For a sport in which so many athletes can run like the wind, the wind more than held its own in yesterday's Grand Prix track and field meet on Randalls Island. For a Memorial Day weekend date, the cold and rain challenged their personal bests, as well.
There was no avoiding the nasty, unseasonable conditions' impact on this ninth annual event, which typically has packed up to 13,000 fans into Icahn Stadium and produced notably fast times, not the least of which was Usain Bolt's first 100-meter world record in 2008.
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This time, the crowd was sparse and the marks a bit under the weather. Two of the pre-meet headliners, veteran American 100-meter record-holder Tyson Gay and a second-generation sprint star, Cameron Burrell, soldiered on well. With both running into a headwind, Gay cruised through the feature 100 in a winning 10.02 after Burrell, the high school son of former world record holder Leroy Burrell, easily took the boys' "Dream 100" in 10.40.
"I really felt, with the weather and everything, it was important to leave here healthy and not try to push too hard," said Gay, who six years ago actually ranked ahead of Bolt and whose career best at the distance is 9.69. "But with the negative wind [in his face], I felt good" about the result.
Burrell, whose father set a world record of 9.90 on virtually the same site 22 years ago (the demolished Downing Stadium, site of the 1991 national championships, existed just yards north of the current Icahn track) reminded that, "I come from Texas," just outside of Houston, where he will attend college and be coached by Leroy.
"I'm used to 90-degree weather, no clouds," the younger Burrell said. "In the cold and rain, it's tough. But nothing's impossible. And it's really special that my dad won here in the 1990-somethings."
Ben True, whose fourth-place finish in the men's 5,000 meters Saturday boosted his still-developing track bona fides, allowed that he actually has competed in warmer weather in his other sport-as an international-class cross-country skier.
"And the wind was pretty brutal," True said.
Michael Tinsley, the 2012 Olympic 400-meter silver medalist, said after his 48.43 victory in that event Saturday that he wanted to thank the meet's sponsoring shoe company for providing good rain gear.
"Well, it's not the type of weather sprinters like," said Veronica Campbell-Brown, the two-time Olympic gold medalist who won the women's 200 in 22.53, well behind her personal best of 21.74. She would go no further in her exuberance over the performance than to say: "I'm satisfied. I won the race. I'm healthy."
Olympic women's 400 champ Sanya Richards-Ross, scratched from her event because of injury, apparently related to the toe surgery she had after the London Games; Saturday was to be her comeback race.
But other top names dealt with the meteorological challenges. Ethiopia's Hagos Gebrhiwet, a world junior record holder, ran the fastest 5,000 meters in the world this year (13:10.03). Olympic pole vault gold medalist Jenn Suhr (15 feet, 21/4 inches) and four-time world high jump champion Blanka Vlasic of Croatia (6-41/2) won their field events.
Olympic 800 gold medalist David Rudisha of Kenya won his event in 1:45.14. Slow, for him, "but when it's cold, your muscles get cold," he said.
To Morgan Uceny, the Indiana native who now lives in England, Saturday's weather "wasn't that hard. I kind of like the elements." Then again, Uceny, formerly the world's top-ranked 1,500 runner, finished seventh Saturday in 4:08.49. Sweden's Abeba Aregawi won (4:03.69).