Men’s 4 X 1,500: A Kenyan Team For The Ages Goes For The World Record, The US Battles Ethiopia For Silver

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by LetsRun.com
May 23, 2014

Where you stand on Sunday night’s men’s 4 x 1,500 relay (6:46 pm ET) at the inaugural 2014 IAAF World Relays depends on what you define as a good race. If you’re a fan of close races and exciting finishes, this probably isn’t the one for you. But if you’re a fan of GREATNESS and world records, this is the race to pay attention to.

The entrants in the race are (in alphabetical order):

Australia, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Kenya, Poland, Qatar, Spain, and the USA.

Five thoughts:

1)      Hand the gold medal to Kenya now.

The Kenyan team – some collection of Collins Cheboi, Nixon Chepseba, Silas Kiplagat, Asbel Kiprop and James Magut – is the greatest collection of 1,500 talent ever assembled on one team. Going by the fastest times put up in the world so far in 2014, Kenya has five of the top seven runners in the world on their team, of which they have to choose four, including #1 (Kiprop, 3:29.18), #2 (Kiplagat, 3:29.70) and #3 (Magut, 3:30.61).

Here’s one little indication of how good this team is. Magut ran 3:30.61 in Doha earlier this month. That would place him fourth on the all-time American list, but when he ran it he was only the third-fastest Kenyan IN THAT RACE.

If you take the average of the top four Kenyans’ PBs, it comes out to 3:29.34. In world history, only 13 humans have run faster than 3:29.34. Put more simply, by PB, the average Kenyan leg on this relay is equivalent to the #14 runner of all time.

2)      Wouldn’t this be better as a 4 x mile?

With that much talent, the Kenyans will be able to run something really fast for the 4 x 1,500 … does anyone know what a good time for the 4 x 1,500 is? Nearly every year, there’s talk of a team trying to go sub-16:00 in the 4 x mile Championship of America at the Penn Relays. It’s an easy number to calculate performances off of because a 4:00 mile is a nice round number – a team runs 16:20 and you know immediately that’s 4:05 a leg. It’s way harder to figure out what a good 4 x 1,500 time is.

In honor of our friends at Bring Back the Mile, we’ve converted the Kenyans’ 1,500 times to miles (we multiplied by 1.08) to figure out what they could run for a 4 x mile. Going by PRs, the top four Kenyans would run …

Asbel Kiprop is simply the world's best

Asbel Kiprop is simply the world’s best.

15:04.41!

American distance fans get pumped up when a collegiate team threatens 16:00 and here are the Kenyans knocking on the door of 15:00. That’s ridiculous.

Guess what that averages out to per leg? 3:46.10 per man – faster than Alan Webb‘s American record of 3:46.91.

Okay, you’re thinking, you’re using PRs, which isn’t fair. It’s only May and people aren’t in shape yet. We’ll go by season’s bests instead. Again converting the top four times to miles, the Kenyans would run:

15:09.13 (3:47.28 per man). Pretty lousy, right?

For comparison’s sake, we ran the same numbers for the top four Americans and churned out the following:

Based on PR: 15:22.86 (3:51.34 per man)

Based on SB: 15:45.10 (3:56.27 mile per man)

Those are pretty darn good numbers but the Americans would finish more than a straightaway behind the Kenyans based on PR. Based on SB, they wouldn’t even have entered the final turn as the Kenyans crossed the finish line. There’s no way a single runner on the US team would be selected for the Kenyan team. Even if World Championships silver medalist Matthew Centrowitz was running, we aren’t sure if the Kenyans would pick him for their team. His personal best of 3:31.86 is barely faster than the fourth-fastest Kenyan seasonal best this year (3:32.30).

Here’s how the US and Kenya look on paper:

