LetsRun.com’s 2014 Year-End Rankings: Men’s 1500/Mile: Ayanleh Souleiman Is The Best In A Historically Good Year, Leo The Lion Roars In the US

By LetsRun.com
December 28, 2014

2014 is almost at an end and with not much going on in the world of running until the New Year, it’s the perfect time to release our end-of-year rankings. Over the final five days of the year, we’ll be ranking the top 10 men and women in the world in every Diamond League event (800, 1500, 3000 steeple, 5000) and the marathon. Don’t worry, U.S. fans: we’ll rank the top five Americans in each event as well.

Since these rankings are obviously subjective, we’ll lay out the criteria we’re using for them:

  • An emphasis on performance in big races. How the athlete fared in major races (World Indoors, Diamond League final, continental championships, Continental Cup and Commonwealth Games) is the most important, followed by Diamond League races and then all other races. For U.S. athletes, their performance at the USATF Outdoor Championships also factors heavily in the rankings.
  • Season-best times matter but they’re less important if the time wasn’t run against good competition.
  • End-of-season performances are weighted more heavily than those at the start of the season (but less so than a normal year as their was no Worlds so various runners had different goals)
  • Runners who specialized in one event will be considered for other events but can be penalized in the rankings for not running enough races.
  • Indoor races will be considered and can help an athlete’s ranking, but they won’t be valued as much as outdoor races, but we certainly recognized the fact that World Indoors was the only global championship this year.

World Rankings

World Indoor Gold was far from the only thing Souleiman won this year

There’s some historically great talent out there in the 1500/mile right now. Ayanleh Souleiman‘s electric 3:47.32 mile at Pre on May 31 was the fastest since Alan Webb‘s American record in 2007 and moved Souleiman into the top 10 all-time. Then on July 18 in Monaco, in “one of the greatest 1500s ever”Silas Kiplagat (3:27.64) and Ronald Kwemoi (3:28.81) joined Asbel Kiprop in the top 10 all-time in the 1500 as seven men broke 3:30 on the day (previously no more than three men had done so in a single race). At different points in the season, Kiprop, Kiplagat and Souleiman all seemed to be #1 in the world and it was exciting every time they got together in a Diamond League race. It’s really a shame that there wasn’t a Worlds this year as it would have provided great theater.

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Historically, the event has never been deeper. American Leo Manzano ran 3:30.98 this year, the fastest-ever time for someone who finished 10th on the world list, and a staggering 15 men broke 3:32.

As LetsRun.com super visitor David Graham pointed out, it is amazing to contemplate that Filbert Bayi‘s courageous front running World Record of 3:32.16 at the ’74 Commonwealth Games would have been only the 34th fastest 1,500 in 2014…likewise, Seb Coe‘s 1979 WR of 3:32.03 would have put him as the 17th fastest man in 2014.

Often at the major championships the event is not about who can run the fastest but who can time his kick correctly. There wasn’t a global outdoor championship in 2014, but in 2013 Matthew Centrowitz took silver at Worlds despite finishing 27th on the world list for 1500. At the 2012 Olympics, Manzano (second) and Norway’s Henrik Ingebrigtsen (fifth) both placed highly despite finishing 24th and 57th, respectively, on the world list at 1500. Ingebrigtsen would have been even lower if he hadn’t PR’ed by almost a second in the Olympic final; his second-fastest time on the year would have ranked him 83rd.

So feel free to wonder in amazement as the top guys continue to post incredible times in the summer of 2015. But when it comes time to make medal picks for Beijing, remember that times aren’t everything.

1. Ayanleh Souleiman • Djibouti • 22 years old • 3:29.58 1500 sb (#4) • 3:47.32 mile sb (#1) • World Indoor Champion • African Champion

DL results: 3rd Doha, 1st Pre, 2nd Rome, 1st Oslo, 4th Monaco, 2nd Birmingham, 3rd Brussels (DL final)
Championship results: 1st World Indoors, 1st African Championships, 1st Continental Cup

The big three are setting up quite the rivalry in 2014. Kiplagat and Souleiman, shown here in Rome on June 5, battled frequently in 2014. Kiplagat won this one in 3:30.44.

