Ryan Hill held off a charging Paul Chelimo to win the 3,000 meters at the U.S. indoor championships Friday night for his third national title and a spot next week in the world championships.
Coming off a victory in the 3,000 at the Milrose Games, Hill finished in 7 minutes, 38.6 seconds at the Portland Convention Center for the second-fastest time in the world this year.
The former North Carolina State standout won the two-mile race at the indoor championships last year, as well as 5,000 in the 2015 U.S. outdoor championships.
Olympian Galen Rupp, the American record holder in the event, finished a distant eighth after winning the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials last month. He wanted to run in the nationals despite the grueling marathon because it was in his hometown.
Chelimo finished close behind Hill in a personal-best 7:39, in a race that was fast from the start. With the finish Chelimo also earned a place in the IAAF world indoor championships, which will be staged on the same track in Portland.
“If he had come up on my shoulder I could have leaned forward and gritted it out a little bit more,” Hill said. “But I knew going into the last lap I was going to have to give it my all.”
Two-time Olympian Shannon Rowbury won the women’s 3,000 in 8:55.65 on the first day of the two-day meet. In the other finals, Gwen Berry won the women’s weight throw at 79 feet, 10 3/4 inches, while Colin Dunbar won on the men’s side at 78-7 1/2. Christina Epps won the triple jump at 46-1 1/4.
Ashton Eaton, the reigning Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder in the decathlon, took part in a 60 heat and the long jump at nationals as a tune up for the worlds.
But he got hit in the head with the crossbar for the pole vault — which was being staged next to the lane for the long jump — and required six stiches. He posted pictures on Twitter of his head wrapped in a bandage.
Eaton finished last in his heat for the 60 and sixth in the long jump. He didn’t need to take part at nationals because he had already been invited to the world championships, where he’ll vie for his third straight gold medal in the heptathlon. He holds the world record in the event. His wife, Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, will take part in the pentathlon.
Sam Kendricks, the reigning outdoor national champion in the pole vault, won the indoor title with a leap of 19-4 1/4. Outdoor long jump champion Marquis Dendy won the indoor event with a leap of 27-7 1/4.
The back-to-back 3,000 races were the highlight of Friday’s events.
The men’s field included four Olympians, including Lopez Lomong and Evan Jager, who competed in the 3,000 steeplechase at the London Games. Jager finished seventh ahead of Rupp.
“I’m glad I came back and at least gave it a shot,” Rupp said. “I would have hated myself if I had just bowed out. It really would have been really easy after the marathon to not at least give it a go.”
The sentimental favorite in the field was 41-year-old Bernard Lagat, who is retiring this year but hopes to make his fifth Olympic team. Lagat finished a surprising fourth in his first race of the year.
Rowbury was also in the field to run on Saturday in the 1,500, the event she ran at the Beijing and London Olympics. In the longer race Friday, she pushed into the lead with two laps to go and built a comfortable lead over runner-up Abbey D’Agostino.
“I thought there would be people closer to me so I kept checking on the jumbotron,” Rowbury said. “But by the last 100 meters I was just excited because I could just enjoy it.”
Rowbury said she wasn’t sure if she’d also run the 1,500 as planned, given the pace of the race the night before.
“I would love to do it but who knows?” she said, saying she’d discuss it with her coach.
The opening day of the even was not without hiccups. In addition to Eaton’s accident, the first women’s 800 heat had three false starts, because of a technical glitch it sounded like there were several starting guns. Former Oregon Duck Laura Roesler finished first in the heat, despite the confusion, and advanced to Saturday’s final.