2015 USATF Indoor Championships Men’s Preview: Centro vs Leo (and others), AR vs WR at 600 + A BTC Civil War at 2-miles

By Jonathan Gault, with edits and predictions by LetsRun.com.
February 26, 2015

With no World Indoor Championships this year, the brief U.S. professional indoor circuit will conclude this weekend at Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center with the 2015 USATF Indoor Championships. For some, the meet represents their first shot at a national title; for others, it’s a last chance to put up a solid performance on the eight-lap track. The outdoor season doesn’t really get going until May, so anyone who disappoints here will have to wait a while for redemption.

With no Worlds to qualify for, the mid-d and distance fields aren’t as strong as last year’s edition in Albuquerque (Editor’s note: Or maybe it just seems that way as USATF is experimenting and there is a 600 and 1000 for the 800 guys to choose between (but no 800)). Hopefully that means also means less controversy and more time spent focusing on the actual races.

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There are still plenty of big names who will be in action this weekend. On the men’s side, Cas Loxsom and Erik Sowinski take on 500-meter world record holder Brycen Spratling in the 600; the Bowerman Track Club trio of Chris Derrick, Ryan Hill and Evan Jager square off with Ben Blankenship in the 2-mile. The jewel of the men’s meet is the mile, which features three men who have accounted for the last six U.S. outdoor titles (Matthew CentrowitzLeo Manzano and Lopez Lomong) as well as rising stars Blankenship and Pat Casey.

Women’s action includes Ajee Wilson versus Alysia Montano (in just her second race post-pregnancy) in the 600; Treniere Moser in the 1000 (which also features 18-year-old high school senior Alexa Efraimson); and Shannon Rowbury and Jordan Hasay, who will each attempt the mile/2-mile double.

Outside of the distance events, the men’s 60 features four of the world’s top 10 this year: Marvin BracyJoe MorrisTrell Kimmons and current world #2 Ryan Bailey (6.50 seconds). Global outdoor medalists Jesse Williams and Erik Kynard will duel in the men’s high jump while American record holder and former World Indoor champ Chaunte Lowe leads the women’s high jump field. Seven-time U.S. indoor pole vault champ Jenn Suhr will face a real challenge in Stephen F. Austin’s Demi Payne, who has broken the collegiate record several times this season and sits #4 on the 2015 world list (Suhr is 17th). There’s also Will Claye in the long/triple jumps, and Christian Cantwell and Michelle Carter in the men’s and women’s shot put.

Below, the key details for this weekend’s event, followed by men’s mid-d and distance previews.

What: 2015 USATF Indoor Championships

When: Friday, February 27 – Sunday, March 1

Where: Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, Boston, Massachusetts

How to watch: NBC Sports Network will have live coverage from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. Events outside the TV window can be streamed on USATF.tv, starting at 11:15 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.

Schedule * Entries * 2014 LRC coverage

Men’s 600 (prelims Saturday, 5:02 p.m. ET; final 4:40 p.m. ET Sunday): American Record Holder Versus American Record Holder

Name Affiliation Mark Status Declaration
Brycen Spratling 45.90 qualified declared
Je’von Hutchison 46.66 qualified declared
Neil Braddy 46.67 qualified declared
Michael Courtney 46.87 qualified declared
William Mccaskill II 47.23 qualified declared
Casimir Loxsom Brooks 1:15.58 qualified declared
Mark Wieczorek Brooks 1:16.20 qualified declared
Jacob Sealby 1:17.81 qualified declared
Erik Sowinski Nike 1:47.42 qualified declared
Boris Berian 1:48.53 qualified declared
Dylan Skinner 1:18.77 accepted declared
Logan Sharpe Adidas Garden State Track Club 1:19.03 accepted declared
Nicholas Thornton 1:19.31 accepted declared
Harrison Hunter Central Park Track Club (CPTC) New Balance 1:20.27 accepted declared
Oscar Kemjika Central Park Track Club (CPTC) New Balance 1:21.07 accepted declared
Ryan Martin Asics 1:49.87 accepted declared
Erik Sowinski Wins It

Sowinski (shown here winning the 800 last year) will be looking for his third straight indoor title this weekend

One of the interesting things USATF has tried at this year’s championships is changing up the distances in which athletes compete. Gone are the 400, 800, 1500 and 3000, replaced by the 300, 600, 1000, mile and 2-mile. It’s a fun idea, and one of the highlights will be the men’s 600, an overlap distance pitting traditional 400-meter men against 800 guys.