2. Silas Kiplagat • Kenya • 25 years old • 3:27.64 1500 sb (#1) • 3:47.88 mile sb (#2) • Diamond League Champion

DL results: 2nd Doha, 2nd Pre, 1st Rome, 2nd Lausanne, 1st Glasgow, 1st Monaco, 10th Birmingham, 2nd Brussels (DL final)
Championship results: 3rd World Indoor semis

The top three in this group – Souleiman, Kiplagat and Kiprop – are in a league of their own, and of those three, Souleiman and Kiplagat were clearly better than Kiprop in 2014 (9-6 combined vs. Kiprop in 1500s/miles).

Picking the world #1 was VERY difficult as Souleiman vs. Kiplagat is really close and comes down to what you value. Kiplagat ran 3:27.64 for 1500 in Monaco, the fastest time in the world in 10 years, and finished 1st or 2nd in seven of his eight Diamond League races, powering him to the DL title.

Meanwhile, Souleiman ran 3:47.32 for the mile at Pre — the fastest time in seven years — and won major titles at World Indoors (Kiplagat didn’t even make the final) and the African Championships, and capped his season with a win at the Continental Cup. He wasn’t as good on the DL circuit as Kiplagat (two 1sts, two 2nds for Souleiman versus three 1sts, four 2nds for Kiplagat) but Souleiman didn’t bomb any of his races (lowest finish was 4th) while Kiplagat blew up in Birmingham (10th).

It’s still really tough to call. Let’s see how they compare head-to-head.

Date Race Kiplagat Souleiman Comment
2/6/2014 Stockholm XL Galan (ind.) 8th, 3:38.7 2nd, 3:35.2
3/7/2014 World Indoors (ind.) semis, 3:39.70 1st, 3:38.94 Kiplagat failed to qualify for final
5/9/2014 Doha DL 2nd, 3:29.70 3rd, 3:30.16
5/31/2014 Prefontaine Classic (mile) 2nd, 3:47.88 1st, 3:47.32 2 fastest times since Webb in ’07
6/5/2014 Rome DL 1st, 3:30.44 2nd, 3:31.19
7/18/2014 Monaco DL 1st, 3:27.64 4th, 3:29.58 Kiplagat ran fastest time since ’04; pb for Souleiman
8/24/2014 Birmingham DL (mile) 10th, 3:53.52 2nd, 3:52.07 Kiplagat hadn’t finished lower in DL race since June ’12
9/5/2014 Brussels DL final 2nd, 3:31.80 3rd, 3:32.82 Kiplagat edged at line while possibly celebrating early

Kiplagat had the more impressive outdoor season in terms of times, the huge 3:27.64 in Monaco, and head-to-head versus Souleiman, but Souleiman did win the African Champs and Continental Cup (neither of which Kiplagat ran). There was only one global championship in 2014 (world indoors) and both men entered it and Souleiman won it. Since Souleiman won world indoors (and advanced from their heat while Kiplagat did not) as well as the African champs where he beat our #3, #4 and #7 runners in the final there (Kiplagat didn’t enter), he gets the slight nod over Kiplagat.

Yes Kiplagat’s 3:27.64 1500 time converts to roughly 3:44.25 for the mile (much faster than Souleiman) and he did defeat Souleiman in four of their six outdoor races, but Kiplagat doesn’t get the world #1 ranking as he got smoked at World Indoors, didn’t run the African champs and got edged in the DL finale by .02 by Olympic champ Taoufik Makhloufi (when Kiplagat put up his arm to celebrate before the finish even though he didn’t win the race. Video of that finish below. At the time we did write we thought the runner-up in the DL finale would make Kiplagat #1 in the world, but have changed our mind. Kiplagat won the fastest race of the year (Monaco) but not win any of the most important races (world indoors, African champs, Commonwealths, DL finale). While Souleiman won two of those.

