2016 Camel City Elite Preview: Matt Centrowitz, Shannon Rowbury And Ashton Eaton Headline Fields As Indoor Season Heats Up

By LetsRun.com
January 28, 2016

We’re now seven weeks away from the World Indoor Championships — the first to be held in the United States in 29 years — and the indoor season is starting to heat up. Over the past two weekends, there have been meets on the World Indoor track at Portland’s House of Track, with Oregon-based athletes Matthew Centrowitz, Shannon Rowbury, Andrew Wheating and Eric Jenkins opening up their seasons, to name a few.

This weekend’s Camel City Elite Races in Winston-Salem, N.C., represents the best professional meet of the year so far. Even with the recent withdrawals of Nick Symmonds, Bernard Lagat, and Leo Manzano, the fields are full of big names. Centrowitz and Rowbury will both take the track at their specialty distance — the mile — and they’ll be joined by several more big names. The 800s are headlined by World Championship silver medalist Melissa Bishop of Canada and reigning U.S. indoor 600 champ/American record holder Cas Loxsom. Other top pros include Fiona Benson (mile), Stephanie Garcia (mile), Garrett Heath (3k), Lawi Lalang (3k), Kerri Gallagher (3k) and Katie Mackey (3k). Plus, to spice things up in a big way, Foot Locker champions Drew Hunter and Weini Kelati are both entered in the professional 3ks.

In non-distance action, Ashton Eaton will prepare to defend his world title in the heptathlon by running the 60-meter hurdles against 2015 U.S. champ Aleec Harris and world outdoor champions David Oliver and Jason Richardson. In the women’s race, 2015 World Champs heptathlon silver medalist Brianne Theisen-Eaton tackles Lolo Jones and Brianna Rollins.

Some athletes will be looking to knock out World Indoor standards, and while there is no flat-track conversion for qualifying marks, it is possible to run fast here: Rowbury’s 4:22.66 last year was the world’s fastest indoor mile in 15 years.

We’ll be providing on-site coverage from Winston-Salem later in the week as the meet organizers have been gracious enough to pay for our travel to the meet, but we’ll start our coverage by running down the meet details before previewing the fields.

What: 2016 Camel City Elite Races

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Where: JDL Fast Track (200-meter flat track), Winston-Salem, North Carolina

When: Friday, January 29 – Saturday, January 30. Elite portion of the meet runs from 2:15 p.m. ET to 4:00 p.m. ET.

How to watch: You can watch it live here with a Runnerspace +plus subscription.

Prize money: 1st: $4,000; 2nd: $2,000; 3rd: $1,000; 4th: $500. $1,000 for a facility record.

Schedule (Saturday, January 30)
2:15 p.m. ET: Women’s Camel City 3000m
2:35: Men’s 3000m presented by Salem Sports
2:50: Women’s 60m (no prize money)
2:55: Men’s 60m (no prize money)
3:00: Women’s Camel City 800m
3:10: Men’s 800m presented by Total Sports US
3:20: Women’s 60m hurdles presented by Champion
3:30: Men’s 60m hurdles presented by Visit Winston-Salem
3:40: Women’s Mellow Mile presented by Mellow Mushroom W-S
3:50: Men’s Camel City Mile presented by Champion

Meet website * 2015 LRC coverage

Women’s 3,000

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Name Sponsor/School PB 2015 SB Comment
Kerri Gallagher Nike 9:07.39 9:24.22 Surprised by taking 3rd at USAs in 1500 last year, then made semis at WC
Katie Mackey Brooks Beasts 8:52.99 8:52.99 Won Stockholm DL 3k in ’15; runner-up in mile at USA Indoors
Alexi Pappas Nike/OTC Elite 9:02.69 9:02.69 9th in 10k at USAs in ’15
Rachel Schneider Under Armour 9:05.08 9:05.08 5th at USAs in 1500 in ’15; 4:33.85 for 5th in mile at NB Games on Sunday
Jessica Tonn Brooks Beasts 9:01.84 9:01.84 Stanford grad was 5th at NCAAs in this event last year
Allie Buchalski Furman 9:32.47 9:32.47 Her 7th place showing at NCAAs was one of the surprises of the ’15 XC season
Wesley Frazier NC State 9:32.40 N/A Prep star makes NC State debut after transferring from Duke
Samantha Jones Wake Forest 9:40.14 9:40.14
Erika Kemp NC State 9:24.36 9:24.36
Weini Kelati Unattached 9:12.32 9:56.81 2015 Foot Locker champ was 8th in 3k at World Juniors in ’14

World Indoor standard: 9:00.00

Mackey kicked to the win in Stockholm last year Mackey kicked to the win in Stockholm last year

On paper, Mackey is the class of this field — she even won a Diamond League event last year — and her PR is almost nine seconds better than anyone else’s. She has a nice mix of strength (15:04 5k pb) and speed (runner-up in the mile at USA Indoors last year) and if this turns into a fast race with women attacking the World Indoor standard of 9:00.00, she’s the best bet for the win.

