January 31, 2015
The inaugural Armory Track Invitational closed with a bang as the American squad of Matthew Centrowitz (2:49.47), Mike Berry (46.40), Erik Sowinski (1:47.60) and Pat Casey (3:56.48) ran 9:19.93 to crush the old world record of 9:25.97, set by the University of Texas in 2008.
The record was on everyone’s mind at yesterday’s press conference and Centrowitz made it clear early that the attempt was on as he took the lead on the third lap of the opening 1200 leg and came through 600 in a quick 1:23. It can be hard to tell when Centrowitz is moving fast because he looks so smooth and relaxed at fast speeds. The giveaway was the gap he rapidly opened on the field; by the time he handed off to Berry in 2:49.47, Centrowitz had put 2.58 seconds on the field.
Kenya’s Jeremiah Mutai had led during the first couple laps, but Mutai faded to sixth by the time he handed off in 2:54.33. He had a good excuse — he ran a 1:48.18 800 on Thurday night in Dusseldorf, Germany — but that, coupled with 400 leg Carvin Nkanata’s 48.87 split (which lost an additional 2.27 seconds to the U.S.) left Kenya out of the race before the 800 leg. That would make the United States’ task more difficult as Kenya was expected to provide some competition and perhaps prevent the U.S. runners from leading every step of the race.
Berry (who had the fastest 400 leg by a full second) grew the lead for Sowinski, who ran his leg entirely solo, producing a solid 1:47.60 (second only to Ireland’s Mark English, who split 1:46.59). The time on the clock at the final exchange read 5:23.47, meaning that the 3:52 miler Casey merely had to split faster than 4:02.50 for the 1600 leg for the world record to go down.
Casey ran very intelligently, going out in around 58-high before settling in to 60-second pace for the middle 800. Ireland’s Ciaran O’Lionaird put in a big surge to catch up to Casey, as he was 3.71 seconds behind to start the leg but was only a few strides behind Casey within three laps. It looked for a few laps that O’Lionaird may have been able to battle for the win (and the record), but as is usually the case after a runner makes up a large deficit quickly, O’Lionaird was spent by the end and had nothing in the tank for the final laps. Casey ended up running a tactically-perfect race, taking off with two laps to go and coming home in 3:56.48 to get the win and the record in 9:19.93. O’Lionaird hung on bravely, splitting 3:58.23 as Ireland also dipped under the world record in 9:25.37. Having most of the field to chase, 2013 NCAA indoor mile champ/NCAA mile record holder Lawi Lalang had by far the fastest anchor leg in the field (3:52.33), but he could only manage fourth for Kenya as NJ*NY TC anchor Kyle Merber held Lalang off in the final stretch by .05 seconds.
Results and quick takes below.
Armory Track Invitational – They got what they came for. pic.twitter.com/ltR1hu4Rwf
— Armory Track (@ArmoryNYC) February 1, 2015
|1||United States of America
M Centrowitz (2:49.47), M Berry (46.40), E Sowinski (1:47.60), P Casey (3:56.48)
D Murray (2:53.17), B Gregan (47.40), M English (1:46.59), C O’Lionaird (3:58.23)
M Rutt (2:52.62), S Lumax (47.75), B Scheetz (1:48.61), K Merber (3:58.20)
J Mutai (2:54.33), C Nkanata (48.87), A Kipketer (1:51.69), L Lalang (3:52.33)
B Fish (2:53.43), C Hammond (48.92), C Claflin (1:50.29), S Haik (4:02.39)
N McClafferty (2:52.05), C Hawkins (48.88), J Burton (1:51.91), B Schoepfer (4:03.63)
C Engels (2:55.60), D Morgan (47.72), H Sherrer (1:51.66), R Domanic (4:05.54)
L Brahm (2:54.99), R Mennin (48.93), N Kauppila (1:53.00), B Paternostro (4:04.67)
Quick Take #1: A great race from the Americans, each of whom did their job nearly perfectly
This record seemed very attainable given the Americans’ personal bests; all it required was that each leg run intelligently. That’s exactly what happened today. Centrowitz took over at 600 meters and produced a smooth leadoff leg well under record pace (Texas’ leadoff leg split 2:54.11, a mark Centrowitz bettered by over four seconds) while giving Berry a clear track for his 400. Berry grew the lead and Sowinski maintained it, leaving Casey only needing a 4:02 for the record.