While track aficionados can dream about figuring out a way to get Kirani James or LaShawn Merritt to race David Rudisha outdoors at 600, they can watch an indoor version of that this weekend when the US indoor 500 meter record holder Brycen Spratling battles the US indoor 600 meter record holder Cas Loxsom.

The two top 800 names on paper are Loxsom and Sowinski, the two fastest men in U.S. history over 600 meters indoors. Each has already demonstrated his fitness this season; Loxsom broke the American record in this event in his season-opener by running 1:15.58 on January 24; Sowinski claimed recent wins in the 1000 at the Millrose Games (a tactical 2:21.18) and at Athlone in Ireland (1:47.42 800) before narrowly missing his indoor pb with a 1:46.92 in Birmingham on Saturday. Sowinski prevailed in their only head-to-head matchup, taking third (2:19.12) to Loxsom’s sixth (2:22.80) in the 1000 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on this same track on February 7.

Those two figure to be the top 800 types in the race, though Mark Wieczorek was second in the race Loxsom set his AR, running 1:16.20, and could challenge.

That doesn’t necessarily make them the favorites, however, as the unsponsored Brycen Spratling set the world record in the 500 his last time out (60.06) at the Millrose Games. With a 45.09 outdoor pb over 400 (his best this year is 45.90 at Notre Dame on February 7), Spratling has some serious wheels, and simple math tells us that 600 meters is just 100 meters longer than 500 meters, a distance at which he holds the world record. While Je’von HutchisonNeal Braddy and Michael Courtney have all broken 47.00 in the 400 this year indoors, Spratling is the most accomplished — both in 2015 and over his career — by far of the 400-based guys. If a 400 guy is going to win this race, it’s probably going to be Spratling.

One of the appeals of mid-distance races, especially indoors, is that strategy plays such a huge part in who wins the race. It should be fascinating to see how the top guys decide to run this one. Getting out well early, already a big part of success in the indoor 800, will be even more important here — when the race lasts 75 seconds, you can’t afford to lose a few tenths battling around multiple people on the turn. If I’m Spratling, I’m getting to the lead from the gun and basically sprinting from there, hoping I can run away from/hold off the 800 guys. If I’m Loxsom or Sowinski, I’m trying to stay in second or third for the first two laps before making a strong move on the final lap, with the hope that, if Spratling chooses to lead, he runs out of gas before the end of the race.

600s and 800s are so unpredictable — especially indoors — that there’s a good chance someone I didn’t even mention could contend for, or perhaps even steal the win. This is certainly one of the events I’m most excited to watch this weekend.

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LRC Prediction: Outdoors, the 800 guys would definitely would be favored here but indoors there is a huge advantage to having the lead. It would be a great story if the unsponsored Spratling won so we’ll pick him but Loxsom or Sowinski is the safer bet. After all, Loxsom is the American record holder in this event.

Name Affiliation Mark Status Declaration
Cory Leslie Nike 1:47.63 qualified declared
Benjamin Scheetz New Jersey New York Track Club 1:47.72 qualified declared
Thomas Scott 1:47.93 qualified declared
James Gilreath Adidas Team Green Running 1:48.13 qualified declared
Kyle Merber Hoka One One 1:49.34 qualified declared
Jeremy Wilk 1:49.36 qualified declared
Harun Abda Nike / Oregon TC Elite 2:20.33 qualified declared
Robby Andrews adidas 2:21.23 qualified declared
Joseph Gioielli 2:21.66 qualified declared
Daniel Guerrero 2:22.41 qualified declared
Michael Rutt Hoka One One / New Jersey New York Track Club NT accepted declared
Shawn Roberts New Jersey New York Track Club 2:23.31 accepted declared
Liam Boylan-Pett New Jersey New York Track Club 2:23.44 accepted declared

Men’s 1000 (prelims Saturday, 3:41 p.m. ET; final Sunday, 4:59 p.m. ET): Harun Abda Vs. Robby Andrews

Andrews, shown here at USA outdoors last year, would get a major confidence boost from a win in Boston

Andrews, shown here at USA outdoors last year, would receive a major confidence boost from a win in Boston

Compared to the 600 and mile, this event is weak. 800 runners essentially had to choose between the 600 and the 1000 at this meet, and the top two entered (Sowinski and Loxsom) picked the shorter distance. Once you factor in that there are five events on the oval this year (compared to four last year) and it’s a non-championship year and we were bound to see a weaker field like this in at least one race.