Men’s 4 x 1,500
Team KenyaDOB1,500 PR/(conv. to mile)2014 SBComments
Collins CHEBOI25.09.19873:31.53 / 3:48.453:32.302011 All-Africa Games silver medalist; 9th at Doha DL.
Nixon Kiplimo CHEPSEBA12.12.19903:29.77 / 3:46.553:34.644th at Worlds last year but just 13th at Doha DL.
Silas KIPLAGAT20.08.19893:29.27 / 3:46/483:29.706th at Worlds last year; silver medalist in ’11. 2nd at Doha DL.
Asbel KIPROP30.06.19893:27.72 / 3:45/913:29.182x defending world champ and ’08 Olympic champ. Best 1,500 runner in the world. Won Doha DL.
James Kiplagat MAGUT20.07.19903:30.61 / 3:47.463:30.61Commonwealth Games silver medalist ran PR to take 5th at Doha DL.
Top 4 PR avg = 3:29.34 / 3:46.10 mile per man
Top 4 SB avg = 3:30. 45 / 3:47.27 mile per man
Team USADOB1,500 PR/mile*2014 SBComments
Robby ANDREWS29.03.19913:34.78 / 3:51.973:42.542-time NCAA 800 champ is likely running just 4 x 800.
Patrick CASEY10.04.19873:35.95 / 3:53.233:35.95Former Montana St./Oklahoma runner ran 4+ sec. PR to take 2nd at Oxy behind Centro.
Garrett HEATH03.11.19853:34.12 / 3:51.253:36.885th at Oxy and ran 13:16 5k PB at Stanford. 7th at world indoors in ’10.
Will LEER15.04.19853:35.27 / 3:52.493:35.34 (conv. mile)7th at World Indoors; 5th at Oxy 5k in 13:23. 3:52.47 mile indoors this year.
Leonel MANZANO12.09.19843:32.37 / 3:49.363:39.18 (conv. mile)Olympic silver medalist; 5th at USA indoors, won U.S. road mile on April 22
David TORRENCE26.11.19853:33.23 / 3:50.293:44.626th at USA indoors; 6th last week in 800 in Puerto Rico (1:47.25)
(Note, we didn’t include Andrews as we assume Casey is running).
Top 4 PR avg = 3:33.63 / 3:50.72 mile per man
Top 4 avg sb= 3:39.15 / 3:56.69 miler per man
*Converted from 1500. We just converted their 1500 pb to a mile pb.
Leo won't be wearing a Hoka One One shirt in this one

Leo won’t be wearing a Hoka One One shirt in this one.

3)     Do the Americans have a chance for silver?

Yes. The American squad will likely consist of four of the following five: Patrick Casey, Garrett Heath, Will Leer, Leo Manzano and David Torrence.

(Update: Garrett Heath has been left off the team. He’s not happy about it and we totally understand as he had been told he was on the team. He’s off apparently because he lost to Pat Casey last week when he was training through the race).

Casey just posted a breakout 4+ second PR at Oxy, Leer is coming off a great indoor season and Heath ran 3:36 at Oxy. Manzano won the U.S. road mile last month and is the best tactician of the group. It makes sense to put him on anchor here since the race for silver could get tactical if the field decides to let the Kenyans go. If he doesn’t run anchor, he needs to run leadoff as he’s very bad at running all alone in a time trial-type situation.

The stats say look for the Americans to battle it out with Ethiopia for silver. The Ethiopians’ average PR is better than the Americans’, 3:32.69 to 3:33.63, and they’ve got a very good 1-2 punch in Aman Wote (#6 time in the world, World Indoor silver, crushed everyone at Drake mile) and Mekonnen Gebremedhin (7th, 6th and 7th at last three global outdoor championships). Both of them have faster PRs than any American, so if it’s close at the end, they have the edge. The other two Ethiopian legs haven’t raced yet this year so don’t hand silver to the Ethiopians yet.

Team EthiopiaDOBPR2014 SBComments
Zebene ALEMAYEHU04.09.19923:33.733:33.73 (2013)Went out in heats at Worlds last year; yet to race in 2014.
Soresa FIDA27.05.19933:34.723:36.73 (2013)20-year-old has yet to race in 2014.
Mekonnen GEBREMEDHIN11.10.19883:31.453:37.427th, 6th and 7th at last three global outdoor champs. Didn’t make final at world indoors in ’14.
Chalachew SHIMELS17.09.19963:41.953:41.9517-year-old is very inexperienced. Would make sense as alternate.
Aman WOTE18.04.19843:30.863:30.86Having great 2014: World Indoors silver; won Drake mile by 7+ secs; 2-sec. 1,500 PR at Doha DL.
 Top 4 PR average = 3:32.69

Note: While editing this piece in the Bahamas, Joe Battaglia has told us there is a chance the Ethiopians may not even have a team here. They are still on the entry lists but here’s what he tweeted last week. We’ll try to confirm at the press conference.

4)      Will the world/American records go down?

Kiprop is already on record saying he’d like the world 4 x 1,500 record of 14:36.23 (set by Kenya in 2009) and that should fall fairly easily. It’s only 3:39.05 per man. Even without rabbits and if the Kenyans are all alone for most of the race, there’s no way they don’t break it barring a ridiculous wind storm, especially with the $50,000 world record bonus as an incentive. If the Kenyans are smart, they’ll pull a Sergey Bubka and barely beat the record so they can get the bonus in future years (Bubka used to beat the pole vault world record by the smallest margin possible to keep getting bonuses).