Leading an entire 1600-meter race is mentally challenging (this is why the NCAA DMRs bunch up so frequently), but Casey couldn’t have done it better. He got out well and settled into a nice pace, making sure to frequently checking the clock to ensure he remained on record pace. When it was clear he was going to take down the record with 400 to go, Casey took off, dropping O’Lionaird immediately and shaving a few extra seconds from the record. A great effort from each runner and a deserved world record.
“It’s a lot different when you’re leading the whole time,” Casey told NBCSN after the race. “I didn’t want to overextend myself too early. I knew we were on pace and was confident I was going to get it.”
Talking about the pre-race hype for the record, Casey told Race Results Weekly, “You know, it is a little bit more pressure [to go for the world record], but it’s also a little bit more fun, more to shoot for. To come here and run the DMR and not put that prediction out there, that expectation, I don’t think it would have created as much excitement as it did tonight.”
Quick Take #2: This was supposed to be a real race but it turned into a blowout
Ireland was close during the anchor leg, but O’Lionaird didn’t do any of the leading and always seemed unlikely to move on Casey at the end of the race. Other than that, the U.S. was all alone out front from 600 in (when Centrowitz dropped the field) to 600 into Casey’s anchor leg. Berry and Sowinski ran their entire legs all alone.
Most of this is due to the fact that Kenya’s leadoff leg performed poorly (he has run 1:43.9 for 800 and 2:18.17 for the 1000 but handed off in sixth, splitting just 2:54.33), which is in turn likely due to the fact that Mutai raced just two days ago 3,700 miles away in Dusseldorf. World junior champ Alfred Kipketer also underperformed (1:51.69, third-worst split of the race) despite his 1:43.9 pb, as did 400 man Carvin Nkanata (46.36 indoor best but split just 48.87). Lalang raced great on the anchor leg but that was ruled totally irrelevant by Kenya’s earlier legs.
No doubt the meet wanted a world record and also a world-record by the Americans. They got it.
Quick Take #3: Bring back the event next year — with another American team
How do you top a world record? A world record in an exciting race. That’s what happened in the 4×800 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix last year and while we enjoyed both of these races, there’s no doubt that the 4×800 was more exciting as the outcome was in doubt until the final strides.
The NBIGP put together two solid American teams and that would seem to be the recipe if the Armory Track Invitational wants to go after the DMR WR again next year (and not have a Kenyan team get it). Bring back the winning team today, but add in another squad — say Nick Symmonds (1200), Duane Solomon (800), Will Leer (1600) plus your pick of any of the top 15 U.S. 400 runners (Berry was sixth at outdoor USAs last year). That would be a great matchup, and the current record holders would have extra motivation to protect their status.
Quick Take #4: It’s always weird seeing members of the same relay squad wearing different singlets
Most relay races are held at the high school/NCAA level or in the World Championships/Olympics. In each of those races, all members of the same team must wear the same singlet (especially in high school, where any uniform infraction is a sin punishable by death). In professional meets like this however, teams are not required to wear to the same uniform, which produces some interesting results.
The members of the victorious Team USA are all sponsored by Nike, but they wore three different jerseys as Centrowitz (black NOP singlet) handed off to Berry (neon yellow) to Sowinski (neon yellow) to Casey (green OTC Elite). Other teams were similarly discordant as NJ*NY TC had one exchange from Ben Scheetz (navy NJ*NY TC singlet) to Kyle Merber (black/white/blue/yellow Hoka One One singlet).