Men’s 1,500: With No Centrowitz, a Wide-Open Battle Between Manzano, Lomong, Torrence, McNamara & More

June 24, 2014

Men’s 1500

Prelims: Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Final: Saturday, 5:14 p.m. ET

With defending champ and 2013 World silver medalist Matt Centrowitz skipping the meet to go race in Lausanne on July 3rd (come on guys: “What about the Sport?”), the men’s 1,500 at the 2014 USATF Outdoor Championships figures to be a fairly open affair. Veterans Leo Manzano and Lopez Lomong have traditionally run well at USAs (combined, they have just one finish outside the top three since 2008), but guys like Will Leer, Jordan McNamara, David Torrence, Garrett Heath and Pat Casey have all been successful in 2014 and will be looking to take the next step in their careers and finish highly at USAs.

Name Affiliation PB SB DOB Comment
Leonel Manzano Hoka One One 3:32.37 3:39.22 9.12.1984 Notably inconsistent but always comes through at USAs: top 3 every year since debut in ’06
David Torrence Nike 3:33.23 3:44.62 11.26.1985 Followed up brave 3:36.6 4×1500 leg at World Relays with 3:53.95 mile at Pre
Jordan McNamara Nike / Oregon TC Elite 3:34.00 3:37.39 3.7.1987 Running well in ’14: 2nd at International Mile at Pre, won in St. Louis on 6/5 + 2nd in Portland 800 on 6/15
Garrett Heath Brooks 3:34.12 3:36.88 11.3.1985 5th in International Mile at Pre; set 13:16 5k PB at Payton Jordan on May 4
Will Leer Nike 3:35.27 3:37.89 4.15.1985 5th last year; spiked in Bowerman Mile at Pre and finished last in 3:56.72
Craig Miller New Balance 3:35.48 3:38.88 8.3.1987 Ran mile PR indoors but hasn’t been as good outdoors: just 4:14 in St. Louis on 6/5 and 3:41 1500 in Indy on 6/15
Jack Bolas New Balance 3:35.54 3:40.96 11.1.1987 Finished 4th in 3:40.96 and 1:48.99 in last two races (5/31 and 6/8)
Pat Casey Oregon TC Elite 3:35.95 3:35.95 5.23.1990 Followed up 4+ sec PR at Oxy with fastest leadoff leg at World Relays 4×1500 and 3-sec mile PR at Pre
Matthew Elliott Brooks 3:36.61 3:53.78 9.8.1985 Surprise 4th-placer in ’13 won’t sneak up on anyone, but not in good form: 4:10 mile and 3:53 1500 last two races
Liam Boylan-Pett NJ*NY TC 3:37.05 3:40.30 9.11.1985 Just 3:46 last time out in Halifax, Canada, on June 14
Michael Hammond Furman Elite 3:37.88 3:37.88 11.7.1989 Former Virginia Tech runner ran PR to win in Greenville, SC, on May 31
Jeff See Saucony 3:35.21 3:37.99 6.6.1986 2nd behind Hammond in Greenville
Trevor Dunbar Oregon 3:38.38 3:41.45 4.29.1991 Coming off nice 5k/10k double at NCAAs (3rd/5th, top American in each)
Riley Masters Brooks 3:37.19 3:38.42 4.5.1990 Set big 5k PR of 13:39 at Payton Jordan; 4th at Portland Track Festival in 3:40.73
Lopez Lomong Nike / Bowerman TC 3:32.20 3:43.09 1.1.1985 U.S. indoor champ has made 4 of last 5 U.S. outdoor teams; 12th in Oslo 5k in 13:25, 9th in International Mile at Pre
Rob Finnerty Furman Elite 3:38.34 3:40.43 2.4.1990 4:01 mile and 3:40 1500 in last two races (5/31 and 6/8)
John Simons Minnesota 3:40.56 3:40.56 11.12.1990
Matt Miner 3:40.62 3:40.62 4.12.1990
Ford Palmer NJ*NY TC 3:38.58 3:38.58 10.6.1990
Dorian Ulrey Nike 3:35.23 3:38.73 7.11.1987
Michael Atchoo Stanford 3:39.57 3:40.66 8.16.1991
Duncan Phillips 3:39.06 3:40.40 6.7.1989
Tommy Schmitz Speed Factory Athletics 3:39.61 3:39.61 7.16.1983
Chad Noelle Oklahoma St. 3:40.06 3:40.06 4.12.1993
Austin Mudd Wisconsin 3:40.16 3:40.16 5.13.1993
Tony Jordanek Team Ohio 3:38.85 3:40.40 12.27.1986
Kyle Merber NJ*NY TC 3:35.59 3:40.40 11.19.1990
Reed Connor Wisconsin 3:40.43 3:40.43 9.25.1990
Eric Avila S. Oregon 3:42.18 3:42.18 Great story: former prep stud gained 30 lbs. and became a ditch-digger before getting serious and running for NAIA S. Oregon
Matthew Hillenbrand Kentucky 3:39.84 3:39.84 5.8.1992
AJ Acosta 3:36.41 3:42.45 4.13.1988

(Entries subject to change. Check the status of entries here.)

