Matthew Centrowitz Becomes Fourth-Fastest Indoor Miler Ever (3:50.63), Repeats As Wanamaker Mile Champion

February 20, 2016

NEW YORK — How do you top one of the most exciting races in the history of the Wanamaker Mile? Matthew Centrowitz provided the answer on Saturday evening at the 2016 NYRR Millrose Games, running 3:50.63 to defend his Wanamaker Mile title, in the process breaking the Armory facility record and becoming the world’s fourth-fastest miler ever indoors. Centrowitz struck with a lap to go and once he had the lead, it was game over, his 26.45-second final 200 (54.02-second final 400) was enough to earn the victory over New Zealand’s Nick Willis, who finished as runner-up for the second year in a row (and third time overall).

The Race

Early in the week there had been talk of attacking sub-3:50, but by halfway that possibility had gone out the window as rabbit Kyle Merber came through 809 Centro WInsin 1:57.58 (no one was right up on his shoulder, which perhaps explains the slightly slow than anticipated pace). The racing really began with two laps to go when Merber dropped out. Centrowitz had been looking to get into the lead, but Willis beat him to the punch, looking to hold the inside line and run the shortest possible distance from there to the finish. A 27.60 penultimate lap from Willis was enough to shake the rest of the field, but it did nothing to deter Centrowitz, who had not yet hit top gear.

Centro moved at the bell, took the lead, and ratcheted up the pace even more, and though Willis did his best to respond, even he could not touch Centrowitz on this night. Centrowitz brought his hand to his forehead as he crossed the line, throwing up three fingers to commemorate his third Wanamaker Mile victory (Centro said on the USATF.TV post meet show he was doing his “JR Smith” celebration). Willis was forced to settle for second again, albeit in an indoor PR and national record of 3:51.06 (moving him to #8 on the all-time indoor list).

Brit Chris O’Hare was the best of the rest in third (3:52.91), holding off a hard-charging Robby Andrews who had a massive pb to finish fourth in 3:53.16 (previous indoor pb was 4:11.13). Oregon’s Blake Haney put up a collegiate leader of 3:56.36 to finish 8th. 

Results and quick take analysis appear below.

(Editor’s note. We recap and analyze the B heat of the mile with Drew Hunter here – LRC Drew Hunter Does It Again – Runs 3:57.81 For A New High School Indoor Mile Record)

# Athlete Time
1 Matthew Centrowitz
Nike OP
2 Nick Willis
3 Chris O’Hare
4 Robby Andrews
5 Cory Leslie
6 Garret Heath
Brooks Beasts
7 Cristian Soratos
8 Blake Haney
University of Oregon
9 Jordy Williams
Villanova University
10 Daniel Winn
BAA adidas
DNF Kyle Merber
Hoka One One

Quick Take #1: A historically fast mile by Centrowitz

Drew Hunter, Matt Centrowitz, and Nick Willis on the USATF.TV post meet show Drew Hunter, Matt Centrowitz, and Nick Willis on the USATF.TV post meet show

Though he just missed his outdoor pb of 3:50.53, Centrowitz was pleased with this performance, especially because he considered scratching last night. Centrowitz had been feeling congested and under the weather, but a phone call from coach Alberto Salazar convinced him that he wouldn’t suffer a major setback if he raced, so Centrowitz decided to run.

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“There’s gonna be races like that,” Centrowitz said. “It could be unfortunately, the morning of the Olympic final, could be the Trials, could be any time and you’re not allowed to call it a day and reschedule.”

As a result, Centrowitz was not as aggressive as he had planned to be earlier in the week and sat in the pack waiting to move. He said he didn’t hear a split the entire way and was surprised when he finally found out the time — a half minute after the race was over.

The time was certainly impressive. It was the fastest indoor mile in the world since 2005 and broke Lopez Lomong’s meet/facility record of 3:51.21 set in 2013. Centrowitz is also now four-for-four on the season (two wins apiece at mile and 3k) and should be a serious medal contender in whichever event he enters at World Indoors (he’s still undecided between 1500 and 3k).

All-time fastest men’s indoor milers
1. Hicham El Guerrouj, 3:48.45 (1997)
2. Eamonn Coghlan, 3:49.78 (1983)
3. Bernard Lagat, 3:49.89 (2005)
4. Matthew Centrowitz, 3:50.63 (2016)
5. Noureddine Morceli, 3:50.70 (1993)
6. Galen Rupp, 3:50.92 (2013)

Quick Take #2: Nick Willis Will Just Have To Come Back Next Year To Get The Coveted Wanamaker Title

After the race, Willis made it clear he wanted to win this race in the worst way. Willis said he’d rather have won and run 3:52 than run 3:48 and lost. Willis said that now the focus will turn to World Indoors where he thinks four guys are the leading candidates for the three medals – himself, Centro, Abdelaati Iguider of
Morocco and Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti.  Willis said that he’ll start to do some speed work when he returns to Michigan. Up until this point, he said he’s mainly been doing cross country workouts and using his many races here and and in New Zealand (this was his 6th race of the year) as his speed workouts.

Quick Take #3: Chris O’Hare won’t be satisfied until he reaches the next level

O’Hare ran a fine race tonight, but was hoping to be competitive with Willis and Centrowitz and that was not the case.

“Regardless of whether I timed it to perfection, I still wasn’t going to win that race,” O’Hare said. “Those guys are ready to roll right now. I thought I was too but I’ve still got some work to do.”

O’Hare said he wasn’t ready to respond when Willis got things rolling. In a race with a field like this, that is death. The Boston-based O’Hare said that he could go to the UK to run the trials for World Indoors but he doesn’t want to fly all the way back for one race. Instead, he will hope that tonight’s performance was enough to earn him selection to World Indoors (the first athlete at the UK trials with the standard is automatically chosen; the other spot is up to the selectors).

Quick Take #4: A Huge PB For Robby Andrews

Robby Andrews was a huge NCAA star. He’s a world championship finalist at 1500. But up until tonight, it should be remembered that Andrews was an awful indoor miler. His 4:11.13 indoor pb was barely faster than Genzebe Dibaba‘s. Andrews benefited from the fact that the rabbit Kyle Merber wasn’t as fast as expected as he was able to stay with the pack and then compete. Andrews said he trusts coach Jason Vigilante to make the right call as to whether he should run the 1500 or 800 at USA Indoors.

Quick Take #5: A Collegiate Leader for True Sophomore Blake Haney

Blake Haney, who was third at NCAAs as a true freshman last year, put up a collegiate leading time of 3:56.36 tonight – a very good showing for the lone collegian in the field. Haney actually had a bigger indoor mile pb today than Andrews as Haney’s lone indoor mile race resulted in a 4:15.25 clocking last year.

Haney’s future Oregon teammate set a new HS record in the B heat of the mile today which we recap here: LRC Drew Hunter Does It Again – Runs 3:57.81 For A New High School Indoor Mile Record)

Talk about the meet on our messaboard. MB: Official 2016 NYRR Millrose Games Live Discussion Thread
*DREW HUNTER 3:57.81

Drew Hunter, Matt Centrowitz, and Nick Willis Drew Hunter, Matt Centrowitz, and Nick Willis
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