That’s not to say the event is entirely deprived of talent, however. Harun Abda (1:45.55 pb) was #4 on the U.S. list last year at 800 outdoors and Robby Andrews (1:44.71 pb) has great potential and came close to knocking off Sowinski over this distance two weeks ago at Millrose. Abda’s 2:20.33 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix is the fastest 1000 on the books for any of the entrants this year while Cory Leslie, a steeplechaser outdoors, has the best 800 with his 1:47.63 in Nashville on January 24. He followed that up with an impressive 3:56.99 on a flat track at the Camel City Elite meet on January 31 (equivalent to a 3:54.00 using the NCAA conversion); with a 3:53.44 outdoor pb, he has the best mile speed of anyone in the field. NJ*NY TC athletes Ben Scheetz (1:47.72 at Iowa State on February 14), Kyle Merber (3:54.76 mile pb outdoors) and Michael Rutt (1:45.08 800 pb outdoors; 5th at USAs last year outdoors) could also threaten, with Rutt the most likely to do damage given his past success.

This event feels a little short for Leslie and it would demonstrate some impressive range if he could win this race after taking 4th at USAs in the steeple last year. He and Rutt are also double-entered in the mile (the mile final is 54 minutes before the 1000 final on Sunday) one or both may end up scratching from one event between now and the start of the meet. Abda and Andrews are the safest bets, and it may come down to the final 50 meters, as it did at Millrose, with Abda playing the role of Sowinski, trying to hold off the famously fast-finishing Andrews.

With Nick Symmonds supposedly running the 1500 outdoors this year, potentially two spots on Team USA behind Duane Solomon at 800 are wide-open. Whoever wins here will have a nice confidence-booster to carry them into the outdoor season as the chase for Beijing intensifies.

LRC Prediction: How can we predict this if we don’t know who is in it and who is in the mile? A win by Leslie would be a win for the underdog despite running so well, there wasn’t room for him a Millrose – but 800 guys have a huge advantage in the 800 over milers so were leaning towards Andrews or Abda. Andrew is Mr. Indoor so we’ll go with him as we need someone to validate our “Talent doesn’t go away” mantra as the recent struggles of Fernandez, Wheating and Andrews have been testing it to the limit.

Men’s mile (no prelim; final Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET): Centrowitz Takes On The Top 3 From USA Last Year

Name Affiliation Mark Status Declaration
Matthew Centrowitz Nike / Nike Oregon Project 3:51.35 qualified declared
Benjamin Blankenship Nike 3:53.13 qualified declared
Pat Casey Nike / Oregon TC Elite 3:54.36 qualified declared
Leonel Manzano Hoka One One 3:56.05 qualified declared
Riley Masters Brooks 3:56.15 qualified declared
Ford Palmer Hoka One One 3:56.79 qualified declared
Cory Leslie Nike 3:56.99 qualified declared
Michael Rutt Hoka One One / New Jersey New York Track Club 3:57.28 qualified declared
Matthew Elliott Brooks 3:57.36 qualified declared
Michael Atchoo Strava Track Club 3:57.58 qualified declared
Steven Mangan Boston Athletic Association 3:58.24 qualified declared
Jack Bolas New Jersey New York Track Club 3:58.46 qualified declared
Dan Lowry Boston Athletic Association 3:58.52 qualified declared
Andrew Bayer Nike / Bowerman Track Club 3:58.83 qualified declared
Lopez Lomong Nike / Bowerman Track Club 3:43.09 accepted declared
We didn't get a sub 3:50 but the Wanamaker Mile lived up to its hype.

