Matthew Centrowitz Amazes & Robby Andrews Kicks His Way Onto US 1500m Team as Leo Does What He Always Does

June 27, 2015

EUGENE, Ore. — Today’s men’s 1500 final at the 2015 USATF Outdoor Championships was a story of gaps. The first — Matthew Centrowitz’s 1.50-second winning margin, the largest since Alan Webb in 2004 — was a veritable chasm, more evidence that Centrowitz is in a class of his own when it comes to American 1500 runners. The second was far smaller but no less meaningful — the three hundredths of a second that separated runner-up Robby Andrews and fourth-place Ben Blankenship (with Leo Manzano sandwiched in between them).

U.S. title #3 U.S. title #3

Centrowitz’s victory was reminiscent of his indoor mile title four months earlier. He moved to the lead slightly earlier this time (600 to go) but the finish was the same as Centrowitz ran unchallenged for the final 100 meters, winning his third U.S. outdoor title in 3:37.25. The battle for the remaining two spots on Team USA appeared to be over at the top of the homestretch as Blankenship and Manzano had a gap on the rest of the field, but Andrews, who had been 9th with 120 to go, unleashed his trademark kick and began to shrink the deficit. He caught them just with 30 meters to go and all three men crossed in a blanket finish. After 10 seconds — that probably felt like 10 hours to Manzano, Andrews and Blankenship — Andrews’ name popped up on the scoreboard, followed by Manzano’s. Blankenship was the hard-luck fourth-placer, running 3:38.78 for fourth (Andrews’ time was 3:38.75, Manzano’s 3:38.76).

We recap the race below, followed by analysis and video interviews.

The Race

Blankenship took the lead from the gun and after a 60.69-second opening 400, he led with Manzano, Pat Casey and Centrowitz running behind him. The order remained the same at 800 meters (2:03.82), at which point Andrew Wheating (5th, 3:39.47) and Andrews were running in last and second-to-last. After some bumping on the back stretch, the race started with 600 to go when Centrowitz moved to the front and upped the ante.

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At the bell  (56.97 leader-to-leader from 700 to 1100), Centro led followed by former Dartmouth/Oregon runner and recent Nike signee Will Geoghegan, then Blankenship and Manzano. Wheating and Andrews had moved past Ford Palmer and Jordan McNamara but the rest of the field remained in front of them.

Centrowitz continued to lead on the backstretch as Blankenship accelerated up into second. With 150 to go, it was Centrowitz, Blankenship and Manzano, with a gap to Geoghegan and Oregon’s Daniel Winn and another gap to the rest of the field.

At that point, Centrowitz shifted gears and that was that. By the time he hit the homestretch, the lead was five meters and it continued to grow with every step until he reached the line, closing off his win with a 52.03 final lap, best in the field. Midway through the homestretch, it looked like the team to Beijing was settled as Manzano and Blankenship had a several meters on Geoghegan in fourth.

The battle for the final two spots was intense The battle for the final two spots was intense

Except it wasn’t. We wrote in our preview that “one of the scariest sights in track is seeing Andrews coming off the final turn with a full head of steam and room to run” and as Andrews rounded the final turn, he swung wide to pass Wheating and Colby Alexander and was suddenly greeted with 100 meters of clear track in lane 2. Still in seventh place — a good 10 meters behind Blankenship in third — Andrews launched himself forward and streaked down the track, a runaway train clad in purple. He easily passed Kyle Merber, then Winn and Geoghegan, and with 40 meters to go, Blankenship did a double-take as he saw that Andrews was on the verge of catching him. From there, the two closed down Manzano and all three crossed the line almost instantaneously as the crowd unleashed a collective “OHHH!” Within 30 seconds, the timing system had sorted out the chaos, leaving Centrowitz, Manzano and Andrews on the team to Beijing (for now).

Andrews’ final 400 was 52.13 (only Centro’s was faster) but he didn’t really start to accelerate until the final 150. Messageboard poster ‘cool kid’ had him in 25.1 for the last 200 with a 12.4 final 100.


