2016 USA Indoors Preview, M 1500: Matthew Centrowitz Shoots For Repeat; Who Will Join Him on Team USA?

By LetsRun.com
March 9, 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).

We give you the need-to-know details about U.S. Indoors below before taking a closer look at the men’s 1500 below, which is a straight final.

LRC event previews: M 800 * W 800 * W 1500

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).

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Schedule * Entries * All LRC coverage * 2015 LRC coverage

Men’s 1500 (Saturday 9:11 p.m. ET; race is straight final)

Name PB SB Comment
Cory Leslie 3:34.93 3:37.67 4th in 1k last year at USA Indoors; 5th in Wanamaker Mile
Garrett Heath 3:34.12 3:38.48 6th in Wanamaker Mile but will likely focus on 3k at USAs
Matthew Centrowitz 3:30.40 3:35.91 Undefeated in ’16 and in tremendous shape; ran 3:50.63 to win Wanamaker Mile
Robby Andrews 3:34.78 3:38.09 Big kicker coming off big PB (3:53.16) in Wanamaker Mile
Cristian Soratos 3:39.68 3:40.40 ’15 NCAA runner-up was 7th in Wanamaker Mile
Johnny Gregorek 3:40.89 3:56.57 (mile) Coming off PB & win in B mile at Millrose
Daniel Winn 3:37.56 3:40.84 7th at USA Outdoors in ’15, but only ran 4:11 in Wanamaker Mile
Ben Blankenship 3:35.28 3:42.95 Runner-up in mile + 2-mile at USA Indoors in ’15
Colby Alexander 3:36.56 3:57.74 (mile) 9th at USA Outdoors in ’15
Travis Burkstrand 3:42.01 3:59.69 (mile)  Has run 1:48 and 4:01 this year.
Adam Godwin 3:43.19 4:00.73 (mile)

Bold denotes athlete has World Indoor Standard (3:39.50i/3:55mile i  or 3:33.00 outdoors from 1/1/2015 until last week)

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

Fresh off the world’s fastest indoor mile in 11 years, defending champion Matthew Centrowitz is the heavy favorite to repeat as champion and should be a real medal threat at World Indoors next week. Centrowitz has been the U.S.’s top 1500 man for some time, but over the last two years he’s really made clear how vast the chasm is between him and his rest of the domestic competition.

It started with his 2015 indoor campaign, where he helped set a world record in the distance medley relay, blazed a 2:17.00 1k, won his second Wanamaker Mile title and cruised to a U.S. indoor title in the mile. Outdoors, he came this close to winning the Bowerman Mile at the Pre Classic, destroyed the field at USAs, became the fastest American-born athlete ever at 1500 meters (3:30.40) and finished as the top American in the 1500 at Worlds. Though his World Championship finish (8th) was his lowest in four WC/Olympic appearances, 2015 was, on the whole, the most complete year of his career.

Somehow, Centrowitz has come out even stronger in 2016. He ran 3:54.02 on a flat track in January, then showed no difficulty in moving up to the 3k, recording a pb (7:40.95) in taking down Hassan Mead and World Championship finalist Tom Farrell. And of course, there was his ridiculous 3:50.63 mile at Millrose. Most domestic Centrowitz races have looked the same recently: Centro gets out well and positions himself near the front of the pack; when he’s ready, he strikes quickly and that’s that. Everybody else is racing for second.

That’s essentially what happened at USA Indoors last year (Centro was boxed in for a little bit but maneuvered out of it before the final 400) and we expect a similar outcome on Saturday. Centrowitz is one of the top three guys in the world right now, and no one else in the field can say that.

The battle for the second spot on Team USA should be more dramatic. There are four guys with the World Indoor standard at the moment, and those are the guys we’ll be focusing our attention on (Garrett Heath is fit, but he doesn’t have the standard. If he runs the 1500, he’ll also be doubling back from the 3k — which is the event he’s focusing on since he does have the standard in that event). Apart from Centrowitz, they are: Cory Leslie, Robby Andrews and Ben Blankenship.

Andrews is the best bet for