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Men's 1,500m Round 1 - All 4 Americans Move To Semis While Algerian 1, 2 Fail To Advance
Scenario: Opening Round Heats. 4 Heats, Top 5 Automatically Advance Plus Next 4 Fastest Times
The opening day of the Berlin World Championships featured the first round of the men's 1,500m, where only 24 of the world's top 1,500m runners would advance to the semifinal ronud.
After one round, the Kenyans and Americans seem to be the big winners, while the Algerians lost their top two competitors, both medal hopefuls.
The USA team advanced all four of their entrants, partly due to good fortune and partly due to fantastic finishing speed from global championship veterans.
Heat 1 - Baala Impresses And Manzano Makes Big Step Forward
Manzano, who talked to LetsRun.com's Weldon Johnson after the race (right), displayed a real step up in class, finishing ahead of Iguider, Aussie Jeff Riseley and Bahraini Belal Mansoor Ali.
The biggest casualty of Heat 1 was Spaniard Arturo Casado, usually one of the best closers in the world in the 1,500. He was seventh at this meet in 2007.
Returning to Manzano, he got in a real pinch with 300 to go but, as he mentions in his interview, he was able to stay calm and burst through when a gap emerged, running his final 300 through traffic in under 39 seconds.
Heat 1 Results Men's 1,500m Round 1
Heat 2 - Kiprop And Lagat Advance, Going 1-2 In Tough Heat
Unfortunately for Zerguelaine, the pace was not quick (800m in 2:03), and his 6th-place finish ultimately cost him a spot in the semifinal as the four favorites above plus South African Peter Van der Westhuizen took the automatic spots. Kiprop and Lagat performed perfect tactical races to go 1-2 off the slow pace. Weldon Johnson caught up with Kiprop after the race (right), though it's a bit hard to make out his words. Lagat talks a bit further down along with Dorian Ulrey.
Also after the race, Weldon Johnson caught up with Aussie Ryan Gregson (interview below), who led the first 500m or so of the heat before fading to 10th. Gregson said he looked at the heat sheet and said to himself, "If I'm going to have a crack I need to just put my balls on the line. And I gave it a shot." Gregson went on to give an interesting opinion on who the best American junior runner is, and you might be surprised who he named.
Heat 2 Results Men's 1,500m 1st Round
Heat 3 - Lomong Makes It 3-for-3 For Team America
The big winners in Heat 3 were American Lopez Lomong (a close third) and Britain's 2008 miling sensation Andy Baddeley (4th). Favorites Augustine Choge (3:29 this year), Amine Laalou (moving up from the 800m, his former race specialty) and Henok Legesse (ETH) advanced, but again Algeria was disappointed, as Tarek Boukensa finished in 6th, the same spot he finished last year in the Olympic final. He didn't know it at the time, but he would miss out on the WC sem-final when all was said and done.
Heat 3 Results Men's 1,500m Round 1
Heat 4 - Fastest Heat Yields All 4 Time Qualifiers
In all, nine men qualified for the semis from Heat 4. Some competitors like Nate Brannen and Dorian Ulrey got a little lucky, as their 7th- and 8th-place finishes yielded passes to the next round. Great Britain's James Brewer, headed to Cal next year and added as a late addition to the British squad, needed no luck as he finished in 3rd, running a PR of 3:37.17 to defeat, among others, Bahrain's Yusuf Kamel.
Ethiopian Deresse Mekonnen and Kenyan Haron Keitany were the heat leaders, less than 0.2 seconds ahead of Brewer.
Coming in behind the five automatic qualifiers were two exhausted runners in Dorian Ulrey (interviewed above, joined by Bernard Lagat) and Brannen. Ulrey, speaking after the race, said, "It hurts ... It was the first race in over a month. To come back and just kind of bust off the rust with a 3:38 was ... not bad." The Arkansas rising senior was clearly happy with his race though he was in a world of pain.
Heat 4 Results Men's 1,500m Round 1
Americans Celebrate Perfect 4-for-4 Performance
Lopez Lomong, the 2008 American Olympian in charge of carrying the flag at the Beijing opening ceremonies, summed up the American accomplishment: "To be able to put four in the semis is beautiful for us. It's great."
But the happiest member of the team seemed to be their leader and world champion Bernard Lagat, who was all smiles when he found out that young Dorian Ulrey has managed his way into the final. Ulrey, physically drained from the race, was worried about the next round, but Lagat reminded him that tomorrow is another day.
When asked what he felt his impact has been on American miling, Lagat responded, "These guys now, when they are training, when they are competing against me at nationals ... they want to be the best and they want to beat me. That thinking alone ... raises the bar."