By Jonathan Gault, Predictions by LRC Staff.
February 5, 2015
On Saturday, some of the world’s best pros will assemble in Boston for the 20th edition of the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. Many of the biggest names in American distance running will take to the track of the Reggie Leiws Center, including Bernard Lagat (3000), Matthew Centrowitz (1000), Mary Cain (1000), Emma Coburn (2000), Jenny Simpson (2 mile) and Brenda Martinez (distance medley relay). Olympic silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel (3000), eight-time NCAA champ Lawi Lalang (3000), World Junior champ Dawit Seyaum (2000), Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis (mile) and several other top international runners will feature in the meet.
And that’s just the distance portion of the meet. Non mid-d and distance wise, which we don’t get into below, Asafa Powell will try to prove he’s still relevant in the 60, Olympic champ Jenn Suhr features in the women’s pole vault, Ryan Whiting and Christian Cantwell are in the shot put, 2012 world indoor champ Chaunte Lowe is in the HJ, and more. Looking at these fields, it’s easy to see why this meet is the only US meet that’s an IAAF permit meet indoors in 2015.
The NBIGP serves as the nightcap of a terrific day of action. In the afternoon, there’s the USATF Cross Country Championships in Boulder, which can be streamed on USATF.TV (the marquee open races are at 2:15 p.m. and 3 p.m. ET); the NBIGP starts at 4:30 p.m. ET, though the NBC Sports Network broadcast doesn’t begin until 6 p.m.
There’s a lot to get to for this meet, including an American record attempt in the men’s 1000 and a world record attempt in the women’s DMR, so let’s hit the details and then take a look at the major events. Also make sure to check back on Friday as we’ll have coverage of the pre-meet press conference up on the site in the late afternoon/early evening.
What: 2015 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix
When: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET (live on NBC Sports Network from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m.)
Where: Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, Boston, Massachusetts
Men’s 1000 (6:12 p.m. ET)
The first pro distance event of the evening is one of the most compelling, with several in-form men gunning for David Torrence‘s American indoor record of 2:16.76 (set in Boston last year, though not at this meet). 400 meter man Mike Berry must be feeling a little left out, as he’s the only member of last weekend’s world record-setting DMR squad not entered in this race. After combining with Berry to run 9:19.93 in New York, Matthew Centrowitz (1200 leg), Erik Sowinski (800) and Pat Casey (1600) will go for a solo record in Boston on Saturday.
All three looked comfortable in the record-setting effort. Centrowitz gapped the rest of the 1200 legs with a few laps to go, splitting a 2:49.47, while Sowinski (1:47.60) and Casey (3:56.48) ran their legs mostly alone (Casey had some company behind him during the middle of it but never surrendered the lead), suggesting that each was capable of faster. Of the three, Centrowitz and Sowinski both should have a shot at Torrence’s record (Casey, with a 1:47.67 800 pb, might not have the speed for it). Centrowitz has only run one 1000 indoors (2:19.56 in 2013) but his 1:45.86 outdoor 800 pb isn’t that far off Torrence’s (1:45.14) and his 3:31.09 1500 pb is #7 all-time in the U.S., over two full seconds ahead of Torrences’s. Sowinski, whose indoor 600 AR was broken last weekend, ran 2:18.63 in New York last year. 1000 meters is certainly testing the limits of his range (he doesn’t even have a 1500 pb) but a 2:16 is certainly conceivable from him as well. That being said, week, Sowinski told us he’s more comfortable at 600 than 1000.
And then there’s the man that took down Sowinski’s 600 AR, Cas Loxsom. Loxsom, who ran 2:19.16 for 1000 outdoors last year, showed last week with hi 1:15.58 in Albuquerque that he’s ready to run fast right now and that he’ll be a factor in this race.
The tactics in this one should be fascinating. Normally in a record attempt, you’ve got one guy going for the time, with no traffic to maneuver around. The strategy is simple: just follow the rabbit and hold on at the end. But in this race, there will be several guys shooting for the record and a few more who will think they can win it if the race goes a little slower. That makes getting out in good position early extremely important — you don’t want to be running any extra distance in a record attempt.
Loxsom likes to run near the front, while Centrowitz generally lurks further back, waiting to make his move. Getting out isn’t as important for a 1500 runner as it is for an 800 runner, but even for a 1500 runner, Centrowitz isn’t particularly good at it. I remember talking to him after the Pre Classic last year, when he set his mile pb of 3:50.53 but was disappointed he didn’t run faster, something he blamed on not getting in good enough position early (with a winning time of 3:47.32, the fastest in the world since 2007, it was clearly important to get out well in that race). This race will be a good chance for him to work on that issue.
LetsRun.com Prediction: Centrowitz wins. If anyone gets the AR, it’s definitely him in our book. We’ll predict he’ll get the record (if he doesn’t it’s not because of fitness, simply pacing. It’s easier to get it in a pure record attempt not a race with a number of good guys going for the record).