Centro won the biggest race of the indoor season at Millrose; can he claim his first U.S. indoor title on Sunday?

This is the best distance field of the meet by some margin. In Manzano, Casey and Lomong, it’s got the top three from last year’s U.S. outdoor champs at 1500 plus Centrowitz, who has been the top American mile on the indoor circuit in 2015. You’ve also got breakout star Ben Blankenship, who ran 3:35.28 in Birmingham last weekend, 3:53 miler Cory Leslie and last year’s fifth-placer at USA outdoors, Ford Palmer.

Centrowitz has to be the favorite, despite his lackluster 3:40.80 1500 in Birmingham. Until that point, Centro had been unstoppable in 2015, winning all five of his races including big victories in the 1000 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix and the most stacked race of the year — the NYRR Wanamaker Mile. In both cases, made strong moves on the final lap and finished well ahead of the next-closest American (1.30 seconds in the 1000; 3.01 seconds in the mile). If Centrowitz runs like he did in Boston or New York, it’s game over on Sunday.

Of course, that’s not a given as no one would have expected Blankenship to spank Centrowitz by over five seconds last weekend until it actually happened. Centrowitz is the favorite, but I would feel better about picking him if he had two weeks to recover from Birmingham as opposed to one. It’s not that running one extra 1500 took that much out of Centrowitz (Blankenship raced a mile last Wednesday and came back to run 3:35 three days later) but USA indoors will be his fifth race in as many weeks. It’s certainly possible to race at a high level five weeks in a row, but there’s a reason why most competitors over 800 meters stop racing that frequently once they hit college: it’s hard to do. Still, Centro raced extremely well earlier this season and it would be foolish to judge him based on one bad race. Assuming he got some extra recovery in this week, Centrowitz is the leading contender to win this race.

Who could beat him? There are several candidates. Pat Casey finished as the next American behind Centro in the 1000 in Boston and the Wanamaker Mile; if Centro has an off day, he could step in and fill the void. Blankenship, whose 3:53.13 mile in Boston on February 7 puts him #3 on the world list this year, has been on fire recently (though it should be noted that he’s also entered in the 2-mile, which will be run on Saturday, so it’s possible he’ll be tired). If he keeps it up, he’ll be in with a chance of the win, though he is coming off a busy two-race week last week. Leo Manzano’s record at USA indoors isn’t as formidable as his history at USA outdoors (he was 5th at USA indoors last year) but he excels in championship races and could be a factor here. And of course there’s the defending champion, Lopez Lomong, who has yet to race a mile/1500 indoors but demonstrated great closing speed in holding off teammate Ryan Hill to win the 5000 at the Millrose Games in 13:27.60. Cory Leslie is also in great shape, as mentioned in the previous section, though it’s possible he focuses on the 1000 at this meet instead.

If you’re looking for a dark horse, consider NJ*NY TC’s Ford Palmer, who was fifth at USAs last year outdoors and ran 3:56.79 for the win at his only race so far this year at Boston University’s Valentine Invitational.

Like the 600, positioning will be key in this race. Right now, there are 15 guys entered and though a couple may end up scratching, that’s still a lot of guys on a 200-meter track in a championship mile.

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LRC Predictions: We are pumped for this one. Centrowtiz is our pick. If he falters, we’re still going with a big name – Manzano or Lomong.  It would be great to see an underdog win but that rarely happens. If an underdog win sit, it will be Leslie. We would love to see a Cory MF Leslie thread be super hot on Sunday as he couldn’t even find a lane for the Wanamaker mile despite running 3:56 on a flat track. We sure hope Leslie runs the mile – to find out where he really is – than choose the much easier 1k.

Manzano is lethal in slow races and has been improving. He ran 3:57.79 on January 31st and then 3:56.05 two weeks later.

Warning to USATF, you should not start this race with 14 people. Don’t do it. It’s too many people in an indoor mile. Someone likely will fall. We know athletes like to make travel plans in advance but just tell people, we’re going to take the 12 fastest entrants.

