March 8, 2016
A very exciting 10 days of track and field kicks off on Friday, March 11. That date marks the start of the U.S. and NCAA indoor meets (both March 11-12); a week later, the World Indoor Championships will be held in Portland from March 17-20. LRC will be on-site at all three meets and we’ll have comprehensive previews of the mid-d/distance events in the buildup (You can find all our NCAA Indoors coverage here).
Below, we preview the men’s 800 at USA Indoors, an event headlined by LRC’s 2015 U.S. #1, Boris Berian. Berian, who went from 1:48 to 1:43 last year, has picked up where he left off, running 1:46.00 for 800 and 1:15.51 for 600 in his two races so far this year (both wins). And as the only American at USAs with the 1:46.50 World Indoor standard, he’s also assured of a spot at World Indoors. Berian is not guaranteed victory, however — former U.S. Indoor champs Erik Sowinski and Cas Loxsom, who went 2-3 at USA Outdoors last year, are both entered. We give you the need-to-know details about U.S. Indoors below before taking a closer look at the men’s 800.
What: 2016 USATF Indoor Championships
When: March 11-12, 2016
Where: Oregon Convention Center, Portland, Oregon
How to watch: Live on USATF.tv (Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET to finish; Saturday, 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. ET); live on NBC Sports Network (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET to 10 p.m. ET); NBC Sports Network will also air tape-delayed coverage of Friday’s events from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m ET on Friday night
World Indoors qualifying procedure
The top two finishers at USAs with the IAAF standard get to go to Worlds. The catch is that athletes must have achieved the standard before USAs (March 7 was the deadline).
Men’s 800 (prelims Friday, 7:20 p.m. ET; final Saturday 8:33 p.m. ET)
|Boris Berian||1:43.34||1:46.00||As the only man with the WC standard, he’s guaranteed a spot on the team|
|Erik Sowinski||1:44.58||1:47.11||He’s run 4 800s in ’16, all between 1:47.11 and 1:47.58|
|James Gilreath||1:47.38||1:47.74||Baylor alum is 3-0 in ’16 and has gotten significantly faster each time out|
|Daniel Kuhn||1:47.80||1:47.83||Big 10 600 champ for Indiana didn’t run fast enough to make NCAAs|
|Nicholas Guarino||1:47.13||1:48.16||Former Fredonia runner.|
|Edwin Herring||1:48.47||1:48.47||Former New Mexico runner is excelling this year.|
|Harun Abda||1:45.55||1:48.53||7th at USA Indoors in 1k in ’15; USA Outdoor semifinalist in 800|
|Travis Burkstrand||1:47.56||1:48.57||Beat Loxsom by .20 earlier this year.|
|Mark Wieczorek||1:45.36||1:48.70||U.S. indoor runner-up at 600 in ’15|
|Cas Loxsom||1:44.92||1:48.77||U.S. indoor 600 champ/AR holder hasn’t been in great form in ’16|
|Patrick Peterson||1:48.10||1:48.88||Former Iowa State runner.|
|Stephan Bullard||1:49.11||1:49.11||Had never broken 1:50 until this year.|
|Drew Windle||1:46.91||1:49.12||NCAA D2 Champ last year indoors and out for Ashland.|
|Clay Lambourne||1:48.93||1:49.22||Utah State runnner didn’t get into NCAAs so he’s running here.|
|Sorone Batiste||1:49.36||1:49.36||Ran collegiately at Prairie View.|
|Joshua Guarino||1:47.35||1:49.40||Twin brother of Nicholas.|
|Lucas Manring||1:48.43||1:50.17||Former NAIA runner.|
|Mark Husted||1:47.56||1:50.35||28-year old.|
|Donte Holmes||1:47.47||1:50.74||Former Delaware State runner|
Bold denotes athlete has World Indoor standard (1:46.50i/1:44.0 from 1/1/2015 until last week)
In terms of World Championship berths, this is the least dramatic distance race at USAs. Only two Americans achieved the qualifying mark during the qualifying window which closed on Monday (1:44.00 outdoors or 1:46.50 on a non-oversize indoor track) and one of them, Texas A&M freshman Donavan Brazier, will be competing at NCAAs this weekend instead. That leaves Boris Berian, who ran 1:43.34 last summer, as the only entrant with the standard. And as a result, he will be the only American going to Worlds (we guess USATF could enter Brazier in Worlds if they wanted to but you are supposed to run at USAs to go Worlds and we doubt Brazier is interested in going to Worlds since he said his focus is World juniors this summer).
(Note: the IAAF guidelines state “If the host country does not have a qualified athlete in an event, it may enter one athlete in this event regardless of any Entry Standard (except the Combined Events).” But since Berian is a “qualified athlete,” it doesn’t appear that the U.S. can’t use this provision in the men’s 800. So if they want to send someone to Worlds, it has to be Berian.)
Thus, the only drama at USAs is centered around who will become the national champion. And in that respect too, Berian is the favorite. He ran over a second faster than any other American last year outdoors and he’s run over a second faster this year indoors than anyone else entered at USAs.
Quite simply, Berian has been exceptional. His 1:46.00 indoor opener in Portland on January 29 puts him #7 on the all-time U.S. indoor list, and it would have been the fastest indoor 800 by an American in 12 years were it not for Brazier’s ridiculous 1:45.93 two weeks earlier. Berian’s next race, a 1:15.51 600 victory at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on February 14, was the #2 time in U.S. history. Pretty good for a guy who as of the NBIGP was still unsponsored.
Berian didn’t race Millrose, but he’s still fit, ripping off a 46.3-second 400 in practice on February 27:
— BigBearTC/NewBalance (@BigBearTC) February 27, 2016
The only worry about Berian is the same concern that derailed him at USA outdoors last year: the rounds. In a one-off race, Berian is a no-brainer choice, but he entered USA outdoors last year in a very similar position to the one in which he now finds himself and didn’t even make the final. Of course, this field at USA indoors is not nearly as strong as the one he faced in Eugene last summer, and Berian did make the final in the 600 at USA indoors last year (finishing 5th). Plus he’s more experienced than he was in 2015, and should be more accustomed to running as the favorite. But if Berian does lose — which remains unlikely — running two races in the span of 26 hours might have something to do with it.
The best candidate to defeat Berian is Erik Sowinski. Sowinski has always been a strong indoor runner, winning U.S. titles in 2013 and 2014, and though he has not been on Berian’s level in 2016, he is fit: he ran 1:47.58 in his first 800 of the year in Dusseldorf on February 3 and has gotten marginally faster in his three subsequent races, getting down to 1:47.11 in his most recent race in Glasgow on February 20. While Sowinski must be somewhat frustrated by running 1:47 four times in 18 days (and thus missing the World Indoor standard of 1:46.50), he faced top-level international competition and will be ready to go at USAs.
There are a few other guys worth watching but who have not yet flashed the form in 2016 to challenge Berian. Cas Loxsom has plenty of indoor experience and won USA indoors in the 600 last year (breaking the American record in the process). But he’s behind where he was at this point in 2015. His season-opening 1:52.99 at the Camel City meet on January 30 was ugly, and though he’s made progress since then (1:50.68 in Glasgow on February 20, 1:48.77 in Seattle on February 27), it’s hard to envision him catching up to Berian and Sowinski by this weekend. Likewise, Loxsom’s teammate Mark Wieczorek, who ran 1:45 last year and finished second behind Loxsom in the 600 at USA indoors, ran 1:48.70 in his only non-rabbit appearance this year. In general, coach Danny Mackey‘s Brooks Beasts have not prioritized the indoor season in this Olympic year, so it makes sense that Loxsom and Wieczorek aren’t close to their best at this time.
LRC Prediction: Berian FTW. We think it’s great that he’ll get practice running rounds twice in the span of two weeks.
One other thing, this field is way easier to make than NCAAs. At NCAAs, you had to run 1:47.74 to get in. We have no idea why USATF has apparently let 19 people into the field. You’d think they’d stop at 18 in so you could run three heats of 6 out of lanes.