Men's 1,500m Final: Matt Centrowitz Jr. Pulls Away From Bernard Lagat

June 25, 2011
*Race Video And Results At Bottom Of Page

Coming down the homestretch of the men's 1,500m final, the world's second-fastest man ever at 1,500m - Bernard Lagat - pulled up on the shoulder of Oregon's NCAA champion Matt Centrowitz Jr. Then the unthinkable happened. Centro Jr. put the hammer down and pulled away from Lagat to win the USATF 1,500m title in 3:47.63. The battle for the World Championships spots behind Lagat and Centro was fierce, as a lot of guys were in contention due to the super-slow pace. 2010 US #1 Leo Manzano got the third spot and pre-race favorite Andrew Wheating dove at the line to get fourth by .01 over Will Leer. Wheating was dejected after the race thinking he had missed the third World's spot, but with Lagat running the 5,000m at Worlds, Wheating will get the third spot assuming he hits the "A" standard. We recap the race and have post-race reaction below.

Field Of 13 Starts Slow
The 13-man field included NCAA runner-up and 2009 Worlds team member Dorian Ulrey, who didn't qualify for the final on time, proving the easiest way to make a final at USATFs is to fall down or file a protest saying you were impeded.

Last year's NCAA runner-up A.J. Acosta brought the men through 400 in 65.5 - nearly three seconds slower than the women's final fifteen minutes earlier.

Lagat and Matthew Centrowitz were on his shoulder as the pack moved towards 800.

A 66.4 second lap continued the slow pace as the men  (2:11.9) were still slower than the women. At 1,000 meters, Jordan McNamara was in the lead, followed by Centro, Lagat and Andrew Wheating. McNamara looked good surging at the bell and it appeared he might be able to open up a gap on the main players behind him. However, there was no way a 56.2 third lap was going to drop the likes of Centro and Lagat, as they were right on McNamara's heels heading into the backstretch.

At 200 to go, Centro and Lagat moved to the lead with Andrew Wheating lurking and Olympians Lopez Lomong and Leo Manzano, both who have struggled in 2011, in pursuit.

Centro led onto the final straight with Lagat right off his shoulder. Lagat pulled even with Centro with with 50 to go, and then Centro turned on the jets for the win before the hometown Hayward Field crowd. Centro was clearly best the last 50m just as he was at the NCAA final two weeks prior. Centro's final 400 was 52.7 (39.4 last 300). A resurgent Manzano, who is known for his tactical prowess and finishing speed, came on with tremendous determination the final 50 (he was 6th with about 50 to go) to place third with Wheating, unable to summon his normal unstoppable finish, in fourth .01 ahead of Will Leer. Just behind Leer was adidas GP winner David Torrence.

After the race, Lagat, the 5,000m winner Friday night, told Wheating he will not race the 1,500m in South Korea, so Wheating will be on the team assuming he hits the "A" standard of 3:35.00, which shouldn't be a problem considering he ran 3:30 last year.

Centro Jr. Discusses The Huge Win And Even His Throat Slash Gesture
Centro Jr. will have to change his summer plans, as now he needs to go race in Europe to prepare for Worlds. Centro will need to hit at least the IAAF "B" standard of 3:38.00 to go to Worlds. The other athletes in the 1,500m will need to hit the IAAF "A" standard of 3:35.00 to go to Worlds. The 1,500m team will be filled out by the athletes who hit the "A" standard by their rank order finish at these champs, so presumably Wheating and Manzano would go with Centro.

Afterward, Centro said he was confident he could get in the top three, but it was still exciting to win. He said, "I don't think it's set in yet. Taking a victory lap with guys like Lagat and Leo Manzano is just exciting and just to be running alongside of them and to be mentioned with them is an honor. I'm pumped." Centro, son of former American record holder Matt Centrowitz Sr., is only 21 and he's the best in the US. In the post-race interview, he was even asked about the "throat slash" gesture at the NCAA champs and he handled it with aplomb. Centro said, "All the guys know I'm respectful and didn't mean anything with it."

