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USATF Indoor Track and Field Championships Day 1 Recap

Teams were decided, championships were declared, and races didn't make a lot of sense on day 1.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As the only finals on the track of the night, the men's and women's 3000m races always figured to highlight the evening and, to be quite honest, they didn't disappoint. World Championship participation was on the line in three events--the same three events I previewed this afternoon--and all three of those teams were finalized. We'll focus on those three events.

Women's 800m

We still haven't had the final or declared a United States champion, but we do know who will represent the U.S. in the even next weekend. Treniere Moser did not start, securing Roesler and Wilson's spots. Both won their heats and all that remains to be decided is what order they will finish. Look for Phoebe Wright to potentially mix things up in tomorrow's final and challenge the two for the U.S. Championship, even if she can't make the World Championship roster.

Women's 3000m

Entering the 3k, no one seemed to know how seriously Shannon Rowbury would take the event with the 1500m, her primary event, coming up tomorrow. The race started with Emily Infeld taking the race out for the first mile. Infeld, of course, was not able to make the team in the event, but there was undoubtedly pride at stake. Somewhere just after 2k, with Marielle Hall in the lead and the pack still mostly together, Infled lost her balance and fell off the banked turn and onto the field.

Soon after, Shannon Rowbury passed Hall and, surprisingly, that was kind of it. Hall was unable to find another gear and Rowbury ran away with the race, winning in 8:55.65. Her last 400m was reported at 61.51m, which, obviously, no one else in the field could keep up with.

What might have gotten lost in the deserved excitement over Shannon Rowbury, however, was the strong performance of Abbey D'Agostino, who finished second in the race after straight up bombing at Millrose last month. She followed the tried and true strategy for placing well, but not winning, a race: Keep to yourself, never make a move, and stay in contact with the leader. It is understandable her second-place finish didn't get much attention; she was an anonymous presence in the race. Sometimes anonymity is desirable.

We learned after the the race that Rowbury might not run the mile tomorrow.

Men's 3000m

Do you think the Bowerman Track Club exchanged words or texts or snaps or whatever the kids are doing these days before the race? From the gun, Andy Bayer, Ryan Hill, Evan Jager, and Lopez Lamong went to the front and controlled the race. Who knew that Bayer and, especially, Lamong were just pacers masked as entrants? Both disappeared from the race between 1000m and 2000m.

With BTC setting the tone early, the field was quick to divide itself and, somewhat surprisingly, Galen Rupp and Eric Jenkins were content to hang out in the second pack. For Rupp, why would you bother to come back after the marathon trials if you weren't going to put yourself in the race? For Jenkins, didn't you just say you regretted letting too big a gap form at Millrose?

Regardless, the Bowerman Track Club took the race out hard and strung the field out from the first lap. But setting an aggressive pace is a a risky strategy, even when you have teammates to pace you through it. Jager, Hill and Garrett Heath came through 2600m in 6:40 with a sizable gap on the field. They were going to be the top three. Two of those would be your U.S. World Championship team, right?

Wrong.

Garrett Heath's lack of speed was exposed over the final two laps as Paul Chelimo and Eric Jenkins put together inspired kicks from the trailing pack and made bids for the second spot. Chelimo ultimately was able to sustain it, while Jenkins faded over the last 100m or so. Hell, Chelimo looked like he was going to win the race until the last 50m.

Heath ended up in 5th and guess who found his way into fourth? Bernard Lagat. I mentioned in the preview that you can never count Lagat out of a tactical race. This was a far cry from a tactical race (Hill won in 7:38.60), but Lagat's ability to kick for 4th place in 7:41.25 leaves us wondering what could have been had the race proceeded differently.

The 3k was a much-anticipated race and it didn't disappoint on either the women's or men's side.