The USAs That Were: Brandon Johnson, Leo Manzano, and Tyson Gay Impress, Robby Andrews Disappoints, Nick Symmonds Runs Fast But Loses, and a US Medal In Every Distance Event?

by June 24, 2013 This week’s weekly recap will be done a bit differently. It is going to be done in two parts. Today, we take a look back at the men’s meet at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look back at the women’s meet at USAs. […]

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June 24, 2013

This week’s weekly recap will be done a bit differently. It is going to be done in two parts. Today, we take a look back at the men’s meet at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look back at the women’s meet at USAs. Everything else? It gets ignored as the US Trials are a big deal for most of our visitors.

The Cream Rises To The Top

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As much as runners like to think if they just train harder, the sky is the limit, at the very highest levels talent takes over (for much of running, particularly at the high school level you can easily outwork most of the competition) and that was shown at USAs this year.

Think about all of the men’s mid-d and distance events. The winners of every single event was someone who was top three last year.

800- Duane Solomon (third last year)
1500 – Matt Centrowitz (second last year)
Steeple  – Evan Jager (first last year)
5000 – Bernard Lagat (second last year)
10,000 – Galen Rupp (first last year)

In fact, in four of the five events (everything but the steeple), two of the top three were guys that were in the top three last year.

Biggest Breakthrough Long Term: Brandon Johnson

That being said, people do have breakthroughs and the biggest surprise in the long term has been the rise of former 400 hurdler Brandon Johnson in the 800 meters.

Johnson had reason to smile in Des Moines

Imagine the stares you would have gotten if at the beginning of the year when asked who you thought would represent the US in the 800 in Moscow you’d said, “Well obviously the two 1:42 guys Solomon and Symmonds, but then definitely Brandon Johnson. His PR is only 1:46.23 but trust me, he’s going 1:43 in Des Moines.”

Johnson, who is 28 now, was very good at the 400H. In 2004, he won world junior silver in 2004 behind Kerron Clement in 48.62, a time that would have placed him 5th in the Olympics. He improved his PB to 48.59 in 2005 and in 2008 was sixth at the Olympic Trials. But after 2009, for the next two years, 2010 and 2011, we can find no results for Brandon (if you know what he was doing during these two years, email us and we’ll update this piece) and now he’s going to Moscow as an 800 man. What a great story.


De’Sean Turner‘s qualification as the third steepler for the US is also a good story. From fourth in the Big 10 a year ago, to third in the US. Very impressive.

That’s not to say Turner came totally out of nowhere. He was Big 10 runner-up as a frosh, the winner as a sophomore and junior and then only fourth as a senior. After finishing only seventh at NCAAs, he could have easily moved on with his life, after all the next Olympics were four years away.

But he stuck with it and is now going to Moscow. Congrats to him.

Biggest Breakthrough Short Term: Leo Manzano

Certainly at the beginning of the year, no one would have thought people would be leaving Des Moines saying, “Isn’t it great that Olympic silver medallist Leo Manzano just made the Moscow World Championship team?”

But that’s exactly what happened this year. Manzano came into the Trials off of two awful races. He was third to last in New York in the 800 in 1:48.89 – not good at all for the 1500 man who has an 800 PB of 1:44.56. Then he was dead last at Prefontaine in the mile in 4:00.56.

Now he’s going to Moscow.

Going into USAs, we said everyone should not discount Manzano as he’d run well at Oxy earlier in the year and “often lethal” in tactical races as he closes well.

But it’s one thing to look back say, “Oh he’s such a big talent with a big close, of course he’s on the team,” and another thing to actually pull it off. Kudos to Manzano to not letting his 4:00 dead last mile  ruin him psychologically this year or last year either when he ran 4:00, dead last at the London Diamond League meet just prior the Olympics.

Leo said the lack of a contract has him channeling a little “Rocky” this year.

Biggest Surprise on Track (Non Mid-d/Distance): Tyson Gay

Gay is one of the all-time greats but if we’d told you at the beginning of the year that at the end of June the 2013 World Leads would have the injury prone Tyson Gay on top of a healthy Usain Bolt, we doubt you’d have believed us.