Place Name Affiliation Time 300m 700m 1100m 1500m
1 Matthew Centrowitz Nike / Nike Or P 3:37.25 45.29 [45.29] 1:48.55 [1:03.27] 2:45.23 [56.68] 3:37.25 [52.03]
2 Robby Andrews adidas 3:38.75 46.21 [46.21] 1:49.32 [1:03.11] 2:46.62 [57.31] 3:38.75 [52.13]
3 Leonel Manzano Hoka One One 3:38.76 45.03 [45.03] 1:48.40 [1:03.37] 2:45.46 [57.06] 3:38.76 [53.31]
4 Ben Blankenship Nike / Nike OTCE 3:38.78 44.98 [44.98] 1:48.30 [1:03.33] 2:45.36 [57.06] 3:38.78 [53.42]
5 Andrew Wheating Nike / Nike OTCE 3:39.47 46.02 [46.02] 1:49.20 [1:03.18] 2:46.41 [57.22] 3:39.47 [53.07]
6 Kyle Merber Hoka / N J N Y 3:39.62 45.83 [45.83] 1:48.92 [1:03.09] 2:45.74 [56.83] 3:39.62 [53.88]
7 Daniel Winn Oregon 3:39.99 45.42 [45.42] 1:48.60 [1:03.19] 2:45.49 [56.89] 3:39.99 [54.51]
8 Will Geoghegan NIKE 3:40.05 45.60 [45.60] 1:48.64 [1:03.05] 2:45.27 [56.63] 3:40.05 [54.79]
9 Colby Alexander Oregon 3:40.62 45.53 [45.53] 1:48.76 [1:03.23] 2:46.18 [57.42] 3:40.62 [54.45]
10 Jordan McNamara Nike / Nike OTCE 3:42.69 45.74 [45.74] 1:48.97 [1:03.24] 2:47.22 [58.25] 3:42.69 [55.48]
11 Ford Palmer Hoka / N J N Y 3:42.75 45.92 [45.92] 1:48.86 [1:02.95] 2:47.39 [58.54] 3:42.75 [55.37]
12 Pat Casey Nike / Nike OTCE 3:44.38 45.20 [45.20] 1:48.51 [1:03.32] 2:46.16 [57.65] 3:44.38 [58.22]

Quick Take #1: Matthew Centrowitz set out to dominate and that’s exactly what he did

In the mixed zone afterwards, Centrowitz said he wanted the race to be over by the top of the homestretch and that was pretty much the case in this one. It’s been a long time since someone destroyed the men’s 1500 field like that at USAs — you’d have to go back to Alan Webb’s victory at the 2004 Olympic Trials to find a larger margin of victory. Check out the winning margins since then and you’ll see just how big of an outlier today was.

2015 1.50 Centro over Andrews
2014 .31 Manzano over Casey
2013 .18 Centro over Manzano
2012 .09 Manzano over Centro
2011 .33 Centro over Lagat
2010 .08 Lomong over Manzano
2009 .14 Lomong over Manzano
2008 .53 Lagat over Manzano
2007 .47 Webb over Manzano
2006 .13 Lagat over Jennings
2005 .09 Webb over Lukezic
2004 2.32 Webb over Gruber

Andrews’ close will get the most attention, but Centrowitz actually ran a faster last lap — 52.03 to 52.13 — even though Centro was running unchallenged over the final 100.

Centrowitz was great in the mixed zone afterwards and talked about his desire to dominate the field and spoke very directly about the Nike Oregon Project investigation saying he had seen nothing and would be the first to leave if he did. We have a full article on Centrowitz’s post race comments  here.

*Matt Centrowitz Will Fully Cooperate With USADA, Has Seen Nothing Suspicious, and Would Be First to Leave If He Did
*Centro: “Coming into this US championships, winning wasn’t good enough, I really wanted to dominate the field.”

Quick Take #2: Robby Andrews “thought [he] missed the boat” with 200 to go

Andrews was in 9th with 150 to go when he heard a familiar voice yell out “Don’t wait, don’t wait!” The voice belonged to his father and sometime coach “Big Bob” Andrews, and his yell was the reality check Andrews needed. He realized he still had a shot to finish top three and from there, Andrews pulled his best Justin Gatlin impression, exploding down the home stretch.

Andrews has overcome some big deficits over the final 100 in the past (remember the 2011 NCAA 800 final?) but said this was probably the biggest.

“Vig is gonna kill me,” he joked talking about coach Jason Vigilante.

Andrews typically likes to move from the back and explained that he felt a little antsy in the prelim. Vigilante spoke to him afterwards and told him to chill out in the final — “just go to the back and do your thing.”

“I feel so much more comfortable when I can just watch everybody and know what everybody else is doing,” Andrews said.

Andrews was extremely happy but not content, noting that he lost to Centrowitz by over a second and “that’s not too great.” He said he’ll tweak things between now and Worlds to help close the deficit.

Quick Take #4: Leo Manzano deserves mega-praise for 10 straight years of excellence

Leo Manzano has run US nationals 10 times in his career. He’s finished in the top 3 every single time. Truly phenomenal, particularly in the 1500 where it’s often tactical, falls can happen, you can get boxed, etc.

Leo Manzano at USAs
2006: 3rd
2007: 2nd
2008: 2nd
2009: 2nd
2010: 2nd
2011: 3rd
2012: 1st
2013: 2nd
2014: 1st
2015: 3rd

Quick Take #5: The U.S. team may not be set in stone

Of the top three finishers, only Centrowitz has the IAAF standard for Worlds, meaning he’s the only lock to run in Beijing right now.