Final 100m of great DL Finale:

3. Asbel Kiprop • Kenya • 25 years old • 3:28.45 1500 sb (#2) • 3:50.26 mile sb (#9) • African Champs Silver

DL results: 1st Doha, 7th Pre, 3rd Rome, 2nd Monaco, 1st Birmingham, 12th Brussels (DL final)
Championship results: 2nd African Champs, 2nd Continental Cup

This was Kiprop’s worse year since 2009, which is saying something considering he ran 3:28.45 and claimed DL wins in Doha and Birmingham. After his 3:29.18 win in Doha on May 9 (the fastest time ever run in May or June) and a 3:32.3 solo anchor leg as part of Kenya’s world record setting 4×1500 at the World Relays, it looked like Kiprop was going to put together a special year in 2014. But he was just 7th in the Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic, an event he usually runs well at (three wins, one 2nd, one 3rd in five previous appearances) and won only one other 1500/mile all season (though it must be said that that Kiprop made that win in Birmingham look really, really easy).

Kiprop wasn’t consistently great enough to finish in our top two, but his two DL wins, 3:28 sb (#2 in the world) and runner-up finish at the African Champs (just .09 behind Souleiman) create a resume that no one save Souleiman/Kiplagat can match.

Kiprop’s subpar year may have resulted from him being distracted with off the track problems. Before the year started, he was accused of assaulting a security guard with a gun and then later in the year his estranged wife Sammary Cherotich accused of him of threatening to kill her and kidnapping the couple’s child. Kiprop emphatically denied both allegations (1st allegation here, 2nd allegation here), but easily could have been distracted off the track. Before the allegations by his wife broke in October, Kiprop said that he expects to perform better in 2015 as he will have fewer distractions. We hope so, because athletes like Kiprop don’t come around very often. When he’s at his best, few in the sport are more exciting to watch.

When American fans ask us, “How can Matt Centrowitz or Leo Manzano beat someone like Kiprop?” We often reply, “Hope he screws up. He’s got way better endurance than either of them (former world junior xc champ) and is way faster as he’s won of the world’s best 800 runners.” As 2014 showed though Asbel Kiprop is human with his own problems to deal with.

Kwemoi's vicory in Lausanne on July 3 came as a surprise to many. Kwemoi’s vicory in Lausanne on July 3 came as a surprise.

4. Ronald Kwemoi • Kenya • 19 years old • 3:28.81 1500 sb (#3) • no miles in ’14 • Commonwealth Silver • African Champs Bronze

DL results: 1st Lausanne, 3rd Monaco
Championship results: 2nd Commonwealth Games, 3rd African Championships

One thing is certain, Ronald Kwemoi is a major talent.

Some of you have cast doubt on whether Kwemoi’s age is accurate (according to his IAAF profile, he was 18 when he set the World junior record or 3:28.81 in Monaco on July 18). Kwemoi’s actual age is irrelevant when bestowing the “major talent” label on him as this was only his second year of competing at the international level (All-Athletics.com only has results for Kwemoi dating back to World XC last year (he was 9th in the junior race)) and his performances were phenomenal. What did the Japan-based Kenyan do? He announced to the world he was world class with a shocking win in his 1500 Diamond League debut in Lausanne on July 3 and then Kwemoi didn’t run a bad race the rest of the season. He followed up Lausanne with that 3:28.81 in Monaco before taking silver at the Commonwealth Games and bronze at the African Champs behind Souleiman and Kiprop. It would have been nice to see Kwemoi run another race or two once the DL resumed on August 21, but his two championship medals and 3:28 (#3 in the world in ’14) were still enough to earn him the #4 spot on this list. One race we’re glad he didn’t do: World Juniors. There wouldn’t have been any drama in the men’s 1500 (Kwemoi would have won easily) and the questions about his age would have only intensified.

Kwemoi’s first year racing at a high level in 2014 was an unqualified success. How much better can he get in 2015?

