Women’s 1500: Jenny Simpson versus Abeba Aregawi, Brenda Martinez and Eunice Sum; High Schooler Elise Cranny Goes for Mary Cain’s Record

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Jenny Simpson Looks to Go Sub-4:00 for Just the Second Time Against 2013 World Champs Abeba Aregawi and Eunice Sum, Brenda Martinez Eyes Sub 4:00

By LetsRun.com
May 29, 2014

In the women’s mid-d and distance events, the 1500 meters is clearly the marquee race of the 2014 Pre Classic. The field is astounding, featuring 8 of the 12 athletes from last year’s world championship final in Moscow, including the top five. There’s also defending world 800 champion Eunice Sum, World Championship 800m bronze medallist Brenda Martinez,  and high school senior Elise Cranny, who ran 4:10.95 at Payton Jordan and will look to get closer to Mary Cain‘s HS record of 4:04.62.

We’re super-excited about this one and have several thoughts about it.

Quick Thought #1: This is still Ethiopian-born Swede Abeba Aregawi’s race to lose.

Aregawi and Jenny Simpson have been the two best 1500 runners on the planet over the past three years, but when they run head-to-head, Aregawi almost always wins. And usually, it’s not even close. Check out their seven races against each other lifetime:

RaceDateAregawiSimpson
Monaco7/22/20114:10.30 (15th)4:03.54 (5th)
Stockholm8/17/20124:02.04 (3rd)4:04.71 (5th)
Zurich8/30/20124:05.29 (1st)4:08.38 (7th)
Rome6/6/20134:00.23 (1st)4:02.30 (3rd)
Moscow WC8/15/20134:02.67 (1st)4:02.99 (2nd)
Brussels9/6/20134:05.41 (1st)4:10.70 (10th)
Shanghai5/18/20143:58.72 (1st)4:00.42 (2nd)

Aside from their first showdown in Monaco three years ago, Aregawi has won and won convincingly every time she’s faced Simpson. The only close race in there is last year’s World Championship final, where Simpson couldn’t run down Aregawi before the finish line. As good as Simpson is, Aregawi is just better and is the clear favorite here. Not only is she the defending world champion, but she’s in great form in 2014, winning world indoors by a staggering 6+ seconds and then running a world-leading 3:58.78 to beat Simpson two weeks ago.

Jenny Simpson On Medal Stand in 2011

Gold = she needs another sub-4.

Quick Thought #2: Simpson is ready for a big PB.

Frankly, it’s amazing to us that given she won world championships gold at 1500 in 2011 and silver in 2013, Simpson still hasn’t run faster than her 3:59.90 from this meet in 2009 when she was still a collegian. That year, Simpson wasn’t even focusing on the 1500 as her main event was the steeplechase. In fact, she had to race the steeple at NCAAs just three days after her 1500 at Pre.

Simpson is clearly fit. She ran 4:03.91 to win in Tokyo on May 11 and ran 4:00.42, the second-best time of her life, to get second behind Aregawi in Shanghai two weeks ago. When we talked to her training partner Emma Coburn last week, she said she thought Simpson could get convicted drug user Mary Decker-Slaney‘s American record of 3:57.12 at some point. It might seem optimistic to hope for a 2.78-second PB in a 1500, but there’s no doubt that Simpson is in better shape now than when she ran her PB back in 2009. Anna Pierce (Willard) is #3 on the all-time U.S. list at 3:59.38 and that seems like a reasonable goal for Simpson in this one. With no championship meet to peak for, Simpson’s coach Mark Wetmore told us that her goals for 2014 are to get faster across multiple events, and a PB here would certainly accomplish that.

Quick Thought #3: If Aregawi doesn’t win, Kenya’s Hellen Obiri, and not Simpson, might be the favorite.

Simpson does have the head-to-head edge on Obiri, 5-2, but Obiri has been sensational in 2014, taking silver at world indoors at 3k, winning the Drake Relays 1500 comfortably and running a potentially clean outdoor world record of 8:20.68 in the 3k in Doha on May 9. She also anchored the world-record setting Kenyan 4×1500 team at the World Relays with a solo 4:06.9 leg, the fastest of the competition.

In case you forgot, Obiri set a meet and Hayward Field record last year to win this race by 2.50 seconds in 3:58.58. Though that field didn’t include Aregawi or Simpson, it was still very strong (seven of the top eight return this year). Using the Purdy conversion table, Obiri’s 8:20.68 equates to a 3:50.84 1500. Obviously Obiri won’t run quite that fast, but a new PB is certainly a possibility.

Quick Thought #4: 3:56 woman and 2012 World Junior champ Faith Kipyegon is also in the field and shouldn’t be discounted.

We’d certainly expect the 20-year old to be competitive. Kipyegon is clearly fit as she ran 8:23 in Doha and broke open the 4 x 1500 in the Bahamas last week on leg #2. Remember, she’s the young lady who destroyed Mary Cain at World Juniors in 2012.

Quick Thought #45: Another name to watch is Obiri’s countrywoman, defending world 800 champ Eunice Sum.