Mackey has a strong close and would still be a major factor in a kicker’s race, but a slower pace would also open the door for Kerri Gallagher (who was 3rd at USAs in the 1500 last year and owns a 4:03.56 pb, best in the field) and Rachel Schneider (5th at USAs in the 1500 in ’15). Don’t forget about Mackey’s Brooks Beasts teammate Jessica Tonn, either. Though she’s more of a 3k/5k type, she ran a quick 9:01 to take 5th at NCAA indoors in this event last year.

Foot Locker champion Weini Kelati of Eritrea, by way of Heritage (Va.) High School is also in the field, and though she’s unlikely to challenge for the win or Alexa Efraimson‘s high school record (9:00.16), she should be capable of a time well under 10:00.

LRC Prediction: Mackey FTW

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Men’s 3,000

Name Sponsor/School PB 2015 SB Comment
Garrett Heath Brooks Beasts 7:37.40 7:37.97 Coming off big win over Mo Farah in Great Edinburgh XC on 1/9
Lawi Lalang Nike 7:36.44 N/A Former Arizona stud struggled (by his standards) in ’15
Michael Atchoo NJ*NY TC 7:54.98 N/A Stanford grad ran 4:04.23 in NY on Sunday
Jake Shelley Big Bear TC 7:59.57 7:59.57 4:04.31 last week for 7th in mile at UW Indoor Preview
Darren Barlow Virginia Tech 8:04.44 8:04.44
Thomas Curtin Virginia Tech 7:52.92 7:52.92 Defending champ was 8th at NCAAs in this event last year
Mark Derrick North Carolina 8:06.76 8:06.76 Chris Derrick’s brother
Willy Fink Eastern Michigan 7:57.14 7:57.14
Stuart Robertson Virginia Tech 8:16.14 8:16.14
Austin Steagall Mount Olive 8:36.08 8:36.70
Jacob Thomson Kentucky 8:05.19 8:05.19
Luis Vargas NC State 8:06.08 8:06.08
Drew Hunter Unattached 8:16.31 8:16.31 ’15 Foot Locker champ ran 8:42 2-mile as HS jr in ’15

World Indoor standard: 7:50.00                 *has World Indoor standard

Heath three-peated in Edinburgh earlier this month Heath three-peated in Edinburgh earlier this month

Heath is the name worth watching here. In what has become an annual tradition, Heath took down a stud at the Great Edinburgh XCountry meet on January 9, this time defeating the world’s greatest distance runner, Mo Farah, over eight muddy kilometers. That result, coupled with his win at the USATF Club XC Champs on December 12, demonstrated that Heath is in fine shape, but he has yet to test himself on the track. Fortunately for Heath, there’s no pressure to run fast on Saturday (he earned the World Indoor standard by running 7:37 outdoors last year), but this field could still present a challenge with 3:33/13:00 man Lawi Lalang.

As good as Lalang is, Heath will need to beat him to have a shot at making the World Indoor team this year. With just two spots available and Ryan HillEvan JagerBen Blankenship and Galen Rupp among the possible opponents in the 3k at USA Indoors, he’ll need to be at the top of his game in Portland. Obviously, he has some time to improve between now and then but a win here would be a good sign.

As in the women’s race, the Foot Locker champ is in the field, and in this case, Drew Hunter has a legitimate shot at the high school record of 8:05.46, set three years ago by Edward Cheserek. Hunter ran 8:42.51 for 2 miles last spring (which converts to about 8:03-8:04 for 3,000), and posted a dominant victory at Foot Lockers a month ago, so he certainly has the talent to break the record at some point. However, given that he likely took some time off after cross country and will be racing on a flat track, it would take a truly impressive effort to get the record.

It’s worth noting that Bernard Lagat was initially in this field but pulled out earlier this week with a calf injury.

LRC Prediction: Heath is the obvious pick here given the fact we know he’s in shape (whereas many of the other guys haven’t raced) but we’re going with an upset and picking Lawi Lalang. We’re not sure if picking a 13:00 guy is really a big upset but Lalang struggled a bit in his first pro season last year in 2015 (running only 13:16) and so we think he’ll be motivated to get back on track here. In reality, we should probably hold off on making an official pick on the winner and as to whether or not Hunter gets the HS record as we want to speak to the both Lalang and Hunter to find out if they are confident in their training. If Hunter took even one week off after Foot Locker, he’ll have had only six weeks to build back up for this race.

