PHOTO: Matthew Centrowitz after winning his 1500m heat at the 2018 USATF Distance Classic at Occidental College in Los Angeles (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly), used with permission.
Here’s David Monti’s piece on the rather modest USATF Distance Classic, which was held on Thursday night. Some good indications of form coming around, from Johnny Gregorek, to one 2016 Olympic champion, Matthew Centrowitz.
CENTROWITZ SHOWS GLIMPSE OF CHAMPIONSHIPS FORM AT USATF DISTANCE CLASSIC
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission
LOS ANGELES (17-May) — Running in the second of three sections of the men’s 1500m tonight at the USATF Distance Classic at Occidental College here, reigning Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz was sitting well back in sixth position with 300 meters to go. Centrowitz, 28, was doubling back from the 800m race he had run earlier in the meet, clocking a season’s best 1:48.41.
As he ran down the backstretch the former Oregon Duck began to move up through the field. Easing his way through the pack, he eventually gained the lead from Algerian Takieddine Hedeilli, then held off a powerful stretch run by compatriot Kyle Merber to get the win in 3:38.99 to Merber’s 3:39.15. By Centrowitz’s standards, the time was modest, but the fact that he closed the race with a 54.4-second circuit told him that he was on the right track.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s been a down year so far, because I had a good showing in Australia,” Centrowitz told Race Results Weekly, referring to his early season races Down Under where he ran 1:53.25 for 800m in Brisbane and 3:37.96 for 1500m in Sydney. “Training’s been going really well. I’ve been healthy since January 1.”
Skipping the indoor season was a departure for Centrowitz, a three-time NYRR Wanamaker Mile Champion who loves racing on the 200-meter oval. Without that very high level racing under his belt from the winter, he feels a little behind in his preparations for the outdoor season which will kick off in earnest next weekend at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., where he will run the ultra-competitive Bowerman Mile.
“I just need to keep racing,” Centrowitz continued. “Normally, having that indoor season, Nick (Willis) and I running low-3:50’s, usually, I can afford to miss a little time in the early spring, which I usually do. Then, I kind of get back into the groove. And this year, with missing all of November and December and not have an indoor season to kind of sharpen up and have those few races, I think that the start of the outdoor season I was expecting this to be where I always am in previous years. I was way far from that.”
Health problems plagued Centrowitz during 2017 where he battled both pericarditis and an adductor injury. Although he finished second at the USA Championships last June, he was eliminated in the first round of the IAAF World Championships finishing 14th in his heat. He decided to take some time off last fall and slowly come back in 2018, a decidedly low-pressure year where USA athletes have no global championships to prepare for.
“Now I’m 28,” Centrowitz reflected. “I’m 22 where you can jump out of bed and go run a quick race. My body’s just coming around a little bit longer. Today was a great step forward.”
Centrowitz did not run the fastest 1500m on the night here. That honor went to Johnny Gregorek who, like Centrowitz, will be competing in the Bowerman Mile next Saturday. Gregorek ran in the first section, clocking 3:36.95.
“I’m excited for Bowerman,” said Gregorek, who finished tenth at last summer’s IAAF World Championship. “I want to get out hard. I want to really run something fast. Great tune-up today. I’m going up to Eugene now to get locked and loaded.”
The top times in the women’s 1500m went to Shannon Osika (4:09.38) and Danielle Aragon (4:09.57) who went 1-2 in the first of two sections. Osika, the former University of Michigan athlete who still trains under coach Mike McGuire, was pleased with how she raced.
“I felt the pressure for sure,” Osika said of her homestretch battle with Aragon. She added: “I believed in my speed at the end and went for it.”
In the 800m races, Ce’Aira Brown (2:00.38) defeated Hanna Green (2:01.40) and Brenda Martinez (2:02.03) on the women’s side. In the men’s contest, Craig Engels came from behind to win in 1:47.40 over Carter Lily (1:47.54) and Harun Abda (1:47.87). The steeplechase races went to Shalaya Kipp (9:44.34) who edged Mel Lawrence (9:44.80) and Rima Chenah (9:44.92), and M.J. Erb (8:32.78) who defeated Travis Mahoney (8:33.09) and Brandon Doughty (8:33.43) on the final lap.
The 5000m races both came down to two-athlete battles and culminated in close finishes. In the women’s side, Lauren Paquette narrowly defeated Rachel Cliff of Canada, 15:19.17 to 15:20.66. Paquette led for most of the race, so was pleased to get the win. However, she was hoping to run faster.
“I just came off of four weeks in Mammoth up at altitude,” Paquette explained. She continued: “I was hoping to run quite faster than that, but it was just the way that the pacers went. I thought about passing them; I probably should have. Next time.”
The men’s 5000m closed the action here tonight. Reid Buchanan and Sam Parsons duked it out over the final four laps with Parsons sitting on Buchanan before making his bid for victory with about 250 meters to go. Buchanan covered Parsons’s move, then held him off in the homestretch on the strength of a 60-flat final lap. Buchanan was timed in 13:33.38 to Parsons’s 13:34.16.
“If you lead the whole thing, you’d better win the thing, right?” said Buchanan. “You don’t want to give that up when you did all the work.”