USATF Men’s 1500 — No Off Year For Centro

Not a Trials? Not a problem for Matthew Centrowitz, who valued title No. 5. (KEVIN MORRIS/PHOTO RUN)

All résumés are not created equal. So it was that the central question to be answered was whether Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz, winner of four USATF titles since ’11, would bounce back to the top after placing 2nd last year.

Might Robby Andrews strike again? He had acquitted himself fairly well in a 1500 in Oslo, placing 2nd in 3:36.05. The defending champion’s heat here, though, did not go well and he placed 6th (3:43.89), 0.41 behind winner Pat Casey and not among the time-advancers. Centro had controlled a highly tactical heat I to win from collegian Robert Domanic and Colby Alexander. All the time qualifiers came from heat II, won by Eric Jenkins (3:40.63) from 20-year-old Drew Hunter (3:40.68) and Craig Engels (3:40.69), just ahead of last year’s 3rd-placer, Johnny Gregorek (3:40.79).

In the final Centrowitz took up early position in front but nobody wanted to make it fast from the get-go, and on the first homestretch Hunter moved up from the ruck to take the lead. With collegian Sam Prakel on his shoulder Hunter, the young miler who signed with adidas straight out of high school, passed 400 in 63.4 and 800 in 2:07.7. From there Jenkins moved to inject some pace. He led most of the next 300m to the bell before which Prakel passed him—with Centro sticking close, on the inside of lane 2 and safely protected from sliding into a box.

Prakel hit the 1200 in 3:03.4, having turned lap 3 in 55.7 and setting up a mass sprint to the finish. Centrowitz, taking no chances, moved up and to his shoulder by the middle of the straight. Also chasing well were Izaic Yorks and Jenkins. As the chase got hot, Duck senior Prakel, 6th at the NCAA, would not roll over. Not until 10m into the homestretch did Centro get past. Yorks rolled by Prakel a few yards later. Jenkins almost swallowed by the a large gaggle of pursuers with 100 to run, surged up in the last 25 for 3rd.

Centrowitz, his visage calm until the end when he raised his arms as punctuation, finished up front in 3:43.37 to Yorks’ 3:43.63. With closing splits of 53.58, 26.9 and 13.2, he also ran his last 2 laps in 1:50.63; in his Rio win that figure was 1:49.8. The zip is returning to his legs. Jenkins’ 3:43.74 held at bay Casey (3:43.84), fastest in the field over the last 100, which he covered in 12.8. It was truly a mass finish; Prakel wound up 7th.

“Excitement, joy,” said Centro of his emotions. “I don’t take these national titles for granted—even with an off year and no World Championships or Olympics to qualify for. I think I was notified, or I was at least aware of, last year that 5 [titles] would have tied Steve Scott’s record, and that was something kind of in my mind last year that was a little disappointing so coming back this year is something I still had in the back of my head and definitely wanted to tie. I think at this point in my career I just want to keep checking off boxes to leave my mark, I guess, in the 1500 in U.S.”

Yo, Matthew, good news! Sorta. You’ve still got a mark to shoot for. Scott actually won 6 titles in the 1977–86 period. One might call that the “modern era” record. Before that Canadian George Orton—back when foreigners could enter the meet—won 6 in the period 1892–00. And Joie Ray won 8 between 1915 and ’23, the last 7 in a row.

Centro is tied at five U.S. titles with Glenn Cunningham (all but one 1933–38), no slouch by any stretch in his era.


USATF MEN’S 1500 RESULTS

FINAL (June 23)

1. Matthew Centrowitz (Nik) 3:43.37

(46.60, 66.14 [1:52.74], 57.05 [2:49.79], 53.58)

(13.2, 26.9, 53.58, 1:50.63, 2:56.77);

2. Izaic Yorks (Brk) 3:43.63

(13.4, 26.9, 53.75, 1:51.15, 2:56.74);

3. Eric Jenkins (Nik) 3:43.74

(13.2, 26.8, 54.06, 1:51.42, 2:57.04);

4. Patrick Casey (UArm) 3:43.84

(12.8, 26.6, 53.61, 1:51.23, 2:57.13);

5. Robert Domanic (Ms) 3:43.95

(53.75, 1:51.22, 2:56.90);

6. Drew Hunter (adi) 3:43.97

(54.01, 1:51.66, 2:57.53);

7. Sam Prakel (Or) 3:44.01

(13.9, 27.5, 54.29, 1:51.74, 2:57.42);

8. Cristian Soratos (adi) 3:44.12

(54.00, 1:51.43, 2:56.97);

9. Johnny Gregorek (Asics) 3:44.19

(53.73, 1:51.74, 2:57.24);

10. Craig Engels (NikOTC) 3:44.22

(54.23, 1:51.30, 2:57.40);

11. Sean McGorty (Stan) 3:44.42

(54.01, 1:51.58, 2:57.34);

12. David Ribich (BrkB) 3:46.04

(55.88, 1:53.49, 2:58.74);

13. Colby Alexander (HokaNJNY) 3:46.48.

HEATS (June 21)

I–1. Centrowitz 3:46.05; 2. Domanic 3:46.08; 3. Alexander 3:46.17;

4. Henry Wynne (Brk) 3:46.20; 5. Kirubel Erassa (ADP) 3:46.99; 6. Rob Napolitano (Hoka) 3:47.52; 7. Alex Riba (TxAM) 3:47.76; 8. Leo Manzano (Hoka) 3:48.51; 9. Eric Avila (adi) 3:51.32; 10. David Ribich (BrkB) 3:59.16.

II–1. Jenkins 3:40.63; 2. Hunter 3:40.68; 3. Engels 3:40.69; 4. Gregorek 3:40.79; 5. Soratos 3:41.12; 6. McGorty 3:41.43;

7. Mick Stanovsek (Or) 3:43.01; 8. Ford Palmer (Hoka) 3:44.88; 9. Amos Bartelsmeyer (Gtn) 3:45.82; 10. Blake Haney (Or) 3:53.19.

III–1. Casey 3:43.48; 2. Prakel 3:43.49; 3. Yorks 3:43.51;

4. Vincent Ciattei (VaT) 3:43.53; 5. Hassan Mead (NikOTC) 3:43.65; 6. Robby Andrews (adi) 3:43.89; 7. Graham Crawford (HokaNJNY) 3:44.96; 8. Garrett O’Toole (Prin) 3:45.24; 9. Willy Fink (unat) 3:45.89; 10. David Timlin (unat) 3:46.87.

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