Anthony Rotich Outkicks Frontrunning Lawi Lalang To Win 2014 Men’s Mile Title As Oregon’s Mac Fleet’s Big Kick Comes A Little Too Late

March 15, 2014

Albuquerque, NM – Last night, Arizona’s Lawi Lalang saw his dreams of a historic three wins at a single NCAA indoor track and field championships come to an end in his first event as he was outkicked by Edward Cheserek in the men’s 5,000.

Tonight on day two, Lalang was beaten again by a fellow Kenyan as he attempted to repeat as winner of the men’s mile. Lalang ran valiantly from the front and led for 1,590 of the 1,609 meters in the race, but in the end the champion was 2013 NCAA steeplechase champion Anthony Rotich of UTEP, who won in 4:02.54 (equivalent to a 3:57.06 at sea level according to the NCAA) to Lalang’s 4:02.81. Oregon’s Mac Fleet, the 2013 NCAA 1,500 champion, closed hard for third in 4:02.96.

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The Race

1 Anthony Rotich JR UTEP 4:02.54 10
2 Lawi Lalang SR Arizona 4:02.81 8
3 Mac Fleet SR Oregon 4:02.96 6
4 Rich Peters JR Boston U. 4:03.49 5
5 Will Geoghegan JR Dartmouth 4:04.17 4
6 John Gregorek SR Columbia 4:04.68 3
7 Sam Penzenstadler JR Loyola (Ill.) 4:04.77 2
8 Jordan Williamsz SO Villanova 4:04.79 1
9 Jeremy Rae SR Notre Dame 4:05.07
10 Matt Hillenbrand SR Kentucky 4:08.01

Last year, Lalang stunned everyone in the mile field by opening a huge gap early in the race that no one else was able to make up fully at the end. Lalang used a similar strategy tonight – try to break them early as he ran his first 200 in under 28 seconds. The problem for Lalang was that a few others in the field were ready for Lalang’s strategy and tried to keep it close. Boston University’s Rich Peters was about 5 meters back of Lalang. After two-plus laps (409 meters in 58.915 for Lalang), Peters had caught Lalang and soon thereafter they were joined by Rotich. The top three would run ahead of the rest of the field, which was led by Fleet for the rest of the race.

Two questions remained, “Would Lalang be able to shake off Peters and Rotich late?” and, “Would the top three be able to stay ahead of noted kicker Mac Fleet?”

The chase pack led by Fleet would get closer and closer over the second half of the race. After a half mile, Fleet was 1.3 seconds behind. With a quarter left, the gap was down to .9 seconds as the pace was slowing. Fleet was poised to be in perfect position at the bell, but then Lalang picked things up on penultimate lap. At the bell, Lalang still led Fleet by .66.

The top three then began to really battle for the title. As they headed into the final turn, it became clear that Peters wasn’t going to be able to match the two Kenyans. Now it was a battle between the two Kenyans – one a 5,000 specialist and one a steepler. Lalang still led as they hit the finishing straight and gave everything he had but he had no response for Rotich’s late surge in the final 50.

Rotich won thanks to a 27.96 final 200 – the same final 200 that Mac Fleet had to finish in third. Peters held on for a deserved fourth and Dartmouth’s Will Geoghegan was the best of everyone else in fifth.

Quick Take #1: After the race, Rotich said that his coach Paul Ereng told him that a championship is about one thing – winning – and he just needed to stay with Lalang no matter what and be patient. He said he’d never been that patient in a race before but it paid off big time.

Anthony Rotich Wins the Mile (Photo by Kirby Lee, Image of Sport, Click for Photo Gallery)

Anthony Rotich Wins the Mile (Photo by Kirby Lee, Image of Sport, Click for Photo Gallery)

Quick Take #2: We hope Lalang’s inability to win three events at NCAAs isn’t presented as a “failure.” His aiming for true greatness should be commended. One of the problems the sport of track and field face is so many athletes do whatever they can to make sure they don’t get beaten. Avoid a rival (a la Coe and Ovett in the ’80s), don’t double back after an Olympic 10,000 win (Haile G never did the double at the Olympics), etc.

Lalang might have won tonight’s race if he hadn’t won last year or if Rich Peters wasn’t in this race. Last year, he was able to gap the field early but Peters was aware of it and kept the field within contact by going after Lalang.

MB: Lawi you may have not won the mile but you’ve got my respect

Afterwards, Lawi spoke to us before deciding not to start the 3,000m. He said coming in it was his plan to push the pace from the start. He thought this was the best strategy for him, and good practice for big international races where he’ll face the fastest runners in the world. He said, “I want to learn because when you go to European races and all those things it’s going to be fast races. So teaching my body to adapt to fast races is something that’s good for me because I know when you go to European races it’s going to be a pacesetter setting, the race and if you cannot hold on to that, it’s going to be a problem. So it’s a lesson for me to learn.”