5. Aman Wote • Ethiopia • 30 years old • 3:29.91 1500 sb (#6) • 3:48.60 mile sb (#3) • World Indoor Silver

DL results: 6th Doha, 3rd Pre, 7th Rome, 4th Lausanne, 6th Monaco, 5th Birmingham, 5th Brussels (DL final)
Championship results: 2nd World Indoors

Wote’s stat line tells you pretty much everything you need to know. He had the world’s sixth-fastest 1500 time in 2014 (3:29.91 in Monaco), the third-fastest mile (3:48.60 at Pre) and took silver in the 1500 at World Indoors in March. His Diamond League season wasn’t overwhelming, but he put together seven decent races and never truly bombed (his 3:33.96 for 7th in Rome was his worst race of the year). The silver at World Indoors helps separate Wote from a tight group behind him including Abdelaati Iguider (#6), James Magut (#7)Taoufik Makhloufi (#8), and Nick Willis (#9).

6. Abdelaati Iguider • Morocco • 27 years old • 3:29.83 1500 sb (#5) • 3:49.09 mile sb (#4) • World Indoor Bronze

DL results: 4th Pre, 5th Rome, 5th Lausanne, 2nd Glasgow, 5th Monaco, 10th Brussels (DL final)
Championship results: 3rd World Indoors

Here’s where the list gets tricky. Iguider is like most of the guys in this area — several solid DL performances and one really good performance (bronze at World Indoors). His sbs of 3:29.83 (#5 in the world, from Monaco) and 3:49.09 (#4 in the world, from Pre) are strong and suggest that he might be worthy of the #6 ranking, but the win by James Magut (whome we ranked #7) at Commonwealths was more impressive than anything Iguider did this season (they were 2-2 against each other). Likewise, even though Iguider was 2-1 against Makhloufi, Makhloufi’s DL final win in Brussels was more impressive than Iguider’s World Indoor bronze.

Yet Iguider was better on the DL circuit (five top-fives versus four for Magut and two for Makhloufi) and ran faster times in the 1500 and mile than both Magut and Makhloufi. And it’s not as if his bronze at World Indoors came behind a couple of chumps — Souleiman and Wote went 1-2 in that race. In a tight race, that consistency on the circuit makes him #6.

7. James Magut • Kenya • 24 years old • 3:30.61 1500 sb (#9) • 3:49.43 mile sb (#5) • Commonwealth Champion • 5th at African Champs

DL results: 5th Doha, 5th Pre, 3rd Lausanne, 4th Birmingham, 14th Brussels (DL final)
Championship results: 1st Comonwealth Games, 5th African Championships

Magut deserves credit for winning the Commonwealth Games (defeating Kwemoi in the process) and with four top-five finishes in DL events, you can make a strong case that he is worthy of something a little better than #7 in the world. The problem is that his 3:30.61 sb ranked only ninth in the world (though his 3:49.43 mile from Pre ranked fifth). In addition, he was 1-2 versus Makhloufi (who we have at #8) who smoked him at the DL final in Brussels. But Makhloufi just didn’t do enough this year to surpass the Commonwealth Games champion. Makhloufi ran just four 1500/miles on the year, with one good performance (4th in Doha in 3:30.40) and one great one (the win in Brussels). Magut was consistent apart from the DL final and has a gold medal on his resume. That gives him the slight nod over Makhloufi.

Makhloughi Celebrates 70m Out Makhloufi celebrated early in Brussels on September 5 but still managed to win

8. Taoufik Makhloufi • Algeria • 26 years old • 3:30.40 1500 sb (#8) • 3:52.16 mile sb (#19) 

DL results: 4th Doha, 11th Pre, 9th Rome, 1st Brussels (DL final)
Championship results: none

As mentioned earlier, few performances were more impressive this year than Makhloufi’s victory at the DL final in Brussels. Kiplagat, Souleiman and Kiprop could all have clinched the DL title — and a $50,000 payday — with a win, but instead it was Makhloufi crossing the line first, nipping Kiplagat by .02 seconds when the latter possibly celebrated prematurely (Makhloufi had astoundingly celebrated way prematurely when he flashed a #1 sign to the camera with 70 meters to go as evidenced by the photo to our right). Makhloufi also ran very well in his season opener in Doha (pb 3:30.40).  It’s extremely tough to win a DL race, let alone the DL final where the three best guys in the world all desperately want to win.

