2014 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix Men’s Preview: Wow – What A Spectacular Men’s Set Of Events

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by LetsRun.com
February 7, 2014

Saturday’s 2014 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix features a spectacular men’s set of mid-d and distance events. Seriously, it’s hard to imagine a better set of men’s fields this early in the year. Galen Rupp will take on the true milers in a fantastic men’s mile that features three Olympic silver medalists, Ryan Hill and Sam Chelanga will battle with three 5,000 medalists in a stacked men’s 3,000, and there is a world record attempt in the 4 x 800. We preview those races for you below.

Even better news is you can all watch it live. Either in person at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston or on the NBC Sports Network (4:30-6:00 pm ET), bonus coverage on USATF.tv starting at 3:45 pm ET.

Our preview of the women’s action which features clash between teen phenoms Mary Cain and Ajee’ Wilson in the 1,000, a women’s 2,000 with Kim Conley, Shannon Rowbury, Morgan Uceny, Treniere Moser and others, and a women’s two-mile where Jenny Simpson and Sally Kipyego renew their rivalry and try to hold off Ethiopia’s Sentayehu Ejigu appears in a separate article.

The full set of events/schedule can be found here.

Men’s Mile: Galen Rupp Vs. The Milers

The men’s mile is a real treat as it’s a battle between three Olympic silver medalists – the 2008 and 2012 Olympic 1,500 silver medalists in Nick Willis and Leo Manzano – and the 2012 Olympic 10,000 silver medalist Galen Rupp.

Can the long-distance star Rupp – who has been on fire during indoors both last year and this year – take down the two 1,500 stars at the mile distance?

The fact that we are even asking that question is a real testament to Rupp’s development over the last few years. Before you say, “Rupp has no chance,” one must realize just how good Rupp has been indoors how much his speed has improved in recent years.

Already this year in Boston, Rupp has set two American records a 13:01.26 and an 8:07.41 two-mile, so we know he’s in incredible form right now. “But he’s not a miler,” you say? Well, realize that he and training mate Mo Farah have been playing “Fantasy Track” of late.

The same “he’s not a miler” criticism could have been said of Mo Farah before he toed the starting line in the 1,500 last summer in Monaco. And you remember of course what happened there, don’t you? Farah ran a 3:28.81 European and British record. Prior to coming under the tutelage of coach Alberto Salazar, he was a 3:33.98 1,500 man. Now he’s  5 seconds faster.

Speaking of being many seconds faster, Rupp in recent years has himself enjoyed a similar huge drop in his mile speed. No one in American history has improved his speed like Rupp has in recent years. Heading into 2009, Rupp was 22 and had never broken 4:00 for the mile or the equivalent in the 1,500. His mile PR was the 4:01.8 he ran in high school. What’s his PR now? Last year indoors he ran a 3:50.92 mile.

Rupp and Salazar clearly think there is more in the tank than that as prior to Rupp entering this race, there was talk of Galen going after the World indoor record of 3:48.45 by Hicham El Guerrouj next week.

As a result, if this race goes all out as a time trial from the start, Rupp’s got a real legitimate shot to win. However, if this is your standard indoor, somewhat tactical mile with a winning time in the 3:53-7 range (which is what we expect as the whole point of Rupp running here likely is to work on his kick), Rupp is still vulnerable even though we know he’s in the best shape  of anyone in the field. Despite Rupp’s incredible huge improvement in speed, his Achilles heel is an inability to find a monster last lap in races shorter than 10,000 meters, as he’s failed to medal at Worlds in the 5,000 in either 2012 or 2013.

Manzano Or Willis: Who Has The Edge?

In choosing between the two most pedigreed 1,500 runners, Nick Willis is a safer pick in our minds because we know he’s in shape. He ran a 3:55.98 mile on January 20th in New Zealand and is really trying to hit indoors hard this year.

In 2013, Willis got injured mid-year and re-started his season in July and came on really strong late in the year. He ran 3:32 on September 8th and then won the 5th Avenue Mile. After that, he didn’t take a big break as he told us in November his goal for 2014 was to see if indoor track really is slower than outdoor track – might it actually be faster?

We know Willis in shape. We don’t know what type of fitness Manzano is in as this is his first race of 2014. Manzano starts here after a high-altitude training stint with Nick Symmonds in Mexico.

Recently, Manzano’s openers have been far from earth-shattering. Last year, he opened up his 2013 season outdoors as the Kansas Relays in 4:00.13, losing to Cory Leslie. The year before that, he opened indoors at 3:57.92 but that placed him last in the high-profile USATF meet in Arkansas. Not to mention he’s coming down from altitude training in Mexico, so his speed might not be fully there. He’s was training in Mexico with Nick Symmonds, who opened his season with a 1:48.64 last weekend and said he often feels sluggish coming down from high elevation.

