USATF Men’s 1500 — Engels Holds Off Centro

Matt Centrowitz’s last lap was a blazing 51.98, but Craig Engels topped that with a 51.92. (MIKE SCOTT)

AFTER HIS PR 1:44.68 three weeks earlier, there was no question that Craig Engels had himself a nice bit of race sharpness. The questions revolved around how ready 5-time champ Matthew Centrowitz would be, and who else might be primed for a team spot. Engels went to the front immediately, tagging along on Izaic Yorks’ shoulder for a first lap in 64.7. If that didn’t guarantee a kicking spree at the end, the second lap in 64.9 certainly did. Eric Avila moved up to challenge, inspiring Engels to take over the pacing duties. At 900, Johnny Gregorek moved up to join Engels, with Centrowitz in tow.

At the bell, Centro (2:52.99) challenged, while Ben Blankenship tried to move up on the inside. Quickly back in the lead, Engels held off Centrowitz, leading through 1200 in 3:06.07, a 56.43 lap. While the contenders jostled for position in the pack, Engels looked ever stronger, coming off the final turn with a stride on Centrowitz as Yorks, Blankenship and unlooked-for Josh Thompson battled for the third position.

Centrowitz made up some ground, but Engels had barely enough breathing room to raise his arms in victory at the line, winning by 0.04 in 3:44.93. “It was a lot closer than I thought,” he quipped. He had covered the final lap in 51.92, and his final 2 in 1:50.65. Centro ran 51.98/1:50.44. “I knew he was coming,” said Engels. “I was trying to listen to the announcer because there’s no big board.”

Oklahoma State alum Thompson, a steepler last year, produced the fastest last lap of all, a 51.90, to snatch 3rd in 3:45.25. Alas, he doesn’t have the Doha standard, so the third team spot went to Blankenship, who finished 4th in 3:45.60.

Engels admitted, “I definitely didn’t race the perfect race. The plan was to go with 200 to go and I went with 800 to go. I saw all the guys getting antsy and I just took it. It worked.” The 25-year-old Mississippi alum explained that much of his focus had been on beating the Olympic champion. “I knew I had to go early. But he was coming. I was super-anxious, but I guess I used those nerves right.”

Said Centrowitz, “No one likes to lose, but Craig’s in phenomenal form.” He explained that he tried to grab the lead at the bell but when Engels held him off, “That could have been the deciding factor right there. He had the whole inside and forced me to run those extra few meters that probably made the difference. He made a really good move with 150 to go. I thought at the time I could probably cover this and go with it but I didn’t know what that would leave me with in the last 100m and I didn’t know where anyone else was behind me. With 50 to go, I found kind of another gear and I think it showed I probably should have relied on my strength a little more and gone with him. But I had to make my decision right then and there and I thought that securing my spot on the team was more pivotal than going for the win.”


USATF MEN’S 1500 RESULTS

FINAL

(July 28)

1. Craig Engels (Nik) 3:44.93

(finish—51.91, 1:50.64, 2:57.80);

2. Matthew Centrowitz (BowTC) 3:44.97

(51.98, 1:50.43, 2:57.67);

3. Josh Thompson (BowTC) 3:45.25

(51.90, 1:50.33, 2:57.86);

4. Ben Blankenship (NOTC) 3:45.60

(52.42, 1:50.89, 2:58.18);

5. Eric Avila (adiMission) 3:45.93

(52.52, 1:51.57, 2:58.17);

6. Sam Prakel (adi) 3:46.09

(52.70, 1:51.53, 2:58.62);

7. Izaic Yorks (BB) 3:46.10

(52.91, 1:51.64, 2:59.03);

8. Henry Wynne (BB) 3:46.16

(53.08, 1:51.30, 2:58.65);

9. Patrick Casey (UArm) 3:47.35

(53.68, 1:52.72, 1:52.75);

10. Johnny Gregorek (Asics) 3:47.54

(54.32, 1:52.85, 2:59.93);

11. James Randon (SaucFree) 3:48.68

(55.14, 1:53.68, 3:00.99);

12. Tim Gorman (MamTC) 3:49.89

(56.39, 1:55.35, 3:02.57).

HEATS

(July 26)

I–1. Thompson 3:42.12; 2. Yorks (BB) 3:42.28; 3. Gregorek 3:42.44; 4. Randon 3:43.10; 5. Gorman 3:43.21; 6. Casey 3:43.44; 7. Robert Napolitano (Hoka) 3:43.98; 8. Kyle Merber (HokaNJNY) 3:48.87; 9. Nicholas Harris (unat) 3:59.88.

II–1. Engels 3:43.22; 2. Wynne 3:43.23; 3. Avila 3:43.43; 4. Patrick Joseph (TinE) 3:43.84; 5. Graham Crawford (HokaNJNY) 3:43.86; 6. Tripp Hurt (unat) 3:44.45; 7. Mac Fleet (Nik) 3:46.00; 8. Christopher Hatler (PhilaRC) 3:48.63; 9. Jeremy Hernandez (HokaNJNY) 3:48.97.

III–1. Blankenship 3:43.07; 2. Prakel 3:43.14; 3. Centrowitz 3:43.46; 4. Vincent Ciattei (NikOTC) 3:44.52; 5. Jacob Edwards (Columbus) 3:45.13; 6. David Ribich (BB) 3:45.22; 7. Paul Ryan (WaSt) 3:45.96; 8. Benjamin Malone (HokaNJNY) 3:53.20; 9. Justine Kiprotich (unat) 3:56.95.

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