June 28, 2015
At first glance, the outcome of the women’s 1500 final today at the final day of the 2015 USATF Championships makes perfect sense. Jenny Simpson, the world’s finest 1500 meter runner, won her second straight national title in 4:14.86, .13 of a second ahead of Shannon Rowbury, with both women well clear of the field. That’s a result most educated fans could have predicted in January.
But once the top two crossed, the finish line was a jumbled mess of bodies trying to sort themselves out for the two remaining tickets to Beijing. And in the end, it was two women on nobody’s radar at the start of the year — Kerri Gallagher and Lauren Johnson — who found themselves nabbing third and fourth. Gallagher had room to smile as she crossed the line, knowing her place was secure, but Johnson, who lost her balance just before the line and wound up sprawled on the ground at the finish, didn’t have that luxury. In the end, the scoreboard confirmed that Johnson had beaten former Georgetown runner Rachel Schneider by .01 for the fourth and final spot (the US gets to send four to Worlds as Jenny Simpson won the DL last year), with Treniere Moser and Heather Kampf a further .09 and .16 behind, respectively.
The team isn’t set yet. Neither Gallagher nor Johnson has the 4:06.50 IAAF standard — nor does Schneider, for that matter — but assuming both can get it before August 9, they’ll join Simpson and Rowbury in Beijing. Here’s a look at who does and doesn’t have the standard.
1. Jenny Simpson (has standard)
2. Shannon Rowbury (has standard)
3. Kerri Gallagher (needs standard, 4:08.70 pb)
4. Lauren Johnson (needs standard, 4:07.33 pb)
5. Rachel Schneider (needs standard, 4:08.46 pb)
6. Treniere Moser (has standard)
7. Heather Kampf (has standard)
The race itself was slow with Mary Cain (8th, 4:16.77) leading most of it at a relaxed pace and the big dogs Simpson and Rowbury hanging in the middle of the pack. The first half of the race passed without incident (75.15 from 300 to 700; 67.04 from 700 to 1100), and by the bell, the only major casualty was Gabe Grunewald, who stumbled at the 1000-meter mark and flew to the infield.
Simpson went to the lead at the bell (3:15.93) with Gallagher on her outside and the race was on. Despite Simpson picking up the pace dramatically, only Hannah Fields had dropped from the pack with 200 to go as Gallagher still sat on Simpson’s outside shoulder with NCAA runner-up Shelby Houlihan and Rowbury behind her on the inside.
Incredibly, 10 women were still in it with a chance to make the team with 100 to go, but it quickly became apparent nobody was going to catch Simpson for the win. Simpson has shown over the past two years that she has the best final 100 in the world, and today was further proof of that fact, as she closed her final 400 in a speedy 58.86. Rowbury followed her quickly across the line in 4:14.99 and Gallagher held on for third.
The battle for the fourth and final spot was wild. Moser was in position to take it with 15 meters to go but she had Johnson charging on her inside and Kampf to her outside. With under 10 meters to go, they were joined by Schneider, who was gaining rapidly in lane 4 (who had been 9th coming off the final turn) and it looked like Schneider might have enough to get it. But Johnson, who began to collapse from exhaustion with mere meters remaining, luckily ending up falling forward, sprawling across the line to beat out Schneider by .01. Cain was a non-factor in the final 100, finishing 8th.
|1||Jennifer Simpson||New Balance||4:14.86||54.12 [54.12]||2:09.33 [1:15.22]||3:16.00 [1:06.67]||4:14.86 [58.86]|
|2||Shannon Rowbury||Nike / Nike Or P||4:14.99||54.07 [54.07]||2:09.20 [1:15.13]||3:16.18 [1:06.99]||4:14.99 [58.81]|
|3||Kerri Gallagher||Oiselle /N Y A C||4:15.81||54.51 [54.51]||2:09.72 [1:15.21]||3:15.93 [1:06.22]||4:15.81 [59.89]|
|4||Lauren Johnson||Nike / Nike OTCE||4:16.08||54.17 [54.17]||2:09.31 [1:15.14]||3:16.41 [1:07.11]||4:16.08 [59.67]|
|5||Rachel Schneider||Under Armour||4:16.09||54.43 [54.43]||2:09.53 [1:15.11]||3:16.73 [1:07.21]||4:16.09 [59.37]|
|6||Treniere Moser||Nike / Nike Or P||4:16.18||54.04 [54.04]||2:09.23 [1:15.20]||3:16.23 [1:07.00]||4:16.18 [59.95]|
|7||Heather Kampf||ASICS / TUSA Mn||4:16.25||53.84 [53.84]||2:09.06 [1:15.22]||3:16.53 [1:07.48]||4:16.25 [59.73]|
|8||Mary Cain||Nike / Nike Or P||4:16.77||53.74 [53.74]||2:08.89 [1:15.15]||3:16.30 [1:07.41]||4:16.77 [1:00.48]|
|9||Sarah Brown||New Balance||4:17.01||54.28 [54.28]||2:09.48 [1:15.20]||3:16.39 [1:06.91]||4:17.01 [1:00.62]|
|10||Shelby Houlihan||Nike / Bowerman||4:17.15||53.78 [53.78]||2:08.95 [1:15.18]||3:16.12 [1:07.17]||4:17.15 [1:01.04]|