2013 World Leaders At 100m
Tyson Gay 9.75
Justin Gatlin 9.89
Usain Bolt 9.94
2013 World Leaders at 200m
19.74 Tyson Gay
19.79 Usain Bolt

Now don’t expect Gay to be double world champ. Converting for wind, Gay’s 9.75 is a 9.81 and Bolt’s 9.94 is a 9.87 so the gap is pretty small right now.

Biggest Surprise in Field: Riley Dolezal

TrackSuperfan Jesse Squire shared this great story. Javelin thrower Riley Dolezal went into USA seeded #14 with 74.22m pb, left with 83.50 pb and USA victory. Unreal.

I mean come on. There’s nothing like a 30+ foot PB.

More: Squire: Five Things We Learned Sunday at USA Outdoors

Biggest Disappointment: Robby Andrews

Looking at the year as a whole, mid-d and distance wise, the biggest disappointment  has been Robby Andrews.

Would anyone have believed in April that the two-time NCAA 800 champ, who has a 1:44.71 pb, and had a successful run in the 1500 last year when he chopped off nearly six-seconds from his PB going from 3:40.77 to 3:34.78 getting 5th at the Trials, would leave Des Moines after a first round flame-out in the 800?

We doubt it.

At the end of April, Andrews was poised for at least a decent year. After just, missing winning the USA indoor title by running 1:47.1, he’d just broken 4:00 in the full mile for the first time at Penn (3:57.82). For comparison’s sake, Manzano was running just 4:00.13 at the Kansas Relays in late April.

Two months later, Andrews is looking for answers (and Manzano’s thinking about another medal) as his performances are getting worse each time he steps on the track:

Robby Andrew’s Last 4 800s
19 Apr: 1:48.18 win in 800 in small meet at Princeton
25 May: 1:48.57 6th place showing at adidas DL in New York
11 Jun: 1:49.74 4th place showing in Toronto
20 Jun: 1:50.34 dead last at USAs.

Robby Andrews Last Two 1500/Miles
27 April: 3:57.82 4th place showing at Penn Relays
17 May: 3:43.52 9th place showing at Oxy

Here’s one thought we have about it without knowing the exact specifics of his current training/living situation.

1) He’s sorely missing a training partner.

Up through April, Andrews has training partners on the Princeton team where he’s a volunteer assistant to his coach Jason Vigilante. But then the Princeton guys are tapering for conference/NCAAs, going home right when Andrews is supposed to be ramping it up.

Remember last year, Andrews was training with American mile record holder Alan Webb and that worked well for both involved. We know Webb seems much happier this year but the fact is he ran much faster last year (3:37 versus 3:42 this year) as did Andrews.

2) He needs more structure.

Balancing running with college can be hard but balancing the freedom/boredom of life as a full-time runner is often more difficult. Andrews used to be a student at UVA with lots on his plate. Now he’s sitting around taking on-line classes in Princeton. You can only workout/drill/lift for 3-4 hours a day and then what?

In fact, was born when the Johnson brothers tried to figure out a way to productively spend their free time when they were training full-time for the first time in the spring of 2000.

A US Man Could Medal In Every Mid-d/Distance Event in Moscow

Here are our US mid-d and distance men’s medal hopes for Moscow:

Nick Symmonds and Duane Solomon in the 800. And the longer the 2012 gold (David Rudisha) and silver (Nijel Amos) medallists are out with injury, the more the odds go up. Gold is even a possibility if Rudisha/Amos don’t race again soon.

Matt Centrowitz and Leo Manzano in the 1500.

Evan Jager in the steeplechase.

Galen Rupp in the 10,000.

Bernard Lagat in the 5,000.

Given Rupp’s improving speed which amazes us year after year, a medal for him in the 5000 isn’t 100% out of the question.

