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The USATF Indoor Championships in Spokane, Washington, provided an opportunity for professional athletes to qualify for the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia next month; the top two athletes in each event automatically qualified for world indoors, provided they also met the qualifying standard.
The biggest moment of the weekend for the women’s competition took place on Saturday evening in the women’s 1500 meters, as New Balance Boston’s Heather MacLean unleashed an incredible kick to take down teammate and reigning U.S. champion Elle Purrier St. Pierre as well as Josette Norris of the Reebok Boston Track Club to win her first national title in 4:06.09.
The 26-year-old Massachusetts native was only in fifth place at the bell lap but closed in 29.71 to swing wide around Purrier St. Pierre, who had led the entire race, and Norris, who held on for second place and the other world qualifying spot in 4:06.13. Purrier St. Pierre finished third, outside the top two qualifiers to Belgrade, in 4:06.14 in a photo finish. This marked the first national title for MacLean, a 2021 Olympian, and the first world team for Norris.
“I just tried to be patient,” MacLean said after the race. “I was told to stay in striking distance so I just listened to [coach] Mark Coogan and did what he said.”
It’s been far from smooth sailing for MacLean since making the Olympic team in the 1500 meters alongside Purrier St. Pierre and Cory McGee, who finished fourth today. She said after the competition that she had surgery to get an organ removed this past fall, though she declined to share anymore details.
“Everything that happened in the fall just prepared me for the rest of the year,” she said.
The loss of a competition spot to Belgrade clearly made an impact on Purrier St. Pierre, who has reigned as the class leader of the women’s 1500 meters in the United States the past few years. On Sunday afternoon, she returned to the track for the 3,000 meter final and sat on On Running’s Alicia Monson until the final two laps, closing in a blazing 28.88 to finish a full two seconds clear of Monson: 8:41.53 to 8:43.86.
“[I was] still pretty pissed about yesterday, I’m not gonna lie,” Purrier St. Pierre said after the race. “It’s gonna sit with me for awhile. Yesterday was not a representation of my fitness. I was grateful for Alicia for leading and doing all the work.”
Monson said after the race that the main goal for the year is the outdoor season, which culminates in July at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, but the short-term goal is to gain more international racing experience and just make the team headed to Belgrade.
“I knew coming off the 1500 meters yesterday, Elle would have something to prove and she did,” Monson said.
“Trying to compete well,” she said of her goal for Belgrade. “I know I’m fit and I can run a fast time and I’m not planning on leading the race because there’s a lot of good people in the international field. I’m still pretty new to international racing…getting that speed will be really helpful in the 5K and 10K.”
Ajee’ Wilson continued her dominance in the women’s 800 meters by winning her seventh indoor national and 12th career national title in 2:01.72 over Olivia Baker, who ran 2:02.14 to make her first world team.
The women’s 60-meter final was one of the closest races of the day and featured two unsponsored athletes in the top two spots headed to Belgrade: Mikiah Brisco, who trains at her alma mater LSU, won in 7.07, and Marybeth Sant Price, who has enjoyed a career resurgence this year after graduating from Colorado State in 2019, took second in 7.08.
The women’s 60-meter hurdles saw another close finish for the second world spot as Olympian Gabbi Cunningham won in 7.82, and Alaysha Johnson edged out Christina Clemons, 7.91 to 7.92. Clemons is the 2018 world indoor silver medalist in the event.
Maggie Ewen earned the shot put crown with a throw of 19.79m/64-11.25, the second-best mark in the world this year.