 in 4:22.86 and 4:24.27. That moves Quigley to no. 4 on the all-time U.S. list, just ahead of Grace’s 4:22.96 from 2017.

World lead no. 4:
American 800 m star Ajee Wilson had targeted the American Record in this race and she got it. She stayed close to pacemaker Kendra Chambers (USA) through 400 m in 57.19 and was set up to take the lead and push the pace. She led the remainder of the way and held off Jamaica’s Natoya Goule to finish in 1:58.60, eclipsing Nicole Teter’s 1:58.71 mark from 2002. Goule was second in a Jamaican record of 1:59.13 and American Ce’Aira Brown (USA), 1:59.74 (no. 10 all-time U.S.).

Kejelcha provided the other two world leaders, but there were plenty of other highlights:

● The men’s 3,000 m saw lifetime bests from the first eight finishers, led by former Stanford star Grant Fisher in the no. 2 time in the world, 7:42.62 He was followed by the nos. 3-4 times in the world this season, by Morgan McDonald (AUS: 7:42.76) and Amon Kemboi (KEN: 7:44.77).

● American English Gardner returned to competition after her second leg injury that eliminated most of her 2018 season with a flourish. She was a clear winning in the women’s 60 m, running an indoor personal best of 7.10, the second-fastest time in the world this season. Only Poland’s Ewa Swoboda, at 7.08, has been faster. That’s a good sign for Gardner later this season.

Also worth noting was an interesting win for John Teeters, a 10.00 100 m man from Oklahoma State in the men’s 60 m, where he finished a full 0.10 ahead of Ameer Webb, 6.56-6.66. Summaries:

NYRR Millrose Games
New York, New York (USA) ~ 9 February 2019
(Full results here)


60 m: 1. John Teeters (USA), 6.56; 2. Ameer Webb (USA), 6.66; 3. Tevin Hester (USA), 6.69.

400 m: Marcus Chambers (USA), 46.99; 2. Dontavius Wright (USA), 47.04; 3. Brycen Spratling (USA), 47.37.

800 m: 1. Michael Saruni (KEN), 1:43.98; 2. Donavan Brazier (USA), 1:44.41 (American Record; old, 1:45.00, Johnny Gray, 1992); 3. Sam Ellison (USA), 1:46.13.

Mile: 1. Yomif Kejelcha (ETH), 3:48.46; 2. Edward Cheserek (KEN), 3:53.29; 3. Clayton Murphy (USA), 3:53.30. (1,500 m en route: 1. Kejelcha, 3:33.17; 2. Murphy, 3:37.40; 3. Cheserek, 3:37.71).

3,000 m: 1. Grant Fisher (USA), 7:42.62; 2. Morgan McDonald (AUS), 7:42.76; 3. Amon Kemboi (KEN), 7:44.77.

60 m Hurdles: 1. Devon Allen (USA), 7.61; 2. Freddie Crittenden (USA), 7.61; 3. Chad Zallow (USA), 7.69.

Shot Put: 1. Ryan Crouser (USA), 22.33 m (73-3 1/4); 2. Joe Kovacs (USA), 20.86 m (68-5 1/4); 3. Ashinia Miller (JAM), 20.54 m (67-4 3/4).


60 m: 1. English Gardner (USA), 7.10; 2. Michelle-Lee Ayhe (TTO), 7.15; 3. Javianne Oliver (USA), 7.19.

400 m: 1. Jaide Stepter (USA), 53.25; 2. Phil Healy (IRL), 53.72; 3. Brittany Brown (USA), 53.76.

800 m: 1. Ajee Wilson (USA), 1:58.60 (American Record; old, 1:58.71, Nicole Teter, 2002); 2. Natoya Goule (JAM), 1:59.13; 3. Ce’Aira Brown (USA), 1:59.74.

Mile: 1. Konstanze Klosterhalfen (GER), 4:19.98; 2. Colleen Quigley (USA), 4:22.86; 3. Kate Grace (USA), 4:24.27 (1,500 m en route: 1. Klosterhalfen, 4:02.70; 2. Quigley, 4:06.16; 3. Grace, 4:06.55).

3,000 m: 1. Alicia Monson (USA), 8:45.97; 2. Rachel Schneider (USA), 8:46.44; 3. Jessica O’Connell (CAN), 8:46.50.

60 m Hurdles: 1. Sharika Nelvis (USA), 8.01; 2. Toni Amusan (NGR), 8.03; 3. Isabelle Pedersen (NOR), 8.24.

High Jump: 1. Vashti Cunningham (USA), 1.95 m (6-4 3/4); 2. Priscilla Frederick (ANT), 1.88 m (6-2); 3. Levern Spencer (LCA), 1.88 m (6-2).

There were also two world-leading marks at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Saturday, as Florida super star Grant Holloway won the 60 m hurdles in 7.43, and former Arkansas star Andrew Irwin cleared 5.88 m (19-3 1/2) to take the world lead in the pole vault.