So just like last year, the US is realistically dreaming of a medal in every single men’s mid-d/distance event, except this year the odds are higher as David Rudisha and Nijel Amos are hurt and Evan Jager is a year more experienced in the steeple.

While our knowledge of 1980s track and field isn’t that great, we don’t think that the US has ever realistically had a shot at medaling in all of the mid-d/distance events at Worlds.

Update: This thread discusses the issue above and some of you are pointing out the US had an outside shot at the first Worlds in 1983.

Stat Of The Week I

Below you will see, the US historically hasn’t medalled very often in the mid-d/distance events.

In total, there have been 13 world championships and the US has medalled a total of nine times total in the five men’s mid and distance events.

Percentage of Times US Wins A Mid/Distance Medal At Worlds

1500: 38.5% (5/13) – Matthew Centrowiz (bronze 2011), Bernard Lagat (bronze 2009, gold 2007), Jim Spivey (bronze 1987), Steve Scott (silver 1983).
5000: 23.1 (3/13) – Bernard Lagat (gold 2007, silver 2009, silver 2011)
800: 7.7 % (1/13) – Rich Kenah (brone 1997)
10,000: 0.0% (0/13)
Steeple: 0.0 % (0/13) 
Overall: 13.8% (9/65)

Stat Of The Week II

Duane Solomon deserved this victory

1:43.92 – Fastest time Nick Symmonds ever ran at USAs during his 5 year win streak in the 800 at USAs.

1:43.70 – time Nick Symmonds ran on Sunday at USAs when his win streak came to the end at the hands of Duane Solomon.

Sometimes, someone else was just better that day. We’re glad Symmonds was almost liberated that his streak came to an end (as now he can contemplate 800/1500 doubles) as he has nothing to hang his head about. He’s running better than he ever has before. Heading into the final of last year’s Olympic Trials, Symmonds had run under 1:44 a total of 3 times in his life (that’s three out of 102 races dating back to 2003 on Now he’s done it in four out of his last 10 races including a 1:42.95.

Symmonds At USAs The Last Years
2008: 1:44.10
2009: 1:45.86
2010: 1:45.98
2011: 1:44.17
2012: 1:43.92
2013: 1:43.70

HT to 800m finalist Charles Jock for pointing out on the plane to LRC’s Weldon Johnson that this was Symmonds second fastest 800m of his life. Symmonds’ only faster run was his 1:42.95 at the Olympics last year.

Symmonds post-race interview was one of our favorites. You can watch it here.

Two Guys That Were Missed At USAs

We noticed at least couple of Olympic mid-d/distance runners weren’t in Des Moines. Steeplechaser Kyle Alcorn‘s coach Louis Quintana of Arizona State wrote in to say that Alcorn has hung up the spikes with pbs of 3:59.82 for the mile, 8:20.86 steeplechase, and 13:32.15 5000.

800 Olympian Khadevis Robinson (“KD”) wasn’t in Des Moines either. The 36-year old women’s coach at Ohio State hasn’t officially retired but he’s getting up there in age so who knows if we’ll ever see him again at USAs. We sure hope so as he was always one of if not the best interviews out there.

On the messageboard (we can’t find the thread), someone was raving about KD’s run of success at USAs. It is very remarkable and worthy of praise.

KD was 2nd in Eugene last year

KD’s Results At USAs from 1998 to 2012:
1998: 5th
1999: 1st
2000: 4th
2001: 3rd
2002: 2nd
2003: 2nd
2004: 2nd
2005: 1st
2006: 1st
2007: 1st
2008: 4th
2009: 2nd
2010: DNC
2011: 2nd
2012: 2nd

Do you know anyone else that retired? Email us.

Quote of the Week (that wasn’t quote of the day)

Duane Solomon: the David Rudisha of American distance running.

– description of Duane Solomon after he led the men’s 800 final at USAs from start to finish and still ran a really fast time.

The portion of the staff that didn’t make the trip to Iowa (who is writing this piece) isn’t sure who on our staff in Iowa came up with that line, but we really enjoyed it.