Lots Of Others

The field is full of talent (full list appears here) that we haven’t even mentioned yet.

Lopez Lomong is also in this field and dangerous. He was on fire last year indoors (3:51.21 mile, 13:07.00 American record in the 5,000). What about this year? Well, he opened at 4:00.69 in the mile in January. That doesn’t sound very good but realize that was in Albuquerque and if he was in the NCAA, the NCAA would convert that to 3:55.45.

The race includes three 3:34 1,500 men – Willis’ old college teammate Nate Brannen (3:34.22 PR), former NCAA champ Andy Bayer (3:34.47), and former Stanford star Russell Brown (3:34.11) – and four 3:35 1,500 guys – Jeff See (3:35.21), Will Leer (3:35:27), Jack Bolas (3:35.54).

Parting Thought #1: In the end, this race should provide great drama. Galen Rupp will try to outkick some of the best 1,500 runners on the planet (remember Rupp nearly beat Matt Centrowitz and Manzano indoors in 2012). If he does it, the transformation of Rupp, from a great distance guy with one fatal flaw – no wheels – will be nearly complete.

Parting Thought #2: In doing research for this article, we were reminded that as great as Rupp was last year indoors (he set an American record of 7:30.16 in the 3,000), he was beaten at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. He lost to Hagos Gebrehiwet in the 3,000.

MEN’S MILE                2013 Highlights/PR

WILLIS, NICK     Silver medal in 1,500 at 2008 Olympics     3:55.98 mile SB     3:30.35 / 3:50.66 PRs

MANZANO, LEO     Silver medal in 1,500 at 2012 Olympics     2nd in 1,500 at 2013 USAs     3:32.37 / 3:50.64 PRs

SEE, JEFF     3:35.21 / 3:55.47 PRs

BRANNEN, NATE     3:58.04 SB     3:34.22 / 3:52.63 PRs

LEER, WILL     3:35.27 / 3:55.66 PRs

RUPP, GALEN     2012 silver in 10,000 at Olympics     3:35.92 pb – 8:07.41/13:01.26 seasonal bests (both American records)

CASEY, PAT     3:58.06 SB     3:40.04 / 3:56.28 PRs

LOMONG, LOPEZ   6th in 3,000 at 2012 World Indoors, finalist in 5,000 at 2012 Olympics, former AR holder at indoor 5,000     4:00.69 (Alt.) SB     3:32.20 / 3:51.21 PRs

BROWN, RUSSELL     3:34.11 / 3:51.45 PRs

BOLAS, JACK     3:59.38 SB     3:35.54 / 3:58.31 PRs

BAYER, ANDY     4:07.58 (Alt.) SB     3:34.47 / 3:52.90 PRs

STOCKBERGER, DANNY     Pace?     3:40.61 / 4:01.39 PRs

MEN’S 3,000 METERS: Sam Chelanga & Ryan Hill Take On Gebrhiwet, Gebremeskel And Koech

Wow, what a race here.

This thing is loaded and has some amazing story lines. For starters, it features three of the top 5,000 men in the world. Hagos Gebrhiwet (the silver medalist in 2013), Dejen Gebremeskel (the silver medalist in 2012) and Isiah Koech (bronze medalist in 2013) have all been ranked in the top 5 in the world by Track and Field News within the last two years. All three have 5,000 PRs under 12:50.

Then you add in four North American-based guys we know are in incredible shape. Already this year, Garrett Heath has beaten Asbel Kiprop and Kenenisa Bekele at the BUPA XC meet and run a 3:54 indoor mile.

Ryan Hill just opened with a great 3:59/1:50 double at altitude that so impressed us we wondered if he might be a long shot candidate to beat Galen Rupp at USAs.

Sam Chelanga has already run a lifetime personal best at 5,000 this winter (13:04). In that same race, Cam Levins ran a Canadian record of 13:19.16, but to be honest, he looked much better than that and likely ended up with a worse time than his fitness merited as he did the work once the rabbit dropped off.

Add in Americans Hassan Mead and Andrew Bumbalough, who ran 13:11.80 and 13:12.01 last year, and you’ve got a stellar, stellar field.

Quick Thought #1: We’ll be looking to see how Gebrihwet, Gebremeskel and Koech stack up here. The winner might be the early favorite for next months World Indoors. Can Chelanga hang with them at 3,000?

Quick Thought #2: The second thing we’ll be watching for is to see how the North Americans stack up against each other and also against the Africans. Hill versus Heath is a key matchup to watch as it’s going to be very competitive at USAs in two weeks for the two spots to World Indoors.

