The USA Indoor Track and Field Championships are held annually and serve as the American national qualifier for indoor track. On Feb. 26, for the first time in its 60 plus years of existence, the meet was hosted in Spokane.
About 450 athletes competed and the top two in each event qualified to the World Indoor Championships in Athletics held in Belgrade, Serbia this month. According to the USA Track and Field Association, athletes set meet records in the men’s 1500m, men’s 60m hurdles and the heptathlon.
Notable races included Christian Coleman’s performance in the men’s 60m, where he defended his title with a 6.45 time. Coleman holds the men’s 60m world record with a 6.34 and is considered the fastest man in the Olympic cycle, though this was his first National Championship since an 18-month suspension. Mikiah Brisco also defended her title in the women’s 60m, running a 7.07.
The biggest moment of the weekend for the women’s competition was when fellow Olympian Heather MacLean won her first national title in the women’s 1500 m, running a 4:06.09 and beating out reigning champion Elle Purrier St. Pierre.
The 60m hurdles meet record was set by Grant Holloway who ran a 7.37. He has won the meet every year since 2014 and is the current world record holder. He was joined in the 60m hurdles by Nick Johnson, a Spokane native and Gonzaga Preparatory School alum, who competed for Washington State University. Johnson ran 7.89, a time that was just shy of his 7.81 season's best.
“It’s amazing to be able to go and run against some of the best in the world,” Johnson said. “The U.S. guys are some of the fastest out there.”
This was Johnson’s last collegiate meet of his career. After this, he will continue to run as an unattached athlete and hopes to qualify for the USATF Outdoor Championships in June. He is interested in coaching and is getting a strength and conditioning certificate.
“For [the meet] to be in Spokane was an amazing experience,” Johnson said. “To be back in my hometown, my whole family out there supporting me, all my coaches from high school texting me and wishing me luck, it was an amazing experience.”
In addition to facilitating athletic success, this meet also benefited the Spokane economy. According to Ashley Blake, vice president of Spokane Sports, the meet was projected to bring $5.3 million dollars to the area. About 3,500 people attended the USATF Indoor Championship, patronizing hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
The Podium is a $54 million dollar state-of-the-art athletics facility that opened in November. It is owned by the Spokane Public Facilities District and operated by Spokane Sports.
“It’s a powerful time for us to open,” Blake said. “Fall of 2021 is a time where the Spokane economy has been struggling and the winter season is not the strongest for Spokane when it comes to tourism. To be able to open a facility and give this burst of energy to hotels and restaurants and bars has been a very powerful moment for our team. It’s been a really great opportunity.”
The Podium will host 13 track meets this season. After that, they will convert the space to facilitate basketball, followed by volleyball and local graduation ceremonies.
“A sports-minded community is a strong community,” Blake said. “Sports seems to be the one thing that brings people together and is unifying. You can participate, you can spectate, you can officiate. It just seems to be a catalyst for good.”