Lagat Full Of Praise For Centro
The 36-year-old veteran Lagat was full of praise for the 21-year-old Centrowitz. Lagat said he was impressed with Centro's smooth running style all weekend. Lagat said, "I saw him on the first day ... (and told others) 'That's the guy to watch in the finals.'" Lagat, who's son Miika is his #1 fan and was cheering for him every lap of the 5,000m on Friday night, said it was OK with Miika that his dad did not win. Bernard said Miika told him BEFORE the race, "You know what daddy, you've run a lot (this week). If you lose, it's part of running."

Leo said it was "one of the bumpiest races" he's been in. He was "happy to get out there and get going again." He's been fighting a couple of injuries and felt like today was the first day he got it back together. Leo said the final 100m all he could think was, "I'm not staying here. I'm going to Daegu." He hopes to hit the "A" Standard in Paris in two weeks.

Wheating Gets Emotional When Thinking About Lagat Running The 5,000m
The most thankful man in the field was Andrew Wheating, who felt he was given a gift by Lagat. Wheating even roughly 30 minutes after the race was a bit emotional when talking about when Lagat came up to him and said, according to Wheating, "Don't worry about it, I'm doing the 5k." As for Lagat's decision, Wheating said emotionally, "Nicest man ... Ever ... I was ten times more disappointed than I am now before he told me." Wheating said he thinks he needs a little more strength to be 100% but that Vin Lananna would know for sure.

Leer Goes Off On Lagat, Torrence Looks For Answers
That brings us to to the first two guys who didn't make the team. Will Leer had the fastest last lap in the field (51.85) but ran an absolutely HORRIBLE race tactically and finished just 1/100th of a second behind Wheating. That 1/100th of a second will likely keep him off the Worlds team.

Leer, however, then let his frustrations boil over after the race and should have kept his mouth shut instead of spewing out the nonsense that he did. In an interview with flotrack (message board thread on this here) that is embedded below, Leer had this to say: "I feel like I was fourth rightly." We believe that he is implying that he finished ahead of Wheating, but it is unclear from the interview. Then he said, "When you put a field of 3:35 guys together and a 3:26 guy (Lagat) who just ran a 5k last night ... I don't know - I'll be outspoken about it. I think it was kind of shitty that he (Lagat) kept going to the front and slowing down the pace. If you're tired get out of the way. Yeah, he got second, especially if he's not going to run this event at Worlds." The he added, "It's a competition. There is a sort element of sportsmanship associated with this sport. Track and field is a gentleman's game. I can only blame myself." After saying he could only blame himself he said, "It's a windy day. You're not doing yourself any favors by going to the front and pushing the pace."

(Update: 6/27 Will Leer has sincerely apologized for his comments to Lagat).

Memo to Will Leer: You are not going to Worlds because you ran a horribly bad tactical race. In a slow race, you were in tenth place with 400m to go. You did have the fastest last lap of the race and might have run even faster, but you had nowhere to run. The other thing that you said that was correct (besides speculating you had the fastest last lap) was "It's a tactical rut I have to get myself out of."

David Torrence also just missed Worlds, finishing 6th but only .12 from 4th, but was more gracious than Leer. He said he was boxed in until the final 100m when lane 1 opened up, but then he "couldn't execute." He said he's been working on his speed and added "I thought I was fit. I thought I was fast, but I was not fast enough". Clearly disappointed, he said, "I was pretty set on just (making the team for) Daegu ... Not making this is a huge blow to everything, my confidence, my plans, my career. I've got to regroup and figure out what to do next."

Quick Take #1: It seems every 1,500m runner in the world thinks they can kick with anyone, as slow championship races are very common. Perhaps Vin should show Wheating old Steve Holman videos or Hicham El Guerrouj pre-2004 to see what happens often to the favorite in a sit-and-kick race. Dominating from the front is tough as well - see Christin Wurth-Thomas - but rolling the dice on an all-out 400m seems even riskier to us.