Sum isn’t as accomplished over the longer distance, running five 1500s last year and only once finishing higher than fourth. But that strength work paid off for her big time in the 800. This year, she’s in good form at 800 as she ran 1:59.33 to win the Doha DL 800 and split 1:59.2 at the 2014 IAAF World Relays. She won’t win here with 1500 specialists Aregawi, Simpson and Obiri all in the field, but she can lower her 4:02.1=05 pr.

Quick Thought #6: Can Brenda Martinez (PB: 4:00.94) Go Sub 4?

Simpson isn’t the only American looking to go sub 4:00 here. Brenda Martinez, the World Champ bronze medallist at 800, is in the field. Martinez was second to Obiri at Drake in 4:06.96 and won heat 1 of the 800 at Oxy (1:59.91). She also pulled double duty at the World Relays last week, running a 4:10.4 to anchor the 4×1500 to silver and a superb 1:58.7 (fastest split of the competition) to anchor the 4×800 to gold. At the moment, Martinez’s stronger event is the 800, but her good form suggests she may be ready for a 1500 breakthrough too. Sub-4:00 is certainly a possibility at Pre for Martinez who ran 4:00.94 in Monaco last year.

Quick Thought # 7: High School mania despite the absence of Mary Cain as Elise Cranny races.

Cain and coach Alberto Salazar have elected to run the 800 here instead of the 1500. That’s good news for 18-year-old Elise Cranny of Colorado is in the field as for once the HS spotlight will solely be on her. The Stanford-bound Cranny ran a 4+ second PB on her future home track at Payton Jordan to become the #2 U.S. high schooler of all time behind Cain’s 4:04.62 at 4:10.95.

The #4 runner on the all-time U.S. HS 1500 list is also currently in the high school ranks (but not in the field). She’s only a junior, Alexa Efraimson. Efraimson of Washington ran a 4:32.15 mile at the Millrose Games this year, which converts to 4:15.65 for the 1500. We hope that fans of American running appreciate just how rare it is to have three mega-talents like this around at the same time. Two-time Foot Locker champ Jordan Hasay, who ran 4:14.50 at the Olympic trials in 2008, is the only other U.S. high schooler to break 4:16.

Cranny has by far the slowest PB in the field, but the adrenaline of being in Hayward coupled with the huge crowd support may get her closer to Cain’s HS record of 4:04.62. It won’t be easy though as Cranny’s race at Payton Jordan was won in 4:07, while the winner at Pre will likely go sub-4:00. Hopefully Cranny has been watching youtube clips of Alan Webb’s 3:53 run (embedded on the right) at Prefontaine in 2001 as she’ll need to hang in the back and then try to pick people off.

If Cranny can hang on to the back of the pack, and then compete, she will find herself running a very fast time just like Webb did in 2001 (we don’t think Cranny can move up to finish 5th on the final lap as Webb did in that race, though).

If Cain was in the race, we’d definitely pick her to beat Cranny. Cain is a world championships finalist and two-time U.S. indoor champ at the mile/1500. But it would have been fun to see Cranny try to chase down Cain herself.

Women’s 1500
NameDOBCOUNTRYPBSBComment
AREGAWI Abeba05.07.1990SWE3:56.543:58.72The current queen of the 1500. Defending indoor/outdoor world champ ran 3:58 to win Shanghai DL two weeks ago.
BUCKMAN Zoe21.12.1988AUS4:04.824:07.56Worlds 7th-placer in ’13; 4:08 split last weekend at World Relays
CRANNY Elise09.05.1996USA4:10.954:10.95Big PB at Payton Jordan and chance to go even faster here
EMBAYE Axumawit18.10.1994ETH4:05.1619-year-old was silver medalist at world indoors
ENGLAND Hannah06.03.1987GBR4:01.894:07.824th at ’13 WC and silver medalist in ’11. Hasn’t broken 4:03 since ’11.
HILALI Siham02.05.1986MAR4:01.33Finalist at ’13 WC and ’08 OG was 4th here last year
KIPYEGON Faith Chepngetich10.01.1994KEN3:56.9820-year-old was 5th at WC in ’13; ran 8:23 3k in Doha DL; part of Kenyan gold medal 4×1500 at World Relays
LANGAT Nancy Jebet22.08.1981KEN4:00.1308 OG gold medalist only has one ’14 result: 17:02 5k in Kenya on April 12
MARTINEZ Brenda08.09.1987USA4:00.944:06.96WC bronze medalist at 800 was 2nd at Drake behind Obiri; silver and gold at World Relays including 1:58.6 anchor in 4×800
MOSER Treniere27.10.1981USA4:02.854:06.38Defending U.S. champ was 4th at world indoors but just 8th in Shanghai. Set PB here a year ago.
OBIRI Hellen13.12.1989KEN3:58.584:04.882nd at world indoors 3k. 8:20 3k at Doha DL (#1 clean all-time outdoors) and easy win at Drake 1500; part of Kenyan 4×1500 gold medal team
SIMPSON Jennifer23.08.1986USA3:59.904:00.4211 world champ and ’13 silver medalist. Won in Tokyo and second behind Aregawi in Shanghai.
SUM Eunice Jepkoech10.04.1988KEN4:02.05800 world champ is 4-for-4 in 800s in ’14 after win in Doha. 1500 opener. 1:59.2 split in 4×800 at World Relays.
WEIGHTMAN Laura01.07.1991GBR4:02.9912 OG finalist makes her 2014 debut here