IMG_7492.jpgRobby Andrews wins USATF 1,500 meters in 2017, photo by Mike Deering, for The Shoe Addicts

The USATF Outdoor Championships are upon us. We are in Urbandale, about 20 minutes from the Drake Stadium, as we prepare for the first day of the Championships. Here's a fine piece from David Monti with Race Results Weekly, which we use with their permission.

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission.

DES MOINES (20-Jun) -- At last summer's USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif., Robby Andrews executed one of the best races of his career. Capped off by an explosive homestretch sprint, the now 27 year-old New Jersey native ran his final 400-meter circuit in Hornet Stadium in a scorching 52.23 seconds. It was his first national outdoor title, and qualified him for team USATF for the IAAF World Championships, his fourth consecutive national team in three years.

"It was very satisfying," Andrews told Race Results Weekly in an interview here today. "That's a great word for it."

But Andrews has consistently played down that win because although he raced the reigning Olympic champion, Matthew Centrowitz, his friend and rival wasn't in top form. Centrowitz, the four-time national 1500m champion, finished second to Andrews last year after battling both illness and injury. Centrowitz could not call on all of his strengths, and Andrews feels a little like he got a pass.

"It's getting the opportunity to race Matthew so often in a championship; I've learned so much from him," Andrews said with genuine admiration. "He can win any way he wants to. The year before he ran 3:34 to win the (Olympic) Trials. Then, he can also win in 3:50, like in the Olympics."

Centrowitz, who will also race here in Des Moines, skipped the indoor season and opened up outdoors in Australia last March, instead. He has been slowly building fitness since then, and at the Prefontaine Classic three weeks ago he ran a very solid 3:53.61 in the Bowerman Mile. Andrews knows he'll have to execute both his prelim and final well here to beat Centrowitz.

"You really have to be on your 'A' game," Andrews explained. "It really gives me confidence that I can do it, I'm capable of doing it, and I'm looking forward to running my best and continuing to improve."

In addition to Centrowitz, Andrews will face tough competition from Johnny Gregorek who had a breakout season last year, finishing third in the national championships, running a personal best 3:35.00, and finishing tenth at the IAAF World Championships. Craig Engels, fourth last year, is also in the field, as is rising star Drew Hunter, and 2017 NYRR Wanamaker Mile winner Eric Jenkins.

Clayton Murphy, the 2016 Olympic 800m bronze medalist, will not race the 1500m here, and will run only the two-lap event. At these championships last year Murphy tried doubling, but limped off the track after the 1500m final (he finished 12th), and had to be drive away in a gold cart. That leg injury forced him to scratch out of the 800m final after running 1:45.70 in the semis.

Besides winning here in Des Moines, Andrews has one other big goal for this season: run faster. An excellent tactical racer, Andrews feels slightly embarrassed by his six year-old personal best of 3:34.78. He'd like to see that broken this summer, regardless of which races he does for the remainder of the season. He said it can happen anywhere as long as he's ready.

"I'd love to improve on my PR from 2012 in the 1500," Andrews said with a chuckle. He continued: "Of course, that's the easy thing to say, 'I wish I was in the right race.' It's like you jump in Monaco and you run this fast time. You know, you still have to run the time, and I think that if we time the peak right, you go for it hard enough... and anything can happen. You don't necessarily need this big Diamond League race to run a fast time."

Here in Des Moines, where warm temperatures combined with soaking humidity will make fast running difficult, Andrews is narrowly focused on what he does best: running for the win.

"I'd love to continue to prove that I belong in the top three in the U.S.," he said.

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