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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Drama-filled 400 meters highlights final day of USATF Indoor Championships in Spokane

By John Blanchette For The Spokesman-Review

Donavan Brazier went to bed at 3 a.m. Sunday angry.

Angry that he’d been disqualified after his Saturday race in the 400 meters at the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships.

Angry he hadn’t been informed in time to jump into his usual event, the 800 – in which he’s the American record holder – to try to qualify for the U.S. team to the world championships that way.

Angry he hadn’t been able to get a flight out of Spokane at dawn to put it all behind him.

Less than 12 hours later, he was a happy silver medalist and making plans for Belgrade in two weeks in a reversal that mirrored his charge from dead last in Sunday’s 400 final.

“Back from the dead!” he exulted.

It’s not a track meet without a little drama, and Brazier helped provide it in the final session in front of a full house at The Podium.

Not that all the entertainment value was in the drama.

Cole Hocker completed his middle-distance double with another straightaway surge that subdued the field in the men’s 1,500 meters, setting a meet record of 3 minutes, 39.09 seconds. Elle Purrier St. Pierre, who echoed Brazier’s sentiment of being “pissed off” after being outkicked in Saturday’s women’s 1,500, bounced back to win the 3,000 and earn her spot on the team to worlds.

Shot putter Ryan Crouser heaved a throw out nearly 74 feet despite dealing with elbow soreness, and high jumper Vashti Cunningham won a 10th U.S. title – continuing dominance in their specialties – while Sandi Morris upended Olympic gold medalist Katie Nageotte in the pole vault. Olympian Bryce Hoppel made sure Brazier wasn’t missed in the 800 with a tactical masterpiece.

And Grant Holloway – who’s never lost a hurdles race at 60 meters since high school – equaled the meet record, and brought a camera crashing down from overhead in the process.

“Another accomplishment I can put on my resume,” said the Tokyo Olympic silver medalist of the wreckage.

As expected, the competitors erased every Podium record in a facility that’s only 21/2 months old. Just as expected, meet record and world-leading marks were few – many athletes competing for just the second or third time indoors in the normal slow ramping-up after an Olympic year.

The world championship berths were a carrot. Indeed, Brazier dropped down to the shorter race hoping to be included in the 4x400 relay pool. Now he’ll be running the individual 400 – even after his night of little sleep.

“Woke up about 7 this morning, tired,” he reported. “Got a call about 11 o’clock saying, ‘You’re in.’ It was hard to transition from that pissed off mode to that race mode.”

His anger stemmed from Saturday’s disqualification from running out of his lane in the heats – and from watching the video that meet officials felt confirmed it but “that didn’t show me stepping on the line,” he said. Later video from the CNBC telecast prompted a Sunday reversal of that decision.

Brazier still didn’t want to run, even after reinstatement.

“When I found out, it was, ‘I’m not ready, I’m tired,’ ” he said. “But you can’t make excuses. I’m really happy I did it.”

His spirited closing lap of 23.97 still couldn’t catch Trevor Bassitt of Ashland University, who was first out of the blocks and all the way to the tape in 45.75 seconds.

“I saw what he did yesterday,” Bassitt said of Brazier’s finish, “and I heard the crowd get crazy when we hit the homestretch. I got worried for a little bit – ‘this dude is somewhere’ – so I started pumping my arms and picking up my legs and moving.”

Others were more comfortable measuring the field. St. Pierre, who’d taken the pace in Saturday’s 1,500 only to “fall asleep a little bit” let Alicia Monson do the heavy lifting this time, moving ahead in the last 400 to win in 8:41.43. Hocker went wide on the final straight to overtake Josh Thompson. And Hoppel made a smart move at the halfway point and held off Isaiah Harris by a second.

“I knew I wanted to take it a little earlier than yesterday,” said Hoppel, a Kansas grad whose father, Monty, is a Gonzaga alum and minor league baseball executive. “I let it go down to the line and it’s fun to win like that, but it always kind of scares you on the inside.”

No pacing tactics are required in the short events. Christian Coleman, coming back off an 18-month suspension for missing three doping tests, looked strong in posting a world-leading 6.45 in the men’s 60. And Holloway overcame a quick start by Devon Allen in his record-equaling hurdles run.

As the hurdlers were easing into the crash pad at the end of the arena, the cable-suspended skycam also crashed, though there were no injuries from the debris.

“It’s fun to be back on a team with Christian again,” Holloway said. “I’m sure we’ll have some fun in Serbia.”