Women’s 800

Name Sponsor/School PB 2015 SB Comment
Melissa Bishop Nike 1:57.52 1:57.52 Canadian earned silver at World Champs last year
Laura Roesler Nike 1:59.04 2:03.99 Two-time NCAA champ & ’14 US runner-up
LaTavia Thomas Unattached 1:59.67 2:00.95 Former NJ*NY athlete now back with college coach Mark Elliott at Clemson
Jenna Westaway Brooks 2:01.89 2:02.91 Defending champ made Canadian team for World Indoors in ’14
Phoebe Wright Nike 1:58.22 2:00.61 6th at USAs last year
Anima Banks Duke 2:05.42 2:05.42
Hanna Green Virginia Tech 2:01.17 2:01.17 3rd at NCAAs last year
Hannah Segrave Milligan 2:06.86 2:06.86
Elizabeth Whelan North Carolina 2:03.76 2:03.76

World Indoor standard: 2:02.50               *has World Indoor standard

Bishop, who broke through in a big way last year with a Pan Am gold and World Championship silver (which included a two-second PR in the semifinal) enters 2016 with a target on her back. The 27-year-old opened her season with a low-key 1500 win in Toronto on January 9 (4:17.91) and though this field contains sub-2:00 women LaTavia Thomas (now back with college coach Mark Elliott) and Phoebe Wright (who looked rejuvenated in 2015, placing 6th in a competitive USA final), Bishop is most certainly the woman to beat.

We’ll also be keeping a close eye on Laura Roesler. The 2014 Oregon grad’s first year as a pro did not go smoothly as she didn’t race after March in 2015. But she returned to the track with a 2:05.25 win at Texas A&M on January 16 before running 2:04.04 FTW in Portland last week. Taking down Bishop is a tough ask, but if Roesler can beat everyone else and/or break 2:04, that will be another step in the right direction.

A couple other women to watch: Jenna Westaway, who won here last year and who, with Bishop, could form Canada’s 800 team for World Indoors, and Hanna Green, a Virginia Tech junior who got down to 2:01 last year outdoors and took third at NCAAs.

LRC Prediction: Bishop FTW.

Men’s 800

Name Sponsor/School PB 2015 SB Comment
Brandon Johnson Nike 1:43.84 1:46.90 ’13 WC team member won here last year but raced just 5 times all year
Cas Loxsom Brooks Beasts 1:44.92 1:44.92 Coming off career year in which he made WC team and won USA 600 indoors
Ryan Martin Asics 1:44.77 1:46.04 5th at USAs last year
Robert Heppenstall Wake Forest 1:47.91 1:47.91
Immanuel Hutchinson St. Augustine’s 1:48.39 1:48.39
Patrick Joseph Virginia Tech 1:48.37 1:48.37 2015 ACC 800 champ
Eliud Rutto Middle Tenn. St. 1:45.37 N/A Missed last year but 5th at NCAAs in ’14

World Indoor standard: 1:46.50

Loxsom earned his first U.S. title last year indoors Loxsom earned his first U.S. title last year indoors

This is a three-man race as the professionals — Johnson, Loxsom and Martin — are clearly on a different level than the rest of the field (Nick Symmonds was originally entered but scratched on Tuesday). Loxsom had the best 2015 season and has the most indoor experience (he is the reigning indoor 600 champ at USAs and also holds the American record at that distance), so he’s the favorite. Martin is one of the most underrated runners out there (do you realize that from 2012-2015, he’s finished 4th, 6th and 5th at USAs?) and was third here last year.

Johnson is the wild card. In 2013, the former 400 hurdler put together an incredible season, going from 1:46.23 to 1:43.84 and missing out on a spot in the World Championship final by .04. The next year, Johnson tried to up his mileage and instead became injured for most of the season. When we caught up with him last year, he appeared to be over his injury issues, said his training had been going ‘awesome’ and proceeded to win this meet handily in a meet-record 1:48.27. From there, he ran 1:46.90 in his outdoor opener and ran the 800 leg (1:44.75 split) on the U.S.’s world-record-setting DMR at the World Relays. Johnson appeared to be on his way back to his 2013 form. But the injury bug bit again, and Johnson raced just once more — a last-ditch attempt to run at USAs, where he finished last in his heat. Now 30 years old, can Johnson stay healthy and make a run at an Olympic spot? We’ll start to find out on Saturday.

LRC Prediction: We realize we got ahead of ourselves in making predictions without talking to the athletes so we’ll hold off until we talk to them in North Carolina. Come back and see our picks on the messageboard the day of the race: MB: Official 2016 Camel City Elite Discussion Thread.