Quick Take #2: Remember two years ago when Evan Jager was the young phenom who surprised everyone by making the 5,000m team? Here, coming back from injury, he ran the 1,500m.

Quick Take #3: Dorian Ulrey shouldn't have been in the final. If there isn't a foul, then athletes should not be put in the final. It's becoming so common it's not a wonder that people joke the Swoosh often finds it way in the final.

Quick Take #4: Will Leer - Updated to reflect his apology: We ourselves at have said a lot of stupid stuff over the years. Your comments actually made us fans of your running because they made us rewatch the race focusing on you 100%. You did have a lot left in the tank. Having said that, you had the 11th-best PR of people in the field coming in.

1 Matthew Centrowitz Oregon 3:47.63
2 Bernard Lagat Nike 3:47.96
3 Leonel Manzano Nike 3:48.16
4 Andrew Wheating Oregon TC Elite 3:48.19
5 William Leer Nike 3:48.20
6 David Torrence Nike 3:48.31
7 Lopez Lomong Nike 3:48.54
8 Dorian Ulrey Arkansas 3:49.02
9 Kyle Miller Nike 3:49.38
10 Jordan McNamara Oregon TC Elite 3:49.61
11 AJ Acosta Oregon 3:50.02
12 Evan Jager Oregon TC Elite 3:50.11
13 Michael Hammond Virginia Tech 3:55.69

Full 2011 USATF 1,500m Video From NBC

Matt Centrowitz Jr. On Beating His Inspiration Lagat,
The Throat Slit Gesture And More

Bernard Lagat On Centro Jr, Getting 2nd,
Giving His Spot To Wheating & The Lesson From His Son Miika


Leo Manzano On Finally Putting It Together In 2011

Andrew Wheating Gets Emotional On Talking About Lagat's Gift
More Wheating Coverage Here

David Torrence Says It's A "Huge Blow" Not To Make Daegu

(Update: 6/27 Will Leer has sincerely apologized for his comments to Lagat)
Will Leer Tees Off On Lagat (Discussion Here)

A Disappointed AJ Acosta

Men's 800m:
LRC Men's 800m: Nick Symmonds Makes it Four in a Row
Women's 800m: LRC Women's 800m: Alysia Goes Wire to Wire
Women's Steeplechase: LRC Emma Coburn Wins, Stephanie Garcia Falls, and Hey Delilah Goes to Korea

Saturday USATF Coverage
Men's 1500m: LRC Matt Centrowitz Jr Pulls Away from Bernard Lagat
Women's 1500m: LRC The Thrill Victory (Morgan Uceny) and Agony of Defeat (Christin Wurth Thomas)
Men's Steeple: LRC Billy Nelson's Return to Oregon is Successful

Friday: USATF Coverage
Men' 5000m: LRC Men's 5,000m: Bernard Lagat's 3:57.80 Close Wins A Thriller Over Chris Solinsky And Galen Rupp
Women's 5000m: LRC Women's 5,000m: Molly Huddle Impresses, Hastings And Bizzarri Continue The Mammoth Mojo
800m Semis: LRC All the Favorites Advance And KD Asks For Some Energy From His Fans In The Final
*Ashton Eaton Sets PR With Decathlon Win, Olympic Gold Medallist Bryan Clay Falls In 110 Hurdles And Doesn't Finish The Meet
*Walter Dix Just Outleans Justin Gatlin To Win US Champs 100 
*SI's Tim Layden Takes a Look at Justin Gatlin's Situation
*Post Race Interviews

Complete Thursday USATF Coverage: *10k Photos
Men's 10k: LRC Men's 10,000m: Galen Rupp Closes Out Matt Tegenkamp With 1:52.5 Final 800m
Women's 10k: LRC Women's 10,000m: Shalane Flanagan Goes Wire to Wire Over Kara Goucher and Field
1500m Round 1 and Men's Steeple Round1: LRC Thursday's 1500m Heats: 2011 US Leader Russell Brown Bows Out
800M Round 1: LRC: 800m Round 1 Goes According to Form


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