The men’s 1,500m was the second to last event on the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Schedule. The truth was, the five events that were held after the meet was suspended on Sunday, June 27, 2021, made one of the finest hours ever in an Olympic Trials.
The men’s 1,500m lived up to the hype!
This piece was written by Sean MacPherson of the SOJC Track Bureau for RunBlogRun. SOJC is managed by Lori Shontz, professor at the University of Oregon.
Lori Shontz and Larry Eder edit all pieces by SOJC.
By Sean MacPherson
SOJC Track Bureau for RunBlogRun
In an electrifying final Olympic Trials session at Hayward Field, the men’s 1,500 meters, highlighted by the former and current Oregon Duck stars, felt like the main event. Oregon phenom Cole Hocker used one of the best kicks you will ever see over the last 150 meters to edge reigning Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz at the line.
Hocker, who won the NCAA title in this event 16 days ago, won this race in a personal best time of 3:35.28. Centrowitz was right behind him in 3:35.34.
“Last year, I wasn’t at this level. I was nowhere near this level,” said Hocker. “I wouldn’t say surprised, but I might’ve been shocked if last year you would’ve told me that I won the 1,500 meters at Trials.”
Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse, the collegiate record holder, edged Craig Engels for third in 3:36.19.
Centrowitz took over the lead with 500 meters to go while Hocker was precariously boxed in. Throughout the race, Hocker’s moves to push towards the front were blocked as he couldn’t get around other athletes. Approaching the final turn, Hocker did not appear to be in a winning position.
Hocker said the final turn was “a little dicey, to be honest. I saw Yared coming up. I knew he was one of the best kickers in the race … I knew I had to get out in front of him and not get boxed in.”
With 150 meters to go, the 20-year-old Hocker chased down Centrowitz, who had a sizable lead going into the home stretch, and beat the 31-year-old veteran to the line.
“I saw an opening. I went for that gap,” said Hocker. “Then there was just one man in front of me, and I did my best to hunt him down.”
Centrowitz said the race went the way he wanted it to go, but he might’ve made his final push a little early.
“Instead of trying to save something a little extra for the last 50, I just tried to punch it,” he said. “And sure enough, Cole had another gear that I didn’t have.”
As Hocker crossed the finish line, he made a shush gesture. This was possibly the sequel to what occurred in the semifinals on Friday, where Centrowitz appeared to say something to Hocker on the homestretch and the two shared a smile. Centrowitz downplayed the comment he made on Friday, saying he couldn’t remember what was said, but it wasn’t trash talk.
“We’re having fun — there’s no bad blood between me and Cole,” Centrowitz said. “I respect the crap out of him.”
Despite the victory, Hocker has not run the Olympic standard of 3:35.00. He will likely make the U.S. team based on his world ranking, which will be finalized on Tuesday. If Hocker were to not qualify, Engels, who has the standard, would replace him.
(Editor’s note: Cole Hocker, has qualified for the Olympics, despite the confusing new World Rankings system).