2015 USATF Indoor Championships Women’s Preview: Mother Alysia Montaño Returns To Face Ajee Wilson + The Shannon Rowbury Show

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.

As you may have guessed with no Worlds to qualify for, the mid-d and distance fields aren’t as strong as last year’s edition in Albuquerque. 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 Montaño (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

Women’s 600 (prelims Saturday 4:21 p.m. ET, final Sunday 4:31 p.m. ET)

Name Affiliation Mark Status Declaration
Alysia Montaño Asics / New York Athletic Club (NYAC) 53.86 qualified declared
Kendra Chambers 54.07 qualified declared
Bethany Praska 1:28.66 qualified declared
Mckayla Fricker 1:29.40 qualified declared
Nevada Morrison 1:29.71 qualified declared
Shannon Leinert Brooks / Speed Factory Athletics 1:29.90 qualified declared
BreAnna Smith Speed Factory Athletics 1:30.47 qualified declared
Angee Henry 1:30.55 qualified declared
Stephanie Herrick Central Park Track Club (CPTC) New Balance 1:30.58 qualified declared
Ena Leufroy The Janes Elite Racing 1:32.31 qualified declared
Lauren Henkel New York Athletic Club (NYAC) 1:32.76 qualified declared
Samantha Levin Gateway City United 1:32.86 qualified declared
Ajee’ Wilson adidas 2:01.57 qualified declared
LaTavia Thomas 2:03.12 qualified declared
Megan Krumpoch 2:04.29 qualified declared
Phoebe Wright Nike 2:04.70 qualified declared
Megan Malasarte Brooks 2:04.86 qualified declared
Pregnant Alysia Montano Runs at Nationals (click here for a full photo gallery)

This is what Alysia Montaño looked like the last time we saw her

This race is Wilson’s to lose, but the most interesting storyline here is the return of Montaño, who has raced just once since giving birth in August (she ran 53.86 for 400 in Seattle on February 14). Montaño ran during her pregnancy — including a famous appearance at USAs — and her 53.86 qualifying mark shows she’s in shape to compete right now. I can’t render an accurate judgment on Montaño’s fitness based on a single 400, but I can’t imagine she’s in better shape than Wilson, who looked very comfortable striding to a couple of 800 victories at the Armory Track Invitational and the Millrose Games, running 2:01 each time. Wilson’s 800 SB is over a second and a half better than anyone else in the field, and no one else in the field has done anything at another distance this year to truly worry her.

I’m most interested to see what kind of shape Montaño is in and how she races against Wilson. Prior to her maternity leave, Montaño was THE dominant American 800 runner, reeling off four straight national championships from 2010 to 2013 and going 4-5-4 at the last three global outdoor championships. She isn’t used to losing to Americans and is 6-1 in her career versus Wilson. Moreover, Montaño was known for getting out hard and hanging on.

The 800 environment Montaño returns to is very different than the one she left in August 2013. No nation is stronger than the U.S. at 800 meters, and even if Montaño — who is still only 28 — returns to her form of 2010-2013, there’s no guarantee she’s going to be winning U.S. titles outdoors with the likes of Wilson (2014 world leader) and Brenda Martinez (2013 Worlds bronze medalist) in the mix. Montaño hasn’t lost at a U.S. Championships since February 2010 (I’m not counting USA outdoors last year since she was eight months pregnant), but there’s a distinct possibility that streak will end on Sunday. It will be very interesting to see how Montaño responds returning to a far more competitive event; that process begins this weekend against Wilson.

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LRC Prediction: Wilson is amazing. She was #2 in the world last year and she’s just 20. She’s won everything she’s run this year indoors but hasn’t run particularly fast by her standards. And Wilson’s speed is probably better. Ajee’s 400 pb is just 53.64, not much faster than what Montaño ran this year. Just because we think it would be a great story. We’ll go with Montaño. She should be rewarded for even coming to these champs.

Women’s 1000 (prelims Saturday 3:19 p.m. ET, final Sunday 4:49 p.m. ET)

Name Affiliation Mark Status Declaration
Stephanie Charnigo New Jersey New York Track Club 2:02.66 qualified declared
Lauren Wallace Oiselle / SRA Elite 2:02.98 qualified declared
Geena Lara 2:05.30 qualified declared
Treniere Moser Nike 2:37.86 qualified declared
Stephanie Brown Nike 2:39.64 qualified declared
Alexa Efraimson Nike 2:43.39 qualified declared
Emily Lipari Boston Athletic Association 2:44.02 qualified declared
Charlene Lipsey adidas 2:02.05 accepted declared
Elizabeth Staker Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 2:44.08 accepted declared
Stephanie Herrick Central Park Track Club (CPTC) New Balance 2:45.81 accepted declared
Erin Koch Central Park Track Club (CPTC) New Balance 2:46.13 accepted declared
Meggie Sullivan Central Park Track Club (CPTC) New Balance 2:49.77 accepted declared
Moser was victorious in her last 1000 on this track at the NBIGP; can she repeat the feat this weekend?

Moser won her last 1000 on this track at the NBIGP; can she repeat the feat at USAs this weekend?

Ten years after debuting at these championships with a runner-up finish in the 1500, Treniere Moser will attempt to win her second U.S. indoor title, this time in the 1000 meters. At 33, Moser doesn’t have the same speed she did in her prime (1:59.15 outdoors in 2007) but she’s a savvy racer and has worked hard to harness what speed she still has this indoor season. She came .16 seconds from upsetting Ajee Wilson in the 800 at the Armory Track Invitational and followed that up with strong performances at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix (1000 win in 2:37.86) and Millrose (second in the mile in 4:27.49, a PR).

Like her NOP teammates, Moser has been busy this indoor season. USAs will be her fifth straight weekend of racing, and that is one of the worries about her chances in this race (she ran 4:29.18 in Birmingham last week, a decent performance but obviously slower than her time from Millrose). The other worry is that 1000 meters is too short a distance for a mile specialist. I don’t think that’s much of a problem for Moser as her focus has clearly been on the shorter stuff in 2015 and she already has a good 1000 performance (a world-leading 2:37.86) under her belt this season. She’s the class of this field and should win on Sunday.

They run the races for a reason, of course; Moser could lose. Stephanie Charnigo lost to Moser in the 800 at the Armory Track Invitational but closed the gap at Millrose two weeks later; she was less than half a second behind Moser in the Wanamaker Mile. With two more weeks of training, Charnigo might be ready to defeat Moser in Boston should she run the 1000 (Charnigo is also entered in the mile at USAs). Charlene Lipsey has run consistent 2:02s for 800 in her last three races and might be able to win if she can produce a 2:01-type effort on Sunday. Beyond those two women, it’s hard to see anyone else in the field challenging Moser.

The only other name in the field worth mentioning is Alexa Efraimson, who ran 4:07 for 1500 last year as a high school junior. This will be Efraimson’s first U.S. Championships since turning pro in August. She’s only raced a couple of low-key meets so far this year (2:05.18 800 win in Idaho on February 7; 2:43.39 1000 win in Seattle on February 15); the 1000 here will be a much bigger test of her current fitness.

LRC Prediction: Moser is the obvious choice here. But we just remembered our friends at the NY/NJ Track club tweeted at us a Q&A with Charnigo last week. We forgot to put it on the front page so here it is: Q&A with Charnigo.

It’s worth a read if you like to pick upsets as it points out that Charnigo she closed in 31.80 at Millrose whereas everyone else in the field totally blew up and ran over 33 (That’s pretty crazy to think about, nearly everyone in the field just totally staggered home).

PS. If you want to get our attention, please email us (if you really want our attention, please call) at letsrun@letsrun.com as the daily editor always checks that inbox. Twitter may or may not be noticed.

Women’s mile (no prelim; final Saturday 4:04 p.m. ET)

Name Affiliation Mark Status Declaration
Nicole Tully Hoka One One / New York Athletic Club (NYAC) 4:12.33 qualified declared
Shannon Rowbury Nike / Nike Oregon Project 4:22.66 qualified declared
Stephanie Charnigo New Jersey New York Track Club 4:28.02 qualified declared
Jordan Hasay Nike / Nike Oregon Project 4:28.27 qualified declared
Morgan Uceny adidas 4:29.39 qualified declared
Rachel Schneider 4:30.62 qualified declared
Heather Wilson New Jersey New York Track Club 4:33.75 qualified declared
Katherine Mackey Brooks 4:19.50 accepted declared
Amanda Mergaert Brooks 4:35.50 accepted declared
Dana Mecke 4:37.15 accepted declared
Rowbury_ShannonFV-Millrose15 (1)

Despite a bumpy final few meters, Rowbury won the Wanamaker Mile handily; expect a similar outcome on Saturday

Like her teammate Matthew Centrowitz on the men’s side, a hiccup last weekend in Birmingham isn’t reason enough to pick against Shannon Rowbury in the women’s mile. Objectively, there wasn’t anything “bad” about Rowbury’s race at the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix — her time of 4:24.12 was actually faster than she ran the week before in winning the Wanamaker Mile. It was just jarring not to see Rowbury cross the finish line first in a race, so dominant had she been over the first two months of 2015 (Ethiopia’s Axumawit Embaye took the win in 4:23.50). Rowbury’s 4:22.66 SB — on a flat track — is over five seconds better than what anyone else in this field has run this year, and when you factor in her dominant win at Millrose, her superb PRs (3:59 outdoors for 1500) and championship experience, it’s difficult to imagine anyone in this field threatening her.

The more interesting battle is for second, as Charnigo, Nicole Tully and Jordan Hasay will all like their chances. I already discussed Charnigo’s credentials above in the 1000 section (one worry with her is that the mile final is just 45 minutes after the 1000 prelims should she choose to run both), one of which is a victory over Hasay at Millrose two weeks ago (Charnigo ran her down over the final 200 meters). With a mile pb at Millrose (4:28.27) and an indoor 3000 pb in Birmingham last week (8:50.21), Hasay is fit and it’s not a huge stretch to imagine her finishing behind Rowbury as part of a NOP 1-2 here. The woman with the best chance at second, however is Tully. Hasay pulled away from her in the 2-mile at the Armory Track Invitational on January 31, but Tully gave Brenda Martinez all she could handle on the anchor leg of the DMR the next week in Boston, splitting 4:28.14 for 1600 to just miss setting the world record. Tully’s toughness was on full display in that race and if she can replicate that kind of effort on Saturday, she has a great chance to take second.

LRC Prediction: If Rowbury runs, she wins. It seems as if the NOP people have been racing a lot and it wouldn’t surprise us to see a DNS or two.

Women’s 2-mile (final Sunday 5:09 p.m. ET)

Name Affiliation Mark Status Declaration
Brie Felnagle adidas 8:54.77 qualified declared
Liz Costello New Balance 8:56.77 qualified declared
Marielle Hall Nike 8:59.88 qualified declared
Nicol Traynor New Jersey New York Track Club 9:02.49 qualified declared
Katie Matthews Boston Athletic Association 9:02.98 qualified declared
Amanda Mergaert Brooks 9:10.40 qualified declared
Hannah Davidson Stotan Racing 9:11.67 qualified declared
Sarah Boyle 9:14.70 qualified declared
Kristen Findley Adidas/RogueAC 9:15.05 qualified declared
Samantha Hamilton 9:25.12 qualified declared
Sydney Fitzpatrick New Balance Boston 9:25.83 qualified declared
Esther Erb New York Athletic Club (NYAC) 9:26.55 qualified declared
Jordan Hasay Nike / Nike Oregon Project 9:38.28 qualified declared
Nicole Tully Hoka One One / New York Athletic Club (NYAC) 9:39.38 qualified declared
Frances Koons 10:06.21 qualified declared
Shannon Rowbury Nike / Nike Oregon Project NM accepted declared
Joanna Murphy New Balance Boston 9:24.78 accepted declared
Tully ran valiantly at the DMR in Boston on February 7 but came up just short of the win -- and the WR

Tully ran valiantly at the DMR in Boston on February 7 but came up just short of the win — and the world record

Once again, Rowbury will be the favorite in this race, should she decide to run it. If Rowbury — whose 8:29.93 3000 pb is far and away tops in the field — can win both, she’ll become just the fifth woman to pull off the mile/2-mile (or 1500/3000) double at USAs (Jenny SimpsonFrancie LarrieuJan Merrill and drug cheat Regina Jacobs are the others).

Tully and Hasay will also be formidable here, with Hasay the best bet to take second given her recent 3000 pb and 2-mile victory over Tully at the Armory Track Invitational. Rowbury, Tully and Hasay will all be doubling back from the mile (as of now, at least) and that does mean that someone could swoop in to break up that 1-2-3. If anyone is to do it, it’s likely to be one either Brie FelnagleLiz Costello or Marielle Hall, all of whom have run under 9:00 this year in the 3000.

The 27-year-old Costello, training under Mark Coogan, is less likely to do it than reigning NCAA 5000 champ Hall, who beat Costello head-to-head in the 2-mile at the Armory on January 31. Felnagle has the best chance of breaking into the top three given her 8:54.77 3000 sb (from Seattle on February 14) and her strong performance at USA XC (fourth overall). Given her 1500 chops (4:05 pb), Felnagle could wind up second or third, though it’s hard to envision her defeating Rowbury, even if the latter is doubling back from the mile.

LRC Prediction: If Rowbury runs, she wins. We’ll be paying close attention to whether or not Hasay struggles over the final 200 or not.

More: Discuss the women’s action on our messageboard: 2015 USA Indoor Women: Mom Alysia Montaño returns, can she take down Ajee Wilson? Plus Shannon Rowbury doubles?
*Men’s Preview

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