Name Affiliation Mark Status Declaration
Garrett Heath Brooks 7:48.17 qualified declared
Isaac Presson Furman Elite 7:50.60 qualified declared
German Fernandez Nike / Bowerman Track Club 7:55.41 qualified declared
Dan Lowry Boston Athletic Association 7:56.33 qualified declared
Ethan Shaw Boston Athletic Association 7:58.01 qualified declared
Taylor Gilland 7:58.35 qualified declared
Chris Moen ZAP Fitness Reebok 7:58.67 qualified declared
Julian Saad Boston Athletic Association 7:58.81 qualified declared
Benjamin Blankenship Nike 8:16.53 qualified declared
Ryan Hill Nike / Bowerman Track Club 13:27.80 qualified declared
Chris Derrick Nike / Bowerman Track Club NM accepted declared
Evan Jager Nike NM accepted declared
John Happe Speed Factory Athletics 8:00.26 accepted declared

Men’s 2-mile (final Saturday, 5:44 p.m. ET)

Can Ryan Hill prevail in a wide-open 2-mile?

Can Ryan Hill prevail in a wide-open 2-mile?

It’s anyone’s guess as to who wins this race; your pick depends on what you value. Blankenship has the best mark of anyone in the field (his 8:16.53 2-mile is roughly equivalent to a 7:40 3k) and his 3:35 last weekend clearly demonstrates he’s got good speed. Garrett Heath has only raced once indoors this season (7:48 3k two weeks ago) but has the fastest 1500 pb in the field at 3:34.12; he’s also a threat if the race gets tactical.

Then there’s the Bowerman Track Club trio of Hill, Derrick and Jager, each of whom is capable of winning the race. Hill was second in the 5000 at Millrose two weeks ago, losing in a kick to teammate Lopez Lomong, 13:27.60-13:27.80. Derrick was last seen dominating USA XC on February 7; though his focus will be on World XC on March 28, he’s clearly in great shape at the moment and always comes prepared to race. Finally, there’s Jager, who has been working on his speed this indoor season (he ran an 800-1000 double in Seattle on January 17 and followed that up with a DMR-800 double two weeks later). It appears to be working — he clocked a more than respectable 3:55.25 in the Wanamaker Mile two weeks ago to finish fifth.

It’s difficult to predict indoor races because there’s less race data available than outdoors and it’s hard to tell where each person is at in their training cycle. I could see any one of the five men I mentioned winning the race. If I had to pick, I’d lean towards Jager or Derrick as I believe they are the two best overall runners in the race, though it’s also difficult to discount Blankenship after the stellar recent run he’s put together.

LRC Prediction: Kudos to Chris Derrick for running this race a month before the World Cross country championships. 2 miles is short for the 10,000 meter man however. He’s only got a 3000 pb of 7:44 and isn’t winning this one. We think this is won by teammates Ryan Hill or Evan Jager. Hill has run 3:56 in the mile this year and has a 7:34 3000 pb. Jager has run 3:55 in the mile this year and has a 7:35 3000 pb. Both guys are 25. It’s very hard to separate them. We’ll go with Hill. He lost the 5k at the Armory but did most of the work and is the fastest American collegian at 3000 if you count his oversized track run of 7:43.08.

Blankenship has been running great all year but we just don’t see him getting the win. He’ll got some more nice scalps but not the win.

One more thing, we really hope German Fernandez rebounds here. Kudos for him getting back out there after a debacle at Millrose.

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LRC Addition: Guys that are missing.

We know there isn’t a ton of money at USAs. But you’d think sponsors would want guys on national tv in their singlets. The fans would love to see them as well. We feel like the fans should almost demand that the top stars show up and race US championships when they can.

There are a certainly quite a few guys who could be at USAs but have taken a pass. Andrew Wheating has run 1:48 and 3:57 this year. The last time he ran a full indoor season (2010) was the last time he was truly great outdoors. We just realized though that he raced today (Thursday) in New Zealand. That’s fine. The kid needs more races. That’s what we want to see.

1:42 800 man Duane Solomon would be perfect for the 600 but he only showed up at Millrose this year and then called it a season. Come on people. Do it for the fans.

More: Discuss this article in our forum: 2015 Men’s USA Indoor meet is loaded – Who you got?
*Women’s mid-d and distance preview.

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