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Jumping events steal the show on day one of U.S. Indoor Championships

Amanda Smock grimaces as she lands in the triple jump. Photo by Dillon Vibes, Oregon News Lab

Four Olympians, four members of the world outdoors team and runners with seven of the top 10 times in U.S. history highlighted the lime green track of the men's 3,000-meter run. They didn't disappoint.

Neither did the field of decorated women distance runners running the same 15 laps. But that was all expected on Friday at the U.S. Indoor Championships in Portland.

Midair, the unexpected revealed itself. While the national event was still awakening, Christina Epps took a historic leap in the women's triple jump. Then later, in the heat of middle distance preliminaries and other jumping events, Sam Kendricks became the sixth American to clear the 19-4 1/4 feet in the pole vault.

All on day one inside the Convention Center.

In the men's 3,000, the final event of the first day, Galen Rupp entered the race within a month of winning the Olympic trial marathon. It didn't take long for Rupp to fall behind in the pack in exhaustion. The Portland native finished eighth.

"I have no regrets," Rupp said. "I'm glad that I came back and at least gave it a shot."

All the while, Ryan Hill and company controlled the 15-athlete field. Hill, a runner for Nike and the Bowerman Track Club, used the efforts of teammates Lopez Lomong, Andrew Bayer and Evan Jager to pace the field before he shot forward for a 7:38.60 to earn the gold medal, just .40 second ahead of Paul Chelimo.

"It's incredible," Hill said of his teammates' work. "I look back and think, what if a college could have recruited all of us in college. It would have been so great. It feels like an all-star team sometimes."

Shannon Rowbury of the Nike Oregon Project had slightly more distance when she crossed the finish line to win the women's 3,000. Rowbury's time of 8:55.65 was made possible on her final push in the final two laps past a "wide wall of women."

"I knew that I needed to start moving," Rowbury said. "So I just made a quick move past and stepped on the gas, and I thought that people would be a little bit closer than they were."

In the first event on the track, Epps owned the women's triple jump with a leap of 46 feet, 1 1/4 inches, nearly a foot and a half farther than Tori Franklin's second place distance. Her jump was the sixth best in U.S. indoor history.

"The track here is really fast and really bouncy, so I had to adjust a little bit," Epps said. "Once I adjusted, I got going and things became easier and I got my rhythm down."

In the pole vault, every single participant cleared the 17-6 1/2 opening height. But only Kendricks lasted to the historic height of 19-4 1/2 before declining to continue.

"I knew I only had to make the opening bar because it was a really strange coincidence that only two American pole vaulters had the standard," Kendricks said. "The fine print says you only had to make a bar but I said, 'Where's the honor in that?'"

Other notable performances and happenings included Ashton Eaton's encounter with a pole vault cross bar and his forehead, a collision requiring four stitches to the decathlon record holder.

In the men's long jump, Marquis Dendy of Nike hurled himself farther than any other human in 2016, at 27-7 1/4.

"I'm glad I'm continuing to improve every single time," Dendy said. "I just want to improve and continue to work on things. I still have to work on these last 38 centimeters, and hopefully get the world record. That's always been a big goal of mine."

Colin Dunbar, unattached, sent a 35-pound weight 78-71/2 feet to win the event and set a new personal record. Gwendolyn Berry's throw of 79-10 3/4 in the women's 20-pound throw claimed her fourth national title in five years.

In the women's shot put, Michelle Carter needed just her first throw to beat the field. The Nike and New York Athletic Club athlete sent the eight-pound sphere 63-11 1/2.

Day two of the 2016 indoor championships continues Saturday, March 12, at 2:30 p.m. with the women's 60-meter hurdle semifinals.

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