The American record of 14:46 from 2009 is also VERY vulnerable here, especially if the U.S. is in a close race for the silver with Ethiopia. It’s 3:41.57 per man which is very doable.

5)      Who else is running?

The medals will almost certainly go to Kenya, the U.S. and Ethiopia in some order, but there are some other teams worth paying attention to. Australia has 3:31 man Ryan Gregson and Rupp-slayer Collis Birmingham, though some of its team will be doubling back from the 4 x 800 the night before. The same goes for Spain and Poland, who are heavy on 800 types but offer little depth behind 1:43 men Kevin Lopez, Adam Kszczot and Marcin Lewandowski.

Qatar has three legs with  3:36 or faster PRs (Mohamed Al-Garni, Hamza Driouch and Abubaker Ali Kamal) but their fourth leg is over 4 minutes and the 3:36 guys aren’t 3:36 guys any more. Bahrain’s lineup is fascinating: 1:43 man Abraham Rotich, 2009 world 1,500 champ Yusuf Saad Kamel and disgraced drug cheat Rashid Ramzi, who has been MIA since he was stripped of his Olympic 1,500 title from 2008. Like Ramzi, Kamel has done very little since his triumph at Worlds. This is the only team Bahrain has entered in the meet.

BahrainDOBPR2014 SBComments
Yusuf Saad KAMEL29.03.19833:31.56N/A2009 world champ has largely disappeared from international scene. Hasn’t finished a 1,500 since ’11.
Linus KIPLAGAT23.12.19943:36.603:46.0419-year-old has raced just once this year: in February.
Rashid RAMZI17.07.19803:29.143:51.63 (2013)Convicted doper hasn’t done anything since he was stripped of ’08 Olympic title.
Abraham Kipchirchir ROTICH26.09.1993N/AN/A1:43 800 runner has never run a 1,500. Last at Shanghai DL in 1:49.34.
Benson Kiplagat SEUREI27.03.19843:31.613:34.24Just 12th at Doha DL but likely the best guy they have right now.
 Top 4 PR average = meaningless as several haven’t been forces in years.
AustraliaDOBPR2014 SBComments
Collis BIRMINGHAM27.12.19843:35.503:36.77 (conv. mile)5k/10k man has some speed – closed in 55.4 to beat Rupp at Oxy 5k.
Ryan GREGSON26.04.19903:31.063:36.17Runner-up at Aussie champs; 3rd at Oxy behind Centro + Casey.
Sam MCENTEE03.02.19923:36.813:43.33PR is from infamous 2012 Swarthmore meet; hasn’t run better than 3:41 before or since.
Joshua RALPH27.10.1991N/AN/A400/800 runner is almost certainly an alternate.
Jared WEST14.07.1988N/AN/AAnother 400/800 type. Probably the other alternate.
Jordan WILLIAMSZ21.08.19923:36.743:43.01Villanova runner was 8th at NCAA mile indoors; part of 4 x mile squad that got 3rd at Penn.
 Top 4 PR average = 3:35.03
SpainDOBPR2014 SBComments
Carlos ALONSO15.09.19893:37.773:44.80Hasn’t raced since February.
Kevin LÓPEZ12.06.19903:38.303:38.30 (2013)2-time European indoor medalist at 800 but really not a 1,500 guy.
Luis Alberto MARCO20.08.19863:39.363:51.83European indoor silver at 800 in ’09. Went out in semis in 800 in last 3 global outdoor champs. No races since Feb.
Alberto IMEDIO24.05.19913:37.683:42.344th at Spanish indoor champs; 5th at world juniors in 2010.
Álvaro RODRÍGUEZ25.05.19873:34.103:40.10 (2013)Hasn’t raced since March 2013.
Adel MECHAAL05.12.19903:36.783:39.36Runner-up at Spanish indoor champs; went out in heats at World Indoors.
 Top 4 PR average = 3:36.58
QatarPR2014 SBComment
Mohamad AL-GARNI3:36.883:39.7021 years young.
Hamza DRIOUCH3:33.693:41.862012 World Jr. champ.
Abubaker Ali KAMAL3:36.15NA8:15 steepler was Olympic finalist in steeple in 2008.
Hashim Salah MOHAMED3:44.61NAAsian Jr. steeple champ.
Maaz Abdelrahman SHAGAG3:47.56NA
POLANDPR
Mateusz DEMCZYSZAK3:36.15
Karol KONIECZNYNA (1:48 800)
Szymon KRAWCZYK3:38.09
Adam KSZCZOT3:46.53
Marcin LEWANDOWSKI3:37.37

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