Message to Monaco: Great Move on the Distance Medley, by Elliott Denman

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Centrowitz-Berry-Sowinski-Casey-WR-Armory15.JPG
Matt Centrowitz, Mike Berry, Eric Sowinski, Pat Casey, photo by PhotoRun.net


The new Distance Medley World record set on Saturday night, at the Armory Track Center, shows how exciting the DMR can be. For Elliott Denman, the addition of the DMR at the World Relays will be something to treasure, and oh, after their 9:19.93, he thinks the US might have a chance at it. 
 By ELLIOTT DENMAN

  NEW YORK - Message to Monaco:   Great call.  Great move.   Great decision.

  Yes, the addition of the men's and women's distance medley races to the slate of events at the second edition of the IAAF World Relay Championships, coming May 2-3 to Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas, was a brilliant maneuver.

  The 4x1500-meter relay is definitely out and the DMR is definitely in, and that's a definitely enlightened switch by the IAAF's Monaco-based big-decision makers.

   Enthusiasts of the sport - and the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory in the Big Apple was packed with them Saturday for the 15th running of the Armory Track Invitational - were roaring with every strategic move, every breakaway, every little nuance of the men's DMR.

   It was the race of the year - thus far into this early stage of the 2015 indoor track season anyway - as all best-evers for the undercover version of the 1200-400-800-1600 event were crushed and a whole new era for the DMR welcomed.

   The Armory Track Invitational Meet, established in 2001, had always  been full of "juice."   But the 15th ATI was the juiciest yet and the addition of the invitational DMR - the master stroke of Invitational and Open Events coordinator-in-chief Ray Flynn, with the active encouragement of Armory Track Foundation president/CEO Dr. Norbert Sander - was the biggest reason.

   Of course,  Penn Relays fans and Drake Relays fans have known - pretty much forever - that the DMR comes loaded with all kinds of potential to send the thrill-meter needles flying off the charts.

   But World Relays-goers last May in Nassau were denied this same opportunity when the IAAF stuck with the 4x1500 as its longest event.  Now, Nassau fans will get to cheer the DMRers who've been big-time crowd-pleasers at other meets for years and years
and years.

   Then again, the DMR racers in Nassau may be hard-pressed to give Bahamas fans a more rousing show than Armory-goers got to experience in the closing hours of the opening month of what already shapes up as a very big-big winter season.

  Team  USA was a magnificent four, but so was Team Ireland.  They delivered a rouser.

  Before it all started, a fan asked Matt Centrowitz, the two-time
Olympian, former American 5000-meter record-holder and current American University head coach, "how's your son going to do?"

   "How should I know? I'm just his father," said Matt Centrowitz.

   Armory fans got their answer soon enough.

   Matthew Centrowitz ran a sensational 2:49.47 1200-meter leadoff that built a big gap on Ireland's Declan Murray (2:53.17.)

   When Michael Berry (46.40 400) and Erik Sowinski (1:47.60 800) ran powerful legs, a rout seemed on.

   Trouble was that no one told Ireland's anchor, Ciaran O'Lionaird.

   In not-so-gradual stages, he actually came back within five meters of USA anchor Pat Casey, and now the crowd was really into it.

   The decibel levels rose to Armory-record highs as the race was on.

   Casey at the bat - to take poetic license - with the baton and a fading lead, soon stepped into the fray.  As he "gathered" for his closing rush, it was soon clear that O'Lionaird had run out of fuel.

   And so it was that Casey's 3:56.48 anchor 1600 carried the day
and O'Lionaird settled for an unevenly-paced, price-paying 3:58.43.

  Throughout all this action, Armory announcer Ian Brooks was in usual crowd-inciting form, urging his audience to get with the runners and prod them on to sensational stuff.

  And when Brooks announced the final times, the Armory crowd
delivered a roar of all roars.Team USA had lowered all indoor records for the event and brought it home in - wow! -  9:19.93.   

  The former indoor season best-ever had been the University of Texas's 9:25.97 in 2008.    Ireland, too, was under the old world record DMR figures with its 9:25.37.

   Solidly impressive was the rest of the field, too. The New Jersey-New York Track Club (on Kyle Merber's 3:58.20 anchor) moved into third place at 9:27.16 ahead of Team Kenya (9:27.21) and top collegiate foursomes Columbia (9:35.02), Duke (9:36.47), Mississippi (9:40.51) and Princeton (9:41.58.)

   Villanova and Wisconsin had originally been slated to run but opted out.

   This was a meet that also featured a Daily Double of all Daily Doubles - Southern Utah University graduate/Canadian Olympian Cameron "Cam" Levins' victories in the mile (3:54.74) and two-mile (8:15.38) races with just 30 minutes of rest between them.

   Wow! as well.   This was surely one of the greatest one-day doubles in track and  field history.

  The PR 3:54.74 victory left Tulsa/Team England's Chris O'Hare (3:57.26) and U. of Pennsylvania junior Thomas Awad, the Long Islander out of Chaminade High School, (4:00.20 in third) and all the others looking merely mortal.

   And soon it was time for Levins to double down.

  The Campbell River, British Columbia product crushed yet another quality field with a 27.52 final lap that brought him home in 8:15.38, another PR.

  Not too far behind were Suguro Osako, who netted a Japanese indoor record of 8:16.47, and Minnesota grad Ben Blankenship, who grabbed third in 8:16.53.

  The Armory Track Invitational also delivered such good ones as Ajee' Wilson's  2:01.63 women's 800 win; Akronian Shawn Barber's Armory-record 19-0 3/4 pole vault; Will Claye's 55-6 1/2 triple jump, and Wisconsin muscleman Michael Lihrman's mighty 35-pound weight whirl of 78-8 1/2.

  It was not a great meet for Galen Rupp, fourth back of Levins in the two-mile, or Mary Cain, fifth back of Wilson in the 800.

 But it was a meet of the ages for all those distance medley fans, whose next major conclaves will come at Penn and Drake at April's end, and then a week later at Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau.

  The quickest-ever outdoor DMR times ever recorded came at the 2006 Penn Relays, where Team Kenya, anchored by Alex Kipchirchir, fought off Team USA, anchored by Bernard Lagat,  9:15.56 to 9:15.63.

   Now, track fans have yet another "barrier" awaiting demolition.

   The 10-lap question becomes "who is destined to run the first sub-9:10 DMR?"

   So, thanks again, IAAF, for giving your constituencies something to spice up the speculations - "will they?"  "can they?" and "when?"  - on which this sport thrives.

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