Quotes Of The Day & Last Week’s Homepages:

Note: To see a particular day’s homepage, click on the hyperlink of the date. The hyperlink below the date on the quotes will take you to that particular article – not that day’s homepage.

Monday 6/24:

“I knew, in order to make the team, I needed to be on my ‘A’ game. If I came with anything less, if I brought my ‘B’ game, I probably wouldn’t make the team. I came with my ‘A’ game and did what Coach (American record holder Johnny Gray) told me to do today and it worked out.

The guys on the team, I think we have a really good chance of medaling in Moscow.”

– Duane Solomon after leading wire-to-wire and running a world-leading 1:43.27 to stop Nick Symmonds‘ USATF winning streak at 5. Symmonds was 2nd in 1:43.70.

Sunday 6/23:

“I’m on cloud nine. I’m 31 years old and I’m keeping up with a 17-year-old (Cain). I never thought I would have the energy go do that. I’m just so happy with where I’m at and what the future holds for me. I was kind of taking it year to year but now I’m starting to look long term and maybe to Rio now. It’s just such a great feeling. At this point all I can say is, never give up.”

– Treniere Moser, who managed to just defeat 17-year-old training partner Mary Cain to win her 4th USATF 1,500m title and first since 2007. Moser was going to quit the sport until she bumped into coach Alberto Salazar last year on the Nike campus.

Saturday 6/22:

“I always liked watching Tiger Woods play golf because they said he has more tricks in his bag with his clubs than anybody else does. He can hit a 3 iron ten different ways. And I’ve always wanted to be the kind of runner, in an 800 especially, that can win any way you throw it. If we go out in 24, if we go out in 28, if it’s fast, if it’s slow, if I’m buried, if I’m boxed or if I’m free I want to be able to win any different way. I think my Division III background gave me a lot of chance to practice those skills. I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to pull off these wins the last 5 years..”

– Nick Symmonds who will try and win his 6th straight USATF 800m title on Sunday. Nick is the “Tiger of the US 800m” but “without the affairs”.Discuss

Friday 6/21:

“I would love to run in the 5k … It won’t be comfortable (in 95 degree heat).

I just think it’s a fun challenge. I just look at all the names and it’s just, I’d like to see what I can do. I don’t have an ego, if I were to be top three that’d be phenomenal, I just want to see what I can do.”

– Shalane Flanagan announcing after her 10,000m win on Thursday night that she wants to run the 5,000m in the heat of the day on Saturday versus World 1,500m Champion Jenny Simpson and American record holder Molly Huddle.

Thursday 6/20:

“Matt’s looking pretty good, Andy [Wheating] is looking okay, and Leo [Manzano] is looking bad. Under normal circumstances, I’d say Matt’s got a really good shot, Andy’s got a pretty good shot, and Leo has no shot. But if I had to pick someone right now to win, I’d still pick Leo Manzano, because’s he’s just so good at showing up at USAs.”

“I wish I knew what it is that Leo could tap into to show up when it counts. It’s the same thing that got him that silver medal.”

– Russell Brown, talking about how he thinks last year’s Olympians might fare in this weekend’s USA Champs. Neither Brown nor Matt Centrowitz are worried about not having the “A” as Brown says, “The ‘A’ standard really never crossed my mind this year. I think I or whoever else gets top three this year, they’re going to have no problem whatsoever.”. Read our 1500 preview here.

Wednesday 6/19:

“I’m not thinking about anything but winning. Winning is my No. 1 goal. That has to be the only thing to shoot for. From there, it’s making the world team. This is my coming out year. It’s time for me to step up.”

– Tyler Mulder, the guy who has been 4th, 4th and 5th the last three years at USAs, talking to about his goals for this weekend’s USA Champs. Read our 800 preview here.

Tuesday 6/18

– Lolo Jones in a video she made to point out the very low pay ($741.84 for 7 months) US bobsledders earn. Her video justifiably upset some of her fellow bobsledders – voluntarily swoon in, hog the publicity, raise your profile and then complain about it.


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