Quick Thought #3: We didn’t even mention 2012 Olympic steeplechase finalist Donn Cabral above in our preview. He really struggled in his first post-collegiate season, but then it came out he had Lyme Disease. An open 3,000 isn’t really his cup of tea, but a PR here might be a good sign that his move to the NY/NJ track club is going to pay dividends.

Full Field

GEBRHIWET, HAGOS     Silver medal in 5,000 at Worlds in 2013     7:30.36 / 12:47.43 (WJR) PRs

GEBREMESKEL, DEJEN     2012 Olympic silver medal in 5,000, 2011 Worlds bronze medal     7:34.14 / 12:46.81 PRs

LEVINS, CAMERON     5,000/10,000 NCAA champion and Olympic 10,000 finalist in 2012     13:19.16 (National Indoor Record) SB     8:14.69 2M / 13:15.19 PRs

HILL, RYAN     Finalist in 2013 Worlds 5,000     3:59.00 (Alt.) mile SB     7:42.32 / 13:14.22 PRs

MEAD, HASSAN     7:46.18 / 13:11.80 PRs

HEATH, GARRETT     2014 BUPA Edinburgh XC short course champion     3:54.59 mile SB     3:53.15 mile / 7:44.87 / 13:20.01 PRs

BLANKENSHIP, BEN     7:55.04 SB     3:54.10 mile / 7:47.07 PRs

CABRAL, DONN     8th in steeplechase at 2012 Olympics     4:01.17 mile SB     8:19.14 (Am. Coll. Record) steeplechase PR

KOECH, ISIAH     Bronze medal in 5,000 at 2013 Worlds     7:30.43 / 12:48.64 PRs

CHELANGA, SAM     13:04.35 5,000 SB     7:48.24 / 13:04.35 PRs

MILLER, CRAIG     Pace?     3:57.69 mile SB     7:49.94 PR

BRUCHET, LUC     3:57.71 / 7:54.57 SBs / PRs

BUMBALOUGH, ANDREW     2013 National road 5k champion     7:40.02 / 13:12.01 PRs

TURNER, DE’SEAN     3:58.50 mile SB     8:25.56 steeplechase PR

Men’s 4 X 800 World Record Attempt

We’ve always thought the 4 x 800 is one of the best events in track and field. Well, there is going to be a special 4 x 800 on Saturday as three teams will take a crack at the 7:13.94 indoor world record. The tree teams are Duane’s All-Stars, led by Duane Solomon, the Brooks Beasts, led by Nick Symmonds, and the NY/NJ Track Club, led by Robby Andrews – at least on paper as he hasn’t been running great as of late.

The record comes out to 1:48.45 per man so you’d think it would go down based on the entrants’ PRs as shown below:

Duane’s All-Stars
Duane Solomon 1:42.82
Richard Jones 1:45.56
Erik Sowinski 1:45.21
David Torrence 1:45.14
Total: 6:58.73

Brooks Beasts
Matt Scherer 1:46.11
Mark Wieczorek 1:45.36
Casimir Loxsom 1:45.28
Nick Symmonds 1:42.95
Total: 6:59.70

NY/NJ Track Club 
Robby Andrews: 1:44.71
Mike Rutt: 1:45.08
Brian Gagnon: 1:45.45
Selasi Lumax 1:47.34
Total: 7:01.26

But the world record falling is easier said than done. For example, last week Symmonds opened up with a win in North Carolina at 1:48.64 in a race where two of his Brooks teammates Mark Wieczorek (1:49.66) and Cas Loxsom (1:50.14) also ran. The running start one gets in a relay certainly helps, as does atmosphere, but most of these guys are far from 800 PR shape, so there is a decent chance the record doesn’t fall.

As for NJ/NY, three of their four guys opened up at the mile at the Armory a few weeks ago and none of them broke 4:00.

As a result, might the favorite be Duane’s All-Stars? We know Solomon and Sowinski are in good shape as they ran the 600 at the Armory and ran 1:16 (Sowinski’s actually run three 1:16s this year). We don’t believe Richard Jones has raced this year and David Torrence was last in the 4-person 1,500 in Glasgow but he’s likely in good enough shape as he was within 1.50 seconds of Chris O’Hare.

Update: A bunch of NY/NJ track club guys ran in an 800 on Friday at BU. They ran smoking fast. The top 4 times added up to 7:08.70. So if you subtract 1.5 seconds for a relay, it’s clear the record will go down. It’s just a matter of how much.

More: *Brooks Beasts Vs. NY/NJ Track Club: World Record 4 X 800 Attempt To Take Place at 2014 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix
*Duane Solomon Getting A Team For AR 4 X 800 Attempt Vs. Nick Symmonds’ & Robby Andrews’ Teams