Falling early in the professional indoor track season, Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix event is used differently by different athletes. For Trayvon Bromell and Sammy Watson, it serves as an important part of their long-term comeback plans.
Bromell, who will run the men’s 60 meters in the meet to be held at the Track at New Balance in Brighton, showed immense promise as a teenager. In 2014, he became the first American high schooler to run under 10 seconds in the 100 meters, and he went on to become the world indoor champion in the 60 in 2016.
But injuries piled up, knocking the Florida native out of competition from 2017 until 2020, when COVID cancellations derailed his comeback.
“After the first year, I thought I was going to be back quickly, because I did when I was injured when I was younger,” said Bromell. “I took a back seat and saw that the reality was that I couldn’t get back ASAP, and that was tough mentally for me. I was thinking, ‘What will happen to my career?’ ”
Bromell finally got back to full form in 2021, making his second Olympic team, and then reached a career peak last year by winning bronze in the 100at the World Championships and capturing the Diamond League Championship in the event.
“Going through that, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody,” said Bromell, 27, who is a master’s student in theology off the track. “I take care of my body a lot, I eat right, I am the first one at practice and the last one out, and I still got hurt and it took me years to recover.
“It was a strain on the mind, a strain on the physical. But once you get through that, it builds a different animal within you.”
In the 60, Bromell will challenge fellow American Noah Lyles, who won the event at last year’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix at Staten Island but enters Saturday’s race coming off a week of illness. Even at less than 100 percent, Lyles is a force to be reckoned with: In 2022, he won his second world championship in the 200 and recorded five of the 13 fastest times ever run.
For Watson, 23, who will run in the women’s 800, this is the second meet in her own return to form after a few tough years.
“This is the comeback year for me,” said Watson. “I’ve been a pro for a couple of years. It feels like I’m really coming into myself over the past couple months of training.”
The Rochester, N.Y., native was touted as the future of American middle-distance running as a high schooler, winning both the World U18 and U20 championships in the 800 in 2015 and 2016. Her success continued at Texas A&M in 2018, when she won an NCAA title in the distance as a freshman.
Watson then went pro and flew under the radar for a few years. But in 2022, she did some of her best running in years, earning fourth at the Indoor Grand Prix and sixth at the US Indoor Championships.
Now training with a group out of the University of Southern California, Watson started her year with a promising third place at the Lilac Grand Prix in Spokane last week. Coming into Saturday’s race, in which she will face fellow American Ajeé Wilson, the reigning world indoor champion at the distance, she wants to gradually work up to her best season as a pro.
“I want to run a personal best,” said Watson. “I want to make a world team this year.”
While Bromell and Watson are using the meet as a step in their comebacks, Gabby Thomas is using it to run a distance she usually does not.
The Northampton native and Harvard graduate is running the 300, a bit longer than her usual 200, a distance at which she won an Olympic bronze medal in 2021.
“As soon as the gun goes off, I’m just booking it to the finish line,” said Thomas. “I know different people have different race strategies for it. Me being a 200-meter runner at heart, that’s just how I tackle it.
“I know I run against some 400-meter girls when I run this 300 meters every year, and it’s always fun to see the different race strategies. But for me, I run it like a 200-meter and hold on at the end.”
She is thrilled to finally have her chance to run at the new facility in Brighton.
“It’s so beautiful and so spacious,” said Thomas, who attended the track’s grand opening in April. “It’s good for the Boston community. I have not run on it yet, and I’m very excited to see how it feels. I have heard it is very fast.”
Saturday’s nearly sold-out event also features a showdown between Americans Grant Holloway and Trey Cunningham in the 60-meter hurdles. Holloway captured gold and Cunningham silver in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2022 World Championships.
In the men’s 3,000, last-minute entrant Woody Kincaid will be one to watch. Just two weekends ago, the Arizona-based runner set a US record in the 5,000 meters at the John Thomas Terrier Classic at Boston University, running a 12:51.61 — the fourth-best indoor time in history.
Kat Cornetta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.