|11||Cory McGee||New Balance||4:18.55||53.90 [53.90]||2:09.08 [1:15.18]||3:16.58 [1:07.50]||4:18.55 [1:01.98]|
|12||Hannah Fields||Unattached||4:19.80||53.97 [53.97]||2:09.17 [1:15.20]||3:16.96 [1:07.80]||4:19.80 [1:02.85]|
|13||Gabriele Grunewald||Brooks / TUSA Mn||4:29.72||54.24 [54.24]||2:09.46 [1:15.23]||3:20.85 [1:11.39]||4:29.72 [1:08.88]|
Quick Take #1: This was the USATF Championships at their finest
Both of the drama-packed 1500 finals at USAs this year were remarkably similar races. Jenny Simpson and Matthew Centrowitz left no doubt who was the best runner in the field (Simpson only wound up winning by .13 but the outcome was never in doubt in the final 50). And behind them, there were two incredible battles for the final spots to Beijing, with Robby Andrews and Leo Manzano edging Ben Blankenship yesterday and Johnson emerging in a four-way kick for fourth today.
Quick Take #2: With a spot to Worlds already sewn up, Jenny Simpson decided to go with a relaxed gameplan; don’t expect a repeat in Beijing
“Of everyone in the race, I had the least burden or pressure to make something happen,” Simpson said, referencing her bye to Beijing as DL champ. That meant that Simpson could sit in the pack and wait to kick until the very end, as opposed to dictating the race as she has in the past. It was a nice luxury for her today but don’t expect a repeat on the DL circuit or in Beijing later this summer.
“I don’t think under other circumstances I necessarily would trust to leave it to that,” Simpson said. “And so this was a special circumstance where I could kind of roll the dice and see if I could handle it.”
Quick Take #2: Shannon Rowbury said it’s difficult to be the best in the world without taking some (legal) supplements
Rowbury tore up her foot during the prelim on Friday and ran with it bandaged today, though she didn’t feel it hindered her too much.
She also talked about what supplements she takes (calcium and iron) and said she feels it’s necessary to take supplements to be the best in the world.
Quick Take #3: Kerri Gallagher peaked at the right time
Gallagher, a 2011 Fordham grad coached by Matt Centrowitz, Sr., entered the year with only a 4:09.64 pb. She won a few smaller races earlier this year, but bombed in her biggest test at Oxy, running 4:23.
But she timed her peak perfectly, PR’ing in the prelim (4:08.70) and taking third in an extremely deep field today. Gallagher will need to drop her time further to hit the IAAF standard (4:06.50) but said she felt great at USAs and thinks she can get it given the right race.
Quick Take #4: It’s been a long road from NAIA Huntington (Ind.) University to Beijing for Lauren Johnson
Johnson, like Gallagher, still needs the standard, but her dive across the finish line (she said it wasn’t intentional and that she tripped on her foot due to exhaustion) means that she’s in position to go to Worlds should she better the 4:06.50 IAAF standard by August 9. Johnson, 28, had never broken 4:10 before this year, but had managed to make steady progress under Mark Rowland at the Oregon Track Club despite a litany of injuries.
This year, she’s been healthy since February and it’s all come together as she PR’d in her last two races before USAs (including a big 3-second PR of 4:07.33 at the Portland Track Festival) and finished fourth today.
Johnson she’s relied on her husband for support throughout her career and that some times he has more faith in her than she does. 2015 has been particularly rough for Johnson off the track as her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and her cousin died tragically in the beginning of May. Both were in her mind after the race today.
“I know they (my family) all got together and watched me this afternoon and I just wanted to win this one for my cousin, for my family.”
Quick Take #5: Rachel Schneider learned a lesson about tactics today
Schneider, a Georgetown alum who still trains at her alma mater, was the hard-luck fifth-placer, missing out on a Worlds spot by one agonizing hundredth of a second. She said that it took too long for her to get in position to kick and that she felt she had more in the tank at the end but just ran out of room.
Quick Take #6: Recent college grads Hannah Fields and Shelby Houlihan will both be in the Northwest from here on out
Fields, who won four NAIA titles this year at Oklahoma Baptist, wore Brooks today (she will officially sign in the next day or two) and will be moving to Seattle to join Danny Mackey and the Brooks Beasts. Houlihan, the 2014 NCAA 1500 champ and 2015 mile/1500 runner-up, will join Colleen Quigley in Portland as part of the Bowerman Track Club.
Screenshots from the NBC Broadcast appear below.