Yet Makhloufi just didn’t show enough in his other races to merit a ranking higher than eighth. If he went 4-4-5-1 in his four 1500/miles, he’s probably our #6, but it’s hard to justify someone as #6 in the world when he only runs four races and 50 percent of them are bad (he was 4th, 11th, 9th and 1st in his 1500/miles as a reminder).

Makhloufi’s performance in 2014 was uneven, but at the very least, he was on the circuit racing, possibly quelling some of the suspicions that surrounded him after he surprisingly dominated the men’s 1500 at the 2012 Olympics. Last year, Makhloufi raced just once all season, but this year he raced eight times this summer and posted some performances in line with what you’d expect from the Olympic 1500 champion: 1:43.53 for 800, a near-win in the 800 in the Shanghai DL race, the 3:30 in Doha and his win in Brussels.

9. Nick Willis • New Zealand • 31 years old • 3:29.91 1500 sb (#7) • 3:49.83 mile sb (#7) • Commonwealth Bronze

DL results: 2nd Oslo, 7th Monaco
Championship results: 3rd Commonwealth Games, 6th Continental Cup

To call this a career year for Willis might be overstating it (he is, after all, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist), but years from now, Willis will certainly look back upon 2014 fondly. At age 31, Willis burst through two major barriers within a six-week span this summer, breaking 3:50 in the mile for the first time in his career on June 11 (3:49.83 in Oslo) and following that up with an Oceania record of 3:29.91 in the 1500 in Monaco on July 18 (his emotional interview with Flotrack after finally breaking 3:30 in Monaco is worth a watch). He’s now just the 23rd man in world history to go sub-3:50 and sub-3:30.

The Kiwi didn’t do as well as he would have liked at the major championships, missing out on a medal at World Indoors (he was fourth in the final but later DQ’ed for stepping inside the rail) and taking third behind Magut and Kwemoi at the Commonwealth Games. Yet those finishes, coupled with his two fast Diamond League times in Oslo and Monaco, make him a sensible choice for ninth on our list.

10. Collins Cheboi • Kenya • 27 years old • 3:32.00 1500 sb (#16) • 3:49.56 mile sb (#6)

DL results: 9th Doha, 6th Pre, 6th Rome, 6th Lausanne, 6th Birmingham, 4th Brussels (DL final)
Championship results: none

There wasn’t anything flashy about Cheboi this year, but if you’re consistently finishing in the top six in Diamond League races (as he did on five occasions, including an impressive fourth in the DL final), you’re probably among the top 10 runners in the world. We penalized Cheboi for his lack of a signature performance (his highest DL finish was 4th and his 3:32.00 1500 sb ranked just 16th in the world but he didn’t get to run in Monaco) but he ran enough decent races to earn the #10 spot. We know American fans would love to see Leo Manzano or Matt Centrowitz in this spot, but Cheboi was 5-0 combined against the Americans this season so we can’t pick either of them over him.

Honorable mention: Leo Manzano, Matthew Centrowitz, Homiyu Tesfaye, Henrik Ingebrigtsen

U.S. Rankings

2014 wasn’t a banner year for the United States in the 1500/mile. The top Americans — Leo Manzano and Matthew Centrowitz — excel in tactical races, but with no global championship in 2014, the two struggled to find success in the fast Diamond League races. That’s not to say that either had bad years. Far from it.

Manzano PR’d at 1500 while Centrowitz PR’d at 1500 and the mile. But outside of Manzano’s 3rd in Glasgow (a weaker-than-normal DL field because the race did not count in the DL standings), neither of them finished higher than 7th in eight combined DL races. Had there been a Worlds in 2014, it’s certainly possible that one of the duo could have medalled, as an American has taken home a medal in the men’s 1500 at each of the past four global championships.