Women’s 1000 (6:33 p.m. ET)
Mary Cain is the big name in this one, and her goal this year is likely the same as it was at this meet last year: break the World Junior record. And, like last year, Cain already owns the existing record. She’ll have a tougher task this year as she’s targeting a faster time (2:35.80 versus 2:39.25) and isn’t coming in off a great race (she ran 4:24.11 for the mile the week before the NBIGP last year; she ran just 2:02.75 for 800 last week). But if Cain can rebound, the world junior record — and the senior record, as a matter of fact (2:35.4) — is on the table.
Cain is far from a given in this race, however. She was beaten by Nike Oregon Project teammate Treniere Moser in New York last weekend, in a race where Moser came up just short of 2014 800 world leader Ajee Wilson (2:01.63 to 2:01.79). Moser will have a good shot in this race, as will Molly Beckwith-Ludlow, who took third at USAs in the 800 last year and has run 1:59.12. 2014 Mary Cain is a convincing favorite in this race. 2015 Mary Cain is merely among the favorites.
LetsRun.com Prediction: Trenier Moser isn’t done yet, Moser FTW.
Women’s DMR (6:42 p.m. ET)
|New Balance USA||Sarah Brown||Mahagony Jones||Megan Krumpoch||Brenda Martinez|
|New Balance Ireland||Claire Tarplee||Christine McMahon||Katie Kirk||Ciara Mageean|
|New York All Stars||Stephanie Charnigo||Katie Hoaldridge||Latavia Thomas||Nicole Tully|
Lineups subject to change. The race will also feature college teams from Harvard, Boston College and Northeastern.
Like the men’s DMR record that was broken last weekend, the women’s indoor DMR record is held by an American collegiate squad: the University of Tennessee team of Phoebe Wright, Brittany Jones, Chanelle Price and Sarah Bowman that ran 10:50.98 at the 2009 NCAA indoor championships. Like the men’s record, that means it’s vulnerable to go down this Saturday with three professional teams entered, though it’s not the sure bet that the men’s record was.
The most important legs for a DMR record attempt are obviously the 1200 and the 1600 as they combine to make up 70 percent of the race. In that respect, New Balance USA, with 4:05 1500 runner Sarah Brown (formerly Sarah Bowman — yes, she will be trying to break a record she already owns) and 800 WC bronze medalist/4:00 1500 runner Brenda Martinez should be the favorite and is likely the only team with shot of challenging the old record.
Here’s what Tennessee split in its record run:
1200: 3:23.37 (Wright)
400: 53.31 (Jones)
800: 2:03.19 (Price)
1600: 4:31.11 (Bowman)
It’s going to be tough for New Balance USA to gain any ground in the 400 and 800; in fact, it will more than likely lose time. Mahagony Jones’ best indoor 400 is 54.32, so even rounding down to 54.0 with the running start, she’s going to be a bit behind. Krumpoch’s fastest indoor time is 2:05.56 (albeit on a flat track) and though she did get down to 2:03.82 outdoors, it’s hard to see her bettering that in February. NB USA is likely down at least two seconds from those two legs.
The good news is that they can make up a lot of that time on the other two legs. 3:23.37 isn’t particularly fast for a 1200; it’s only 4:14 pace for a 1500, and Brown ran a 4:26.67 mile last year outdoors (worth around a 4:07 1500). If we estimate that she runs the same pace as that mile for this 1200 (and she could go faster, given she’s not running the extra lap-plus at the end), that puts her at 3:18.84, gaining her 4.54 seconds on the record. Likewise, Martinez, with a running start, should be able to do much better than 4:31.11 for 1600. Martinez split a solo 4:10.4 in the 4×1500 at the World Relays last year, worth around 4:28 for a 1600. If you factor in that she’s chasing a record, you could see her splitting around 4:30 on Saturday, which, coupled with good runs by the rest of the squad, should be enough for the record. Of course, this race will be Martinez’ 2015 opener and we don’t know exactly what kind of shape she’ll be in.
Brown will be the key. She needs to get the race going early because it’s her leg and Martinez’ leg where NB USA are better than the Tennessee squad and where they can pick up the most time. Here’s what I see as feasible splits for NB USA if it is to break the record:
1200: 3:19.0 (Brown)
400: 55.0 (Jones)
800: 2:06.5 (Krumpoch)
1600: 4:30.0 (Martinez)
That comes out to 10:50.5 — breaking the old record by .48 seconds. It’s not a given, but it can be done.
LRC Prediction: New Balance Gets The AR.
Men’s Mile (7:02 p.m. ET)
This race figures to be a battle between Olympic 1500 bronze medalist Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco and a pair of former University of Michigan studs, Nick Willis and Ciaran O’Lionaird (editor’s note: while O’Lionaird started our at Michigan, he ended up his career at Florida State and his best known for his running there). Neither Iguider nor Willis has raced yet this year, but their pedigrees and 2014 results (World Indoor bronze and 3:29.83 outdoors for Iguider; Commonwealth bronze and 3:29.91 outdoors for Willis) make them the favorites in this race. O’Lionaird put forth a valiant effort last week in New York, anchoring Ireland’s DMR to a mark that eclipsed the previous world record, but he put so much effort into catching the U.S.’s Pat Casey early in the leg that he was spent when it was time to kick. Expect him to run well under his 3:58.23 split from that race in Boston. Ben Blankenship (8:16.53 2-mile last week, defeating Galen Rupp) and Riley Masters (3:58.91 mile on a flat track at the Camel City Elite last week) lead the American contingent.
