Pregnant runner Alysia Montano reflects on whirlwind week

Alysia Montano
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Alysia Montano is incredibly thankful for the support she’s received after competing while eight months pregnant, but she ceded the spotlight at her baby shower over the weekend.

“People went to my belly,” she said, “and told the baby, ‘Good job.'”

Montano, a five-time U.S. outdoor champion and Olympian, ran a preliminary 800m heat at the U.S. Championships in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, with her pink jersey stretching over her baby bump.

Her goals were to not get lapped and to raise awareness about the importance of exercising during pregnancy. She accomplished both, finishing 25 seconds behind the field and easily becoming the biggest story of the meet.

When her two laps were up, she remembered being the first competitor to receive a water bottle. Then, USA Track and Field medical staff quickly checked her heart rate, pulse and the baby’s well being.

“They cleared me, and everything was good,” Montano said. “I’m like, thank you, can I have some more water?”

Media gathered quickly, contacting her manager (who is also her husband), calling her parents and even showing up at her parents’ house.

“I have no idea how they got there,” Montano said. “I recognized that this is going to be a big thing.”

The reactions came first from track and field followers, then social media and in person, such as at her 10-year high school reunion over the weekend. They’ve been 90 percent positive, Montano said.

She was featured on “SportsCenter,” cable news shows, “Good Morning Sacramento” and “Good Day LA.”

“It’s been an amazing whirlwind, more than we expected or imagined,” Montano said. “I imagined that it would be among the running community and maybe a little bit the athletic community. I’m so happy that it went national and even touching a little bit globally.”

Media from the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan requested her time. She said she made the front page of a Swiss newspaper. She’s graciously granted requests, keeping in mind her Aug. 13 due date is approaching.

Fitness is key, too. She alternated walking, running and swimming before recently “coasting in” as she calls it with easier runs, walks and ElliptiGO work. Montano said Wednesday was her relaxing day — about an hour’s worth of circuit training.

She’s drawn inspiration from many, many sources, but track fans will recognize one name in particular — two-time Olympian Kara Goucher.

She asked questions of the distance runner before she competed in Sacramento. On Sept. 25, 2010, Goucher jogged five miles in the morning, lifted weights and gave birth to her first child in the evening.

“My doctor was a runner and she told me I could run through the pregnancy,” Goucher told Sports Illustrated in 2011.

“It was so nice to have a woman that has done it before me to help pave the way,” Montano said.

In the last week, Montano traveled up and down the California coast by plane, train and automobile, from her Bay Area residence to Sacramento to her hometown of Canyon Country in Los Angeles County and back to the Bay Area.

She made sure not to miss a specific appointment on Tuesday — watching the thrilling U.S.-Belgium World Cup match.

“I almost went into labor during the soccer game,” she joked.

She also laughed when asked what she’ll tell her first child about the last seven days.

“These are going to be the most amazing baby photos, pregnant bump photos for our child to have,” she said.

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Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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