The magnificent Manzano

Manzano is notorious for his inconsistency on the professional circuit. Just in the last month, he split a 3:46.7  for 1500 to almost cost the U.S. the silver in the 4×1500 at the World Relays on May 25, bounced back to beat many of the top Americans in the International Mile at Pre in 3:52.41 on May 31 and lost to little-known runners Eric Finan, Hamish Carson and Julian Oakley to take fourth at the Adrian Martinez Classic in Concord, Mass., on June 5. In his last race before the Olympics in 2012, he was dead last at the Diamond League mile in London before claiming a silver medal less than a month later. You never know what you’re getting with Manzano.

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Unless it’s the U.S. outdoor championships.

Manzano has run at USAs every year since 2006, dating back to his sophomore season at Texas. Here’s how he’s finished in that span:

Manzano has been known to come through when it counts. Manzano has been known to come through when it counts.

2006: 3rd
2007: 2nd
2008: 2nd
2009: 2nd
2010: 2nd
2011: 3rd
2012: 1st
2013: 2nd

Remarkable. Some runners, such as Galen Rupp in the 10k, dominate events at USAs year-in, year-out. But Rupp is so much better than the other U.S. 10k runners that his dominance is expected. During his string of eight straight podiums, Manzano has never been the consensus top 1,500 guy in the U.S. That’s why his consistency, in a way, is more impressive than Rupp’s: Manzano is not always the most dominant guy in the field, but he times his peak well and is a great tactician. Since 2006, five different men have won U.S. 1,500 titles (including Manzano), but Manzano has always made sure to make the team. It’s usually hard to tell whether to expect good Leo or bad Leo in any specific race, but given his history at the U.S. championships, expect to see good Leo in the final on Saturday.

One other reason to like Manzano: he won the International Mile at Pre on May 31, which served as a good preview of the men’s 1,500 at USAs. That race featured pretty much all the top Americans entered in the 1500 in Sacramento (Manzano, McNamara, Casey, Heath, Torrence, Lomong) and Manzano looked great in pulling away for the win.

Will Leer: A lesser version of Manzano

Leer, like Manzano, has made the final in each of the past seven years at USAs. But while Manzano always manages to get top three, Leer seems to come up just short. Here’s what he’s done since his first appearance at the U.S. championships in 2007:

2007: 10th
2008: 4th
2009: 5th
2010: 3rd
2011: 5th
2012: 12th
2013: 5th

Leer has five top-five finishes, including a third, but has yet to make a U.S. outdoor team. And unfortunately for Leer, a top-three finish this year won’t do anything for him since there’s no global meet to qualify for. Leer hasn’t raced since he was spiked and ran just 3:56 in the Bowerman Mile at Pre on May 31, but his indoor season (a win in the Wanamaker Mile, second at U.S. indoors and his first global final at World Indoors) was arguably his best ever. He will be in the mix again in Sacramento.

Lomong looming

Based on past performance, Lomong should contend for the win as well. In the past six years, Lomong has finished outside the top three at USAs just once (one of those top threes was in the 5k, in 2012) and won titles in 2009 and 2010. He’s entered in the 1500 and 5k in Sacramento and though that’s a doable double (the 5k final is on the day between his 1500s), he’s got a lot better chance of winning the 1,500 than beating Rupp in the 5k.

Lomong won the 1500 at USA indoors over a similar field in February and ran a quick 13:07.95 5k at Payton Jordan on May 4. However, he was just 9th in the International Mile at Pre and finished a well-beaten 12th in 13:25.80 in the Oslo 5k on June 11. He has a great shot to end up on the podium again, but if he runs the 5k as well there will be a lot of fresh guys ready to pounce.

A big bunch of guys looking for their first-ever top 3 showing at USAs outdoors

David Torrence, Jordan McNamara (Update: Jordan McNamara is a late scratch: MB: JMac a scratch in the mens 1500!!!! ) and Garrett Heath have all run under 3:35 and have all been near the top of the event in the U.S. in recent years. All three have been running well in 2014 and with the absence of Centrowitz one (or more) of them has a good chance to vault on to the podium on Saturday. Torrence hung with Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat for a good chunk of his leg in the 4×1500 at the World Relays, ultimately splitting 3:36.6, Heath ran a 13:16 5k PB at Payton Jordan and was 5th at Pre, while McNamara won the mile at the St. Louis Festival of Miles on June 5 and almost ran down Manzano at Pre. One more guy in this category: former Montana St./Oklahoma runner Pat Casey, who is enjoying a breakout season after running a big PR of 3:35 at Oxy, winning the first leg of the 4×1500 at World Relays and finishing 4th at Pre.

