Dave Hunter has written a stellar piece on the 1,500 meter rounds. But, I have to admit, my award for the funniest line of the Trials, and I quote, with true respect, “ In the men’s first round, John Mickowski got treated like a rental car during the final 250 meters of his heat“--I wish that I had written that one! Enjoy the column!
A Daily Journal From The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials / Track & Field
Highlights From Hayward
By Dave Hunter
June 30, 2012
The 1500 meter run – the Metric Mile – is always a marquee event at the Olympic Trials. This year should be no exception. And given that this year’s event is generally regarded as having incredible depth on both the women’s and men’s side, the 1500 has even greater luster.
It takes more than just being a great miler to make the U.S. Olympic team in the 1500. You have to know your competition and you have to be smart in executing your race strategy to advance through the rounds. The pathway to the Olympic team is not just one race – like a Diamond league meet or a select invitational. It is a three-race war of attrition.
Through the first two rounds, three women appear to be the top tier of the twelve finalists who will run on Sunday. Morgan Uceny, last year’s 1500 Diamond League champion and the #1 ranked 1500 runner in the world, looked sharp and in control in her first two races, winning both.
Still smarting from her fall in last year’s world championship 1500 final, Uceny appears to be on a mission of redemption. Jenny Simpson, the reigning world champion, showed nice improvement in her two preliminary races and qualified easily for the final. Simpson, still working to find a comfortable way to carry her world championship title, looks ready for a strong final. But Shannon Rowbury, the 1500 bronze medalist at the 2009 World Championships, may prove to be the sharpest of all. Rowbury ran smoothly and efficiently and made deliberate race moves with precision in winning her first two races.
The women’s semi-finals were not without some controversy. In response to a filed protest, USATF announced Friday that Gabriele Anderson, second place finisher in the second semi-final, had been disqualified for “jostling” during the final 300 meters of the race, thereby allowing Alice Schmidt, already a 2012 Olympian in the 800, to advance to the final. Acting on a timely appeal filed by Anderson’s coach, the USATF Jury of Appeals ruled mid-day on Saturday in Anderson’s favor and has allowed Anderson to advance to the finals. Jill Geer, head of communication for USATF, has confirmed that, notwithstanding Anderson’s reinstatement, Schmidt will also be permitted to run in the final.
While the first two rounds for the women – other than the Anderson incident – were generally clean races with a certain element of courtesy, the men’s preliminaries were more rough and tumble. When 1500’s feature dawdling opening laps, full-contact miling often prevails.
In the men’s first round, John Mickowski got treated like a rental car during the final 250 meters of his heat as first jostling by Jordan McNamara and Andrew Wheating and then a finish line fall could not prevent him from advancing. “Everyone was bumping me,” exclaimed Mickowski afterwards in the mixed zone. “I think it’s just the Oregon thing. They wanted to win the heat. But I advanced so I don’t really care.”
The big kickers in the field had an easy first round. Robby Andrews, former UVA star who recently tuned professional, controlled his heat from the back as he easily qualified for the semi-final. “Coach Vig [Jason Vigilante] has all of the answers,” exclaimed Andrews. “He told me I am running the 15. He told me what to do today. He’ll tell me what to do tomorrow. Coach Vig has the brains, I’m just the muscle.” 2008 Olympian Andrew Wheating was happy with his opening 1500, “I feel good. It’s going to be a hell of a final if I get there, I’ll tell you that much.”
The ante was upped the following day in the semi-finals, but tactical racing still prevailed. In first semi-final, the pace was woefully slow [2:14 at 800] and the resulting kick fest saw Will Leer [3:51.27] and Wheating [3:51.40] lead a tightly-bunched quintet across the line. In the second semi, Mathew Centrowitz, ever the master race tactician, orchestrated a beautiful run to glide home in 3:41.90 to take the win. Manzano finished in stride with Centro in the same time, while Andrews, Jeff See, and Miles Batty followed the duo across the line in that order just a half step behind.
“Tactical” races with pedestrian paces can lead to surprising casualties. Those who fancy themselves as big kickers often need reminding that if you live by the sword, you may die by the sword. While Andrews and Wheating glided on to Sunday’s final, notable non-advancers included A.J. Acosta, German Fernandez, Dorian Ulrey, and an apparently-injured Russell Brown.
The men’s 1500 final will likely be another strategic affair featuring a furious finish among an array of highly-talented athletes. Matthew Centrowitz, reigning 1500 world championship bronze medalist who last year proclaimed he could close the final 800 of a methodical 1500 in 1:50, has shown he can prevail in virtually any type of race scenario. Andrews and Wheating are likely hoping for the type of race pace that will allow them to keep their powder dry for a big explosive move over the final 200. Manzano, who has looked sharp in the rounds, is a fearless and furious veteran who can race with anyone. And finalists such as Batty, See, and Leer will be there to scoop up an Olympic spot if any of the favorites falter. The men’s 1500 final, the penultimate event of these memorable Olympic Trials, should prove to be the perfect capstone to 10 wonderful days of track and field.