The third member of Team USA at Worlds in 2013, Lopez Lomong, struggled for most of the year as he alternated between the 1500 and 5000, but still managed to claim his first career U.S. indoor title and place third at USA outdoors. OTC Elite’s Pat Casey PR’d by five seconds and wound up a surprising second at USAs, while the University of Oregon’s Mac Fleet held off 3:33 man Lawi Lalang to repeat as NCAA champion. Their improvement, in addition to the presence of veterans Will LeerJordan McNamara and Garrett Heath, means that the third spot for Worlds is totally up for grabs next year.

One man you won’t find in these rankings is Galen Rupp, even though his 3:34.15 1500 in Monaco made him the third-fastest American on the year. That race was the only 1500/mile Rupp finished in 2014 (he DNF’ed the mile at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in February) so even though he probably would have finished in the top five at USAs this year in the 1500, it doesn’t make much sense to rank him in the 1500/mile.

Manzano won the International Mile at Pre and claimed his second US title a month later. Manzano won the International Mile at Pre and claimed his second US title a month later.

1. Leo Manzano • Hoka One One • 30 years old • 3:30.98 1500 sb (#1 in US) • 3:52.41 mile sb (#3 in US) • US Outdoor Champion • 5th at USA Indoors

DL results: 3rd Glasgow, 8th Monaco, 8th Birmingham, 15th Brussels (DL final)
Championship results5th USA indoors, 1st USA outdoors, 7th Continental Cup

After a sponsorless 2013 during which Manzano struggled (he was 11th, 14th, 14th and 13th in his final four European 1500s), Manzano was back in 2014 thanks in part to Hoka One One and new coach John Hayes, though it took him a while to figure things out.

Manzano was just 5th at USA indoors and though he looked great at Pre, winning the International Mile in 3:52.41, that performance was sandwiched between a poor showing at the World Relays (his 3:46.7 anchor split almost cost the U.S. the silver in the 4×1500) and a fourth-place finish at the Adrian Martinez Classic in Concord, Mass., where he lost to Eric FinanHamish Carson and Julian Oakley.

However, Manzano rebounded to claim his second U.S. 1500 title later that month and PR’d in Monaco in July with a 3:30.98, the fastest time by an American since Andrew Wheating‘s 3:30.90 on the same track four years ago (Manzano is now #5 all-time in the U.S.).

The only other guy who could challenge Manzano for the #1 ranking was Matt Centrowitz. But the call was easy in our eyes – Manzano was the US champion, was 2-0 against Centro and ran faster over 1500.

You never quite know what you’re going to get from Manzano, but he put together enough good races — especially when it counted at USAs — that he is the undisputed U.S. #1 for 2014.

2. Matthew Centrowitz • Nike Oregon Project • 25 years old • 3:31.09 1500 sb (#2 in US) • 3:50.53 mile sb (#1 in US)

DL results: 8th Pre, 8th Oslo, 7th Lausanne, 9th Monaco, 9th Birmingham
Championship results: none

Centro was the only American aside from Manzano to mix it up with the big boys in Europe, and though he never finished higher than 7th in his five DL races, he showed he belonged in the big races. Just going by times, this was the best year of Centrowitz’s career as he PR’d at 1500 (3:31.09 in Monaco) and the mile (3:50.53 at Pre, the fastest mile by an American since Webb’s AR).

Couple that fitness with Centrowitz’s tactical acumen, it’s hard to imagine him finishing lower than second at USAs (Centro didn’t compete) and if there was a global championship this year, Centro would have been a good bet to record his fourth-straight top-five finish. Yes, he was only 11th on the world list at 1500, but Centro has proven that he’s among the very best in the world in a championship race and only three Kenyans are allowed at Worlds. If his overall fitness was higher in 2014 (as evidenced by his PRs), then it’s logical to assume that he’d be even more dangerous in a World final.

The big negative about Centrowitz’s 2014 season is that he didn’t race at USAs indoors (virus) or outdoors (he skipped it to run the Lausanne DL race). Skipping USA outdoors is something that causes one to lose major points in our eyes (it is terrible for the sport’s fans), but Centro was head and shoulders better than those ranked behind him so he is a clear #2. It would have been nice to see a Centrowitz-Manzano showdown with a national title on the line.