Andrews’ best 1500 this year was today (3:38.75), still over two seconds off the 3:36.20 IAAF standard, while Manzano is closer, having run 3:53.55 for the mile (the IAAF allows you to use miles to qualify for the 1500 — that standard is 3:53.30). Both have until August 9 to achieve the standard, but if neither has it by then, things become murkier.

Initially we thought that Manzano and Andrews would be able to get in without the standard as the IAAF will be filling the field to 45 runners based on the worldwide descending-order list (explained in more detail here). But we’ve talked to multiple people this week and there have been conflicting statements about whether that will actually be the case. USATF Marketing & Communications Manager Amanda Brooks in an email on Saturday told us that USATF will just take the top three finishers who have the standard on August 9:

Athletes have until August 9 to chase the IAAF A Standard (found here) for their event. If they do not reach that mark/time by August 9, USATF will continue to move down the list of USATF Outdoor Championships finishers to select athletes who do have the IAAF A Standard.

To fill fields, the IAAF will select athletes from various countries from the top 48 performance list. However, if the U.S. already has three qualified athletes in a particular event, an American athlete will not be selected by the IAAF for that event.

Despite that statement, we don’t fully believe it as it would be a violation of what USATF has always done – try to honor the order of finish at USAs as much as possible – and it violates Rule 5 of the selection process criteria for this year that is on USATF’s website.

5. In some events, the IAAF may invite athletes based on the IAAF ranking lists in order to reach the target number of competitors for each event as listed by the IAAF for the 2015 IAAF World Championships. USATF shall accept any invitations extended to U.S. athletes if such acceptance does not displace an athlete who has finished ahead of the invited athlete(s) at the Trials and who has met the qualifying standard or who is also in a position to receive an IAAF invitation.  In the event that one or more of the top three placers in the Trials has not met the qualifying standard but has a performance that appears to be good enough to warrant an invitation based on the ranking list and number of known qualifiers, USATF may solicit an invitation from the IAAF for that athlete(s) notwithstanding that other U.S. athletes have met the qualifying standard.  The intent is that, to the extent possible, the order of finish at the U. S. Championships shall determine whether an athlete competes in the World Championships.   There will be no invitations through the use of the ranking lists in the 5,000m, 10,000m, race walk and marathon.

So just in case, here’s a look at who does and doesn’t have the standard right now.

1. Matthew Centrowitz (has standard)
2. Robby Andrews (doesn’t have standard)
3. Leo Manzano (doesn’t have standard)
Ben Blankenship (has standard)
5. Andrew Wheating (doesn’t have standard)
6. Kyle Merber (has standard)

Quick Take #6: Did Blankenship cost himself a team by looking around over the final 50 meters?

Blankenship took several looks at Andrews on the homestretch and we’re going to bet his coach Mark Rowland might have something to say to him after that after he missed the team by just .02 of a second. Perhaps it didn’t make a difference, but given the tight margin, Blankenship would have been better-served putting his head down and sprinting all the way to the line rather than checking on how Andrews was doing.

Still, it’s hard for Blankenship to be too down on himself, even if he said before the meet, “If I don’t make the team then I might as well sit at home on the couch.” At the start of the year, Blankenship had a 3:37.03 pb and a best finish of 10th at USAs. Today, he was .02 off a spot to Worlds. Blankenship closed his last 800 in 1:50, and his 800 pb is 1:48. He couldn’t have done much more to make the team

MB: Ben Blankeship appreciation thread. Thanks for not being a pansy and leading the race.

Blankenship did not come through the mixed zone after the race, hopping a fence to avoid the media.

Quick Take #7: Will Geoghegan was ready for the move and took his shot to finish in the top three

Three days ago, few would have predicted Geoghegan would be the man on Centrowitz’ shoulder at the bell, but there he was in his new Nike kit. Geoghegan said he was feeling so good at that point that he actually considered taking the lead from Centro. In the end, Geoghegan faded from fourth to eighth over the final 100 and said he went a little too hard too early, but chalked it up as a learning experience in his first U.S. final. Centro said seeing Geoghegan there with 400 to go inspired him to pick it up the on the backstretch as he figured the entire field must still be in contention.

Geoghegan, who will stay in Eugene to train under Andy Powell, will now head to Europe where he’ll look to PR even more (today’s 3:40.05 was a four-second PR).

Interview with Andrew Wheating

Interview with Kyle Merber

Interview with Daniel Winn


Andrews and Manzano managed to outlean Blankenship

Screenshot (1284)

Robby Andrews was 9th coming off the final turn, so far back he didn’t even show up in the NBC broadcast.


Screenshots from the NBC Broadcast appear below. Click for larger image.

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