Women’s mile

Name Sponsor/School PB 2015 SB Comment
Fiona Benson Nike 4:25.79 4:25.79 Canadian made it to semis of 800 at Worlds in ’15
Stephanie Garcia New Balance/Furman Elite 4:28.84 4:28.84 Steeple star ran 4:28.97 for 3rd at New Balance Games on Sunday
Lauren Johnson 4:33.00 N/A First person out of World Championship 1500 final in ’15
Heather Kampf Asics/Team USA MN 4:30.07 4:30.07 7th at USAs in 1500 last year
Shannon Rowbury Nike Oregon Project 4:20.34 4:22.10 Ran 4:22.66 here last year, putting her #5 A-T indoors
Heidi See Asics/Furman Elite 4:34.05 4:34.69 Aussie 1500 champ went out in 1st round at Worlds
Shannon Morton Virginia Tech 4:43.48 4:43.48
Megan Moye NC State 4:42.02 4:42.02
Kate Murphy Unattached N/A N/A HS junior has run 4:16 1500 + won USA/Pan Am Jrs. last year

World Indoor standard: 4:30.00              *has World Indoor standard

Rowbury's win at Millrose was one of several for her during the 2015 indoor season Rowbury’s win at Millrose was one of several for her during the 2015 indoor season

From a talent perspective, this is the strongest race of the meet. Rowbury, 7th at Worlds last year, is a world-class miler, and her 2015 indoor season was one for the ages as she blazed a 4:22.66 on this track, won the Wanamaker Mile and capped it off by sweeping the mile and 2-mile at USA Indoors. She debuted two weeks ago, breezing to an 8:53.52 3k win at the House of Track, and given coach Alberto Salazar‘s double-peak system, she should already be in good shape. Rowbury also stands to earn a nice payday here — there’s a $1,000 bonus if the winner breaks 4:30. Considering how fast she ran last year, Rowbury could make a cool $5,000 for just under four minutes and thirty seconds of work.

Though Rowbury is clearly the favorite, there will be several other women looking to run fast. Canada’s Fiona Benson ran 4:25 last year outdoors and will be looking to dip under the World Indoor standard of 4:30.00. Stephanie Garcia did just that last weekend at the Armory and though she’s no match for Rowbury over this distance, she should be competitive with the rest of the field. Road mile queen Heather Kampf ran 4:30 last year indoors and will be in the hunt.

And don’t forget about Lauren Johnson. The first woman out of the 1500 final in Beijing, Johnson has left Nike and the Oregon Track Club. Still based in Eugene, she’s currently unsponsored and is being coached by husband Nick (an OTC assistant) and Canadian Wynn Gmitroski.

LRC Prediction: We don’t need to talk anyone before making this one – Rowbury FTW.

Men’s mile

Name Sponsor/School PB 2015 SB Comment
Matthew Centrowitz* Nike Oregon Project 3:50.53 3:51.20 US 1500 champ was nearly perfect indoors in ’15 with Millrose, US titles
Brandon Hudgins Unattached 3:59.67 3:59.67
Cory Leslie Nike/Furman Elite 3:53.44 3:56.99 Won here in ’13 and ’15
Pablo Solares 3:54.52 3:56.86 Mr. Shannon Rowbury has raced sparingly last 2 years but ran 3:56 indoors in ’15
Graham Crawford NC State 4:00.01 4:04.48 10th at NCAAs in 1500 last year
Neil Gourley Virginia Tech 4:03.25 4:03.25
Simon Holden Wake Forest 4:04.77 4:04.77
Csaba Matko Eastern Michigan 4:16.04 N/A 3:44 1500 pb

World Indoor standard: 3:55.00             *has World Indoor standard

Centro cruised to a win at USA indoors in 2015 Centro cruised to a win at USA indoors in 2015

We were initially excited for a duel between Centrowitz and Leo Manzano, who have traded off the last five U.S. 1500 titles, but a death in the family caused Manzano to withdraw earlier in the week. That leaves Centrowitz, who like NOP teammate Rowbury won the Wanamaker Mile and USA Indoors last year, as the class of the field. Though Cory Leslie, who owns a 3:53 pb and won here last year, is no slouch, Centrowitz is coming off one of the best seasons by an American miler in recent memory and at 26 is in his prime.

The only question is, how fast does Centrowitz run? With World Indoors seven weeks away, he’s obviously not in top form, but Centrowitz will want to run faster than 3:56.99 to earn the facility record bonus of $1,000. Centro spoke of breaking 3:50 indoors last year (only three men have ever done it) and though he’ll likely have to wait until Millrose to take a run at that, Rowbury showed that milers can run fast on this track. A time in the 3:52-3:53 range is not out of the question if Centrowitz decides to really go after it.

LRC Prediction: We don’t need to talk anyone before making this one – Centrowitz FTW.

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Give us your thoughts about the meet on our world famous fan forum: MB: Official 2016 Camel City Elite Discussion Thread.

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