3. Pat Casey • OTC Elite/Nike • 24 years old • 3:35.32 1500 sb (#5 in US) • 3:52.62 mile sb (#4 in US) • 8th at USA Indoors • 2nd at USA Outdoors

Championship results: 8th USA indoors, 2nd USA outdoors

The 24-year-old Oklahoma product (by way of Montana State) improved tremendously in 2014, going from a 3:40 pb and third-place finish at NCAAs in 2013 to 3:35 and second at USAs in 2014. Casey ran 3:35 at Oxy in May and from that point on knew he was among the best in the USA, proving it with a solid leadoff leg at the World Relays (he handed off in first, ahead of mighty Kenya), a 3:53 mile at Pre and his second-place showing at USAs. Casey and Will Leer had similar credentials (Leer was faster at 1500 and the mile) and the two split their four races against each other this year. But Casey won the head-to-head in the biggest of their races (USA outdoors) and ran well enough after that (3:52.62 mile pb in Ireland and 3:35.32 1500 pb in Belgium) to earn the #3 ranking ahead of Leer and Lopez Lomong.

At 24, Casey is entering his prime and has a strong chance to make the U.S. team for Beijing as Centrowitz was the only big name who skipped USAs (Nick Symmonds also announced he’ll be running the 1500 at USAs, but he may choose to run only the 800 in Beijing if he qualifies in both events).

Lopez Lomong Wins over Will Leer Lomong edged Leer at USA indoors on February 23

4. Lopez Lomong • Bowerman Track Club/Nike • 29 years old • 3:39.11 1500 sb (#22 in US) • 3:54.28 mile sb (#10 in US) • US Indoor Champion • 3rd at USA Outdoors

Championship results: 1st USA indoors, 4th World Indoors semis, 3rd USA outdoors

Lomong didn’t do much outside of USAs but he ran well enough in championship races to hold off Leer for the fourth spot. Leer was five seconds faster at 1500 and seven seconds faster at the mile, but he was 0-2 against Lomong and both losses came at USAs (one indoor, one outdoor, though Leer did make the final at World Indoors while Lomong missed out). Lomong has made four of the past five U.S. teams (once at 5000) and would have made it in 2014 as well. But his days at 1500 might be drawing to an end as he really struggled at the 1500/mile in 2014 outside of championship settings. It will be interesting to see which event Lomong elects to run at USAs next June (perhaps both?) as he tries to make his fifth U.S. team.

5. Will Leer • Nike • 29 years old • 3:34.26 1500 sb (#4 in US) • 3:51.82 mile sb (#2 in US) • 2nd at USA Indoors • 6th at World Indoors • 4th at USA Outdoors 

DL results: 14th Pre
Championship results: 2nd USA indoors, 6th World Indoors, 4th USA outdoors

Since coming out of Pomona College in 2007, Leer has been among the best 1500-meter runners in the U.S., but it seems as if he’s always come up a bit short. His 6th at World Indoors — a month after his Wanamaker Mile win at the Millrose Games — was a breakthrough but Leer yet again failed to crack the top three at USA outdoors. Over the past years, he’s finished 10th, 4th, 5th, 3rd, 5th, 12th, 5th and 4th at USAs with the lone 3rd coming in 2010, when there was no Worlds/Olympics team to make.

We ran into Leer in Sacramento after USAs, where he lost out on third to Lomong by six thousandths of a second. While he was friendly toward us, he was clearly tired of just missing out on U.S. teams (even if there was no team to make this year). He said that every year after USAs, people tell him that next year is the year he’ll break through and make a team but that it hasn’t happened yet. The 29-year-old still has a few more chances (he set pbs at 1500 and the mile in ’14) but with guys like Casey and Mac Fleet on the rise, 2015 will be an important year for Leer.

Honorable mention: Jordan McNamara, Garrett Heath, David Torrence

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