Wish you were here

Wheating was back in the winners' circle at the Portland Track Festival Wheating was back in the winners’ circle at the Portland Track Festival

Apart from Centrowitz, the 2013 and 2011 U.S. champ, one runner we wish would have made the trip to Sacramento is another former NCAA 1,500 champ from Oregon, Andrew Wheating. Wheating was a phenom after running 3:30.90 at age 22 in 2010, but since then he’s only broken 3:36 twice, with a best of 3:34.39. Though he made U.S. teams in 2011 and 2012, he was last in the 1500 final at USAs last year (13 seconds back of the field) and has dealt with a variety of injuries over the past few years as well as a coaching change (Vin Lannana to Mark Rowland).

Wheating made his 2014 debut at the Portland Track Festival on June 15, and the result was a good sign for Wheating fans: a 3:38.53 dominating win, punctuated by a fist pump. After that win, Wheating was talking BIG:

We were starting to get pumped. All season, with no races, we figured Wheating must not be doing well. Then he opens with a huge win and we start to get excited and think, “Wow, that’s great coaching. Don’t let him race until he’s absolutely ready. He’ll be ready to contend at USAs.”

Now less than two weeks later, Wheating is AWOL. Quite a bummer. Has there been a setback? We’re assuming so but if you know, please email us.

Speaking of NCAA champs from Oregon, we also would have loved to see Oregon’s 2013 and 2014 NCAA 1,500 champ Mac Fleet run here but he’s scratched from the event. With no clear favorite, the tactically savvy Fleet would have a great shot at doing well here and maybe pushing up the value of his shoe contract.

Is Fleet hurt? Or Is he not racing as it might damage his contract value if he bombs? Again, if you know, please email us.

What About The Sport?

It’s a real shame that three of the event’s top stars – all Oregon-based – Centrowitz, Fleet and Wheating – aren’t in this event this year. In our mind, if they are going to give “Track Town USA”, Eugene,  practically every USA meet, they need to 100% give them USAs in the off, non-world championship years – 2014, 2018, etc. Track Town is the one place that would best support USAs in non-World Championship years and by putting USAs in Eugene during the off years, there is very little chance the Oregon-based runners would skip it.

Update: Well we’ve gotten an update on everyone not at USAs and they all seem to be pretty strong excuses.

A visitor has emailed in with an update on Fleet. He wrote:

“On the tracktalk message boards, staterunner013 (aka AJ Acosta) said he was “regrouping from NCAA’s, potentially trying to get into Lausanne. I think the rest will be good for someone like Mac, who has nothing to gain by running USA’s this year. If he runs fast in Europe, that will be worth more for getting a contract down the line… but then again what would I know about that.” Anyways, just wanted to point those two things out, otherwise great previews as usual. Can’t wait to watch these races!”

Another savvy visitor has an update on Wheating:

In you’re preview of the Men’s 1500 at this weekend’s USA Championships you were unsure why Wheating scratched from the meet. In this video interview with Mark Rowland ( @ 4:45 mark) he explains that USAs are important, but he doesn’t want Wheating to rush back into racing.

Finally Jordan McNamara himself emailed us:

Hi guys,

I saw your tweet (asking if I was injured) and figured I’d give you a full explanation of my current situation. First off, thanks. In my modest successes, has always elected to view my performances in a positive light, which I’ve always appreciated greatly. Professional athletes, especially those outside of the “1%”, voluntarily live a difficult existence. Many sacrifice their health, energy, and earning capability in pursuit of far-away goals. Though many athletes avoid message boards, often, word reaches them through the grapevine. Hurtful words, uttered by some nameless whoever, add a small incline to the sport that requires the small fish to swim even harder upstream. So thanks for the kind words- they’ve always been noticed.

To the point: four days ago, I developed pain on the medial side of my right foot. The pain quickly worsened, and was increased by spikes. I’ve fractured my left navicular bone twice (requiring surgery in 2010) and clearly remember both the symptoms and the six-month-layoff that occurred. I quickly made the decision to get an MRI, which yesterday, showed a clean navicular bone, but swelling within the surrounding ligament that if left unchecked, could develop into a bone issue.

If this were an Olympic of World year, I would tape it up and suck it up, but at 27, I know I must make hard decisions with the big picture in mind. Despite my heartbreak, I opted not to run the 2014 USA Championships. Ultimately, a 2014 USA title would mean little if it ended up costing me my 2015 season.

I caught this set-back very early & am receiving treatment now. The prognosis looks good: 5-7 days off, swelling and pain permitting. This time line would allow me to still race the European season, and chase the 3:50 mile that I’ve wanted this year. The timing of this minor issue is lousy, but as you know (Wejo- you had navicular surgery?) this is one injury I refuse to dance with. Sorry for the bad news. I’ll be working hard every day to make this right.

(Right foot).

All the best guys,


Jordan McNamara's swollen foot Jordan McNamara’s swollen foot

LRC Prediction: We’re real tempted to pick McNamara for the win here but just can’t quite do it.

1. Manzano 2. McNamara 3. Torrence

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