LRC Prediction: Willis says he’s planning on running a negative split in this one. Being his first race, we’re not sure if he’s sharp enough to win. O’Lionaird has a big advantage in having raced. We’ll pick him for the win but Iguider, unlike many Africans, is experienced indoors (World indoor bronze last year).
Women’s 2000 (7:15 p.m. ET)
How odd is the women’s indoor 2000? According to Track & Field News, five of the top eight American performances in the event’s history (non-converted) came in this exact race last year. Kim Conley‘s 5:41.10 win wasn’t close to the American (5:34.52, Mary Slaney) or world records (5:30.53, Gabriela Szabo) and it’s very unlikely either of those marks will be threatened on Saturday. The key runners to watch are Emma Coburn (opening her season with this race for the second year in a row; she ran 5:47.20 last year), Olympic 10,000 silver medalist Sally Kipyego (who beat Jenny Simpson to win the 2-mile in this meet a year ago) and Ethiopia’s World Junior 1500 champ Dawit Seyaum, who ran 3:59.53 last year for 1500. It would have been nice to see a showdown between the prodigies Seyaum and Cain in this meet, especially since they ran different events at World Juniors last year. I guess we’ll just have to keep waiting.
One more note: two-time Olympic gold medalist Meseret Defar was initially scheduled to compete here, in her first race since giving birth in June (she hasn’t raced since September 2013). She withdrew earlier in the week.
LRC Prediction: It’s a bummer Defar isn’t here but we’ll go with Ethiopia. Seyaum FTW although picking a young Ethiopian to win indoors can be dangerous.
Men’s 3000 (7:28 p.m. ET)
The final men’s event of the night should be a treat. Last year’s runner-up, Olympic silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel, is back and will likely be shooting for a clocking in the low 7:30s (his countryman Hagos Gebrhiwet, who won this race last year, will not be back, withdrawing to focus on World XC). This is an important race for Gebremeskel as he after bombing the 10,000 at Worlds in 2013, he only raced once on the track outdoors in 2014. He’s been the man in Boston before as in 2001 he famously beat Mo Farah while running most of the race with just 1 shoe.
He’ll be challenged by two-time NCAA 3k champ Lawi Lalang, who seems a good bet to crack his 7:42.79 indoor pb (he’s run 7:36.44 outdoors) after splitting a solo 3:52.33 1600 last week at the Armory in the DMR.
America’s best hope, going by historical performance, is Bernard Lagat, the silver medalist in this event at last year’s World Indoor Championships. He ran poorly earlier this year in the Edinburgh XC race but Lawi Lalang told us last week that Bernard is most definitely in great shape. Of course, every year he ages makes performing at a high level more difficult for the 40-year-old Lagat. Still, even a poor performance from Lagat should see him take down the masters world record of 8:01.44. 13:02 man Hassan Mead will make his 2015 debut here (he was 9th last year in 7:44.88) and Will Leer will also run after taking second at the Camel City Elite mile last week in 3:57.54 (flat track).
LRC Prediction: A World Record for Lagat but a win for his training partner Lawi Lalang. Astute observers, however, will really be focused on Gebremeskel as how he does here could have big implications for Beijing.
Women’s 2-Mile (7:45 p.m. ET)
The final event of the evening is a chance for New Balance to showcase its biggest star — 2014 Diamond League champion Jenny Simpson. She is head and shoulders above the rest of the six-person field (it would have been better if the meet combined this race with the women’s 2000 — which also has just six runners — to form a more competitive race) and, assuming she’s fit, should have no problem taking the victory in this one, even if she does miscount her laps (as she did last year).
The question isn’t, “Can Simpson get the win?” It’s “Can Simpson get the American record?”
The American record is held by drug cheat Regina Jacobs at 9:23.38 (set at this meet in 2002); after that, it’s Simpson’s 9:26.19 from last year. Considering that Simpson kicked by Kipyego (who would run 9:21.04) a lap early last year and that she actually stopped after crossing the finish line, only to get moving again when she realized her mistake, it seems likely that she could have broken 9:23.38 last year. Simpson will obviously be paying very close attention to the lap counter in this one and as long as she does that, the American record is in serious jeopardy.
LRC Prediction: Simpson takes down the AR of a drug cheat.
Ejigu, who has twice been 4th at the world champs in the 5000 and has pbs of 8:28 for 3000 and 14:28 for 5000, used to be one of the best in the world. If there is an upset, we think she’s the winner but she hasn’t been the same since a leg injury kept her out of 2012 and 13 however.
Buze Diriba has a 14:50 pb and did most of the work before finishing 3rd in the 2-mile last week at the Amory in 9:39.56.
Discuss this meet in our running fan forum: MB: New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston -Official Tread AR attempt @1000m, Simpson AR Attempt, Cain, Coburn, Lagat…