World's Premier in Boston
The 2003 edition of the Boston Indoor Games was once again a well-organized, entertainment-packed two and a half hours, featuring some of the world's best track athletes.
Posted Tuesday, 4 February, 2003
The 2003 edition of the Boston Indoor Games was once again a well-organized, entertainment-packed two and a half hours, featuring some of the world's best track athletes. The races were tight, exciting contests, the athletes urged on by the boisterous crowds. There was nothing missing in this meet, aside from another one or two thousand seats.
The Boston Indoor Games have become so successful they may have outgrown the Reggie Lewis Center, a great venue for the meet, but lacking in seating capacity. Even before the competition started, the stands were packed full, not an available seat to be found. Some positioned themselves at track level, on the edge of the outer lane of the track. Some sat on the steps in the aisles between sections, others virtually in the lap of the person next to them. It may not have offered much comfort, but it did make for a frenzied atmosphere.
As for the actual competition, it was world-class in every way. Just a few short years ago, attracting Olympic gold medalists to a meet in Boston would have been a laughable concept. Now it is almost taken for granted. From 100-meter Olympic champion Maurice Greene to 1,500-meter gold medallist Noah Ngeny, the fields were stellar.
Although Boston track fans have been traditionally inclined towards distance events through the years, clearly the two crowd favorites at this meet were middle-distance runner Regina Jacobs and pole-vaulter Stacy Dragila. Both have starred here before and neither disappointed the masses this time, thrilling the fans with record-setting performances. Each was so far superior to her competition it was almost startling. Jacobs opened her 1,500-meter masterpiece with a 62-second quarter-mile, accompanied only by Elana Iagar, whom Jacobs quickly shed. Opening up more than a half-lap on the field, she powered towards the finish in a try for the indoor 1,500-meter world record of 4:00. After a long pause at the finish, the track announcer began by saying "3" and rest was drowned out by the crowds. At age 39, Jacobs became the first women to break four minutes indoors for 1,500 meters, a landmark achievement.
Dragila also set a mark, the best indoor height ever in the U.S., 15 feet, five and a half inches. While other women in the field struggled at heights in the 14s, Dragila cleared those heights with an almost nonchalant ease. With superior runway speed and a tremendous mid-air thrust, Dragila has brought power, talent and style to the women's pole vault, an event born less than a decade ago. Dragila has defined the event, and the event has defined her.
Added to the mix at this meet for the first time was Greene's egomaniacal showmanship. But he can walk the walk too, as they say, or in this case run the run. Although the 60 meters went by in a blur of just over six seconds, it was clear that after a lightning fast start, Greene was in control of the race all the way. The former 100-meter world record holder, whose mark was bettered by Tim Montgomery last summer, appears reenergized and motivated to become the world's fastest human once again.
Another interesting feature involved former Boston area high school standouts returning to compete as collegians or post-collegians. Marblehead's Sharlene Flanagan, the current NCAA cross country champion from the University of North Carolina, ran a fine 9:00 for fifth place in the women's 3,000 meters, while Jonathan Riley, a former Brookline High standout, was sixth in a sizzling fast men's 3,000 meters. Although the favorites won the majority of the races, that men's 3,000, the final event on the schedule, provided a surprise ending, as Irishman Alistair Craag from the University of Arkansas, flew by Olympic champion Ngney with two laps remaining and held on for the win.
After the indoor meets staged the old Boston Garden went by the wayside in the early 1970s, Boston lacked a world-class meet, leaving a gaping hole, not only on in the Boston running community, but in all of winter sports in the region. The Boston Indoor Games has slowly but surely recreated that tradition, each year's gathering offering better competition than the previous year. Said Jacobs of the meet, "People ask me what it's like to run in Europe and I say 'You really should come to this meet, because this is what it is like.' I always run fast here. This is a really nice track."
Those who did not venture out on a cold winter's evening to attend the meet missed a top-notch event. Surely there is nothing more a track fan could have asked for--except perhaps a little more room.