Lawi also said he wasn’t sure if he’d do the 3K (he didn’t do it) and was going to talk to his coach as he didn’t want to “kill himself” indoors when there was still a lot of racing to be done outdoors. Interview below.

Quick Take #3: Fleet almost was close enough at the bell to attempt to pull this off. If he’d been a tiny bit closer this race could have been his. Looking back, he’ll regret he didn’t do more between 609 and 1,009. While Lalang slowed to basically 31-second laps, so did Fleet as Lalang ran that 400 in 62.62 and Fleet 62.54. Fleet would have had his hands full, though, with Rotich as Rotich had a great last lap.

Quick Take #4 Individual Glory For Rotich: Props need to go to Rotich for the win. He won the steeplechase last year at NCAAs so he has had the ultimate success at the national level. More impressively might be what he’s done for his team at the conference meet the last two years. Last year indoors, he attempted a quadruple, winning the 3k, 5k, and getting second in the DMR and mile (to Chris O’Hare). Outdoors he pulled off the 1,500, 5,000, steeple triple. This year indoors he pulled off the 1,500, 3,000, mile triple. Glad to see him get some NCAA individual glory.

Quick Take #5: LRC 2014 NCAA Men’s Indoor Mile Interviews: Anthony Rotich, Lawi Lalang, Mac Fleet & Rich Peters

Lap-by-lap splits below. Check out this separate article for interviews with the top finishers.

More: Lalang Still Poised To Make Historic 2nd-Place Triple *Lalang = Lachoke!

Event 5  Men 1 Mile Run
    Name                    Year School                  Finals  Points
  1 Anthony Rotich            JR UTEP                   4:02.54   10
       31.383 (31.383)       1:00.022 (28.640)       1:29.656 (29.635)
     2:00.663 (31.007)       2:32.318 (31.655)       3:04.174 (31.857)
     3:34.574 (30.400)       4:02.531 (27.957)
  2 Lawi Lalang               SR Arizona                4:02.81    8
       29.518 (29.518)         58.915 (29.398)       1:29.198 (30.284)
     2:00.188 (30.990)       2:31.815 (31.627)       3:03.819 (32.005)
     3:34.340 (30.521)       4:02.806 (28.466)
  3 Mac Fleet                 SR Oregon                 4:02.96    6
       30.662 (30.662)       1:00.336 (29.675)       1:30.550 (30.215)
     2:01.487 (30.937)       2:33.093 (31.607)       3:04.781 (31.688)
     3:35.002 (30.221)       4:02.956 (27.955)
  4 Rich Peters               JR Boston U.              4:03.49    5
       30.214 (30.214)         59.188 (28.975)       1:29.412 (30.224)
     2:00.432 (31.020)       2:32.057 (31.625)       3:03.927 (31.870)
     3:34.384 (30.458)       4:03.486 (29.102)
  5 Will Geoghegan            JR Dartmouth              4:04.17    4
       31.702 (31.702)       1:01.075 (29.374)       1:31.249 (30.175)
     2:02.098 (30.849)       2:33.478 (31.380)       3:05.189 (31.712)
     3:35.447 (30.258)       4:04.163 (28.716)
  6 John Gregorek             SR Columbia               4:04.68    3
       31.155 (31.155)       1:01.094 (29.940)       1:31.767 (30.673)
     2:02.875 (31.109)       2:34.113 (31.239)       3:05.609 (31.496)
     3:36.153 (30.544)       4:04.672 (28.520)
  7 Sam Penzenstadler         JR Loyola (Ill.)          4:04.77    2
       31.503 (31.503)       1:01.298 (29.795)       1:32.093 (30.795)
     2:03.150 (31.058)       2:34.506 (31.356)       3:06.053 (31.547)
     3:36.378 (30.326)       4:04.770 (28.392)
  8 Jordan Williamsz          SO Villanova              4:04.79    1
       31.277 (31.277)       1:00.897 (29.620)       1:31.052 (30.155)
     2:01.958 (30.906)       2:33.575 (31.618)       3:05.278 (31.704)
     3:36.231 (30.953)       4:04.784 (28.554)
  9 Jeremy Rae                SR Notre Dame             4:05.07
       31.918 (31.918)       1:01.517 (29.600)       1:32.325 (30.809)
     2:03.389 (31.065)       2:34.226 (30.837)       3:05.744 (31.519)
     3:36.358 (30.615)       4:05.066 (28.708)
 10 Matt Hillenbrand          SR Kentucky               4:08.01
       30.857 (30.857)       1:00.588 (29.732)       1:30.827 (30.239)
     2:01.764 (30.938)       2:33.328 (31.564)       3:05.019 (31.692)
     3:35.789 (30.770)       4:08.010 (32.221)