Matt Centrowitz Wins 2015 Wanamaker Mile in Thrilling Stretch Run Over Nick Willis at Millrose Games

February 14, 2015

NEW YORK — There was not a sub-3:50 clocking, but the 2015 NYRR Wanamaker Mile lived up to the billing. In our preview, we wrote that the star-studded race would come down to Matthew Centrowitz and Nick Willis and that’s exactly what happened — the two men were stride-for-stride in the homestretch before Centrowitz edged ahead slightly, crossing the line in a world-leading 3:51.35 for his second Wanamaker Mile title. The time was .01 seconds off Centrowitz’ previous indoor best (set in this race in 2013) and .11 seconds ahead of runner-up Willis. OTC Elite’s Pat Casey ran a brave race, shadowing Centrowitz for most of the contest, and wound up a well-deserved third in 3:54.36, holding off a hard-charging Bernard Lagat, who smashed Eamonn Coghlan’s masters world record with a 3:54.91.

What a stretch run. What a stretch run.

The Race

Rabbit Mark Wieczorek was perhaps a little quick for the first 409, coming through in 56.86 (he was assigned 800 in 1:54 so he wasn’t that far off), but when only Centrowitz and Casey came with him, he slowed over the next two laps, hitting 809 in 1:55.72 (58.86 second 400). Centrowitz took over at 1k and covered the next two laps in 58.99; any chance of a truly fast time was now out the window. However, it was shaping up to be quite a race.

Casey was still there, and he had been joined at 1200 meters by Willis, who had slowly worked his way up to the leaders over the preceding laps. There was a significant gap of over two seconds (2.22, to be precise) from Willis to the chase pack, led by Lawi Lalang.

It would be a three-man sprint to the finish over the final lap. The only question was, ‘Who would close best?’

Willis, who had ran more conservatively in the early-going? Casey, who had sat on Centrowitz’s shoulder from the get-go? Or Centrowitz, who led most of the race but still appeared strong?

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Centro a Step too Good for Willis Centro a Step too Good for Willis

At the bell, Willis went around Casey, who had no answer to the rapid acceleration, and it was down to two. Both Willis and Centrowitz had looked fantastic a week ago in Boston (Willis running a then-world-leading 3:51.61 mile, Centrowitz a world-leading 2:17.00 1k) and they battled for every step of the Armory’s 200 meters as the crowd roared the runners home. Willis tried to take the lead from Centrowitz before the final turn, but Centrowitz wouldn’t let him. Willis then decided to not try and pass on the turn but to stalk Centro on his shoulder and try and pass on the final straight. Centrowitz was too good the final straight as he held off Willis while drifting into lane 2 in a great stretch run. Centrowitz preserved an undefeated indoor season that includes a world record and two world-leading times in the last 15 days.

Results and then post-race videos and analysis below.

Centrowitz with past Millrose great Eamonn Coghlan. Centrowitz with past Millrose great Eamonn Coghlan.

2015 Wanamaker Mile Results

1 Centrowitz, Matthew Nike OP 3:51.35
2 Willis, Nick adidas 3:51.46
3 Casey, Pat Nike OTC 3:54.36
4 Lagat, Bernard Nike 3:54.91
5 Jager, Evan Nike BTC 3:55.25
6 O’Hare, Chris adidas 3:55.35
7 Manzano, Leo HOKA ONE ONE 3:56.05
8 Cheserek, Edward Univ of Oregon 3:56.43
9 Lalang, Lawi Nike 3:57.15
10 Gregorek, John Univ of Oregon 3:57.47
11 Merber, Kyle HOKA / NJNYTC 4:05.96
12 Leer, Will Nike 4:10.21
Wieczorek, Mark Brooks DNF

*Race video here

Quick Take #1: Centrowitz was thrilled to have won but was hoping for a faster time.

After the race, Centrowitz was obviously happy to have won the Wanamaker title. He said, however, he didn’t feel nearly as good as he did last week in Boston when he got to the bell lap.

He thought having to lead from 1k had zapped him a little bit, as having a rabbit only go 1k is not the best way to run 3:49, which is what he admitted he was hoping for. When Willis came up on him on the backstretch, Centrowitz said he thought if Willis got past him, it was pretty much “Game over” so he basically went all out to hold him off.

At the pre-meet press conference, Centrowitz said he thought Lagat would get more press than him if Lagat broke the masters WR and Centrowitz won, and Centrowitz said he thought that was the case tonight. Centrowitz said after he crossed the finish line and was trying to figure out how fast he ran all he could hear was the PA announcer raving about Lagat.

Centrowitz’s time of 3:51.35 was the sixth-fastest mile by an American indoors.

Full interview below.

Quick Take #2: Despite his second-straight indoor national record in the mile, Nick Willis was disappointed after this one as he covets a historic Wanamaker title.

You know it's a great race when the 2nd placer gets tv time You know it’s a great race when the 2nd placer gets TV time

In his entire 31 years of existence, Nick Willis has never run as fast in the indoor mile as he has the last two weeks – 3:51.61 last week and 3:51.46 this week. Willis’ 3:51 last week pleased him greatly but not today.

“Overall I’m pretty disappointed. I really, really wanted to win this race. It’s a historic event,” said Willis, who has now been second twice and third twice, but never this close to the win.

Even though he ran faster than last week, Willis said he didn’t feel as good as he did last week, and he attributed the faster time to the fact that he views the track as being a few seconds faster than the Boston track.

Willis’ coach Ron Warhurst also said after the race that Willis ‘came to win it’ and thought, like Centrowitz, that the race was decided on the backstretch of the last lap.

Will Leer and Nick Willis Do a Post-Race Workout Will Leer and Nick Willis Do a Post-Race Workout

After the race, Willis did a post-race workout (he did the same in Boston last week): MB: This week’s sign of the apocalypse: Nick Willis and Will Leer are pulling a Rupp – doing a post race workout.

Quick Take #3: Pat Casey feels like track and field’s Rodney Dangerfield

Rodney Dangerfield, the comedian who was always asking for respect, seems like an apt comparison for Casey, who almost missed out on running this race entirely. Two weeks ago, Casey was entered to run the mile at the Armory Track Classic, with the winner in that race securing a spot in the Wanamaker Mile. But when Jordan McNamara, who was supposed to anchor the U.S. DMR squad later in the night, withdrew, Casey got called into action and scratched from the open mile. The result for Casey was a world record in the DMR, but no guarantee of being in the Wanamaker Mile.

Fortunately for Casey, the winner of the mile, Cam Levins, turned down the opportunity to run the Wanamaker Mile (he was already running the 5k here) and the second-placer, Chris O’Hare, was already in the field. That opened up a spot for Casey, who took full advantage with a gutsy third-place effort. It will be hard to ignore Casey much longer. He anchored the WR DMR squad two weeks ago, was second behind an on-fire Centrowitz in the 1k last week in Boston and was third against a loaded field in New York tonight. Add in a runner-up finish at USAs last year in the 1500 outdoors and a great opening leg for the USA in the 4×1500 at the World Relays, and Casey has to be considered among the top two or three U.S. middle distance runners right now.

Of course, he’s still got some work to do, and while Casey said he was much more pleased with his tactics today than last week in Boston, he achieved the same result: Centrowitz pulled away from him with ease over the final 200 meters. Of course, there’s no shame in that as Centrowitz is clearly one of the fittest men on the planet right now, but that gap is something Casey aims to work on as he looks ahead to the outdoor season (he’ll also be running the mile at USA Indoors).

Quick Take #4: Edward Cheserek and Johnny Gregorek capped a stellar day for the Men of Oregon

After a dominating performance by teammates Eric Jenkins and Will Geoghegan in the 3k in the first distance race of the night, Cheserek and Gregorek closed the meet for the Ducks by both notching their first sub-4:00s. After running aggressively early, Cheserek said coach Andy Powell told him to drop back a little bit and he ran with the chase pack for most of the race, looking back repeatedly to check on Gregorek.

A race like this can be difficult for a guy that has never broken 4:00 before (Gregorek’s previous best was 4:01.65), as it’s tempting to get excited and not realize how fast you’re running in a field of this quality. But Gregorek played it well (coming through in 1:58.68 toward the back of the chase pack) and had the fitness to hang on and finish with a big pb of 3:57.47 (Cheserek was 8th in 3:56.43, the second-fastest time in the NCAA this year). Both agreed that it was special to accomplish the sub-4 feat at the Armory, as this was Gregorek’s home track for the past four years at Columbia while Cheserek raced here several times as a high schooler in New Jersey. We asked them how Powell would assemble his DMR for NCAAs with his embarrassment of riches (Jenkins and Geoghegan have also gone sub-4:00 in the past; teammate Daniel Winn ran 3:57.62 on Saturday in Seattle) and they said that it’s still up in the air but they’re willing to run whatever’s best for the team.

Quick Take #5: The Year of Lagat Continues

Lagat and Eamonn Coghlan after the Race Lagat and Eamonn Coghlan after the Race

Bernard Lagat’s 3:54.91 smashed Eamonn Coghlan’s 3:58.15 former world indoor record in the master’s mile. On the TV broadcast, announcer Lewis Johnson was surprised Lagat was not contending for the win. What did he want Lagat do, break the old record by 7 seconds?  Lagat took 3+ seconds off the record here as he continues on his campaign to totally rewrite the 40+ record books.

Afterwards, Lagat told RRW: “I’ve never been in a race that was as stacked as that. I am going home so content with what I did today. Really happy because I haven’t done a mile indoors in a long time and coming back, doing 3:54 after four years of not running [the mile indoors], to me that is not bad.”

Mary Wittenberg and Norb Sander Mary Wittenberg and Norb Sander

On the boards: MF Centro

*Wanamaker mile race video here *All LRC Millrose Interviews here *All Millrose Race Videos

Disclosure because our trust with you matters: The NYRR Millrose Games was an advertiser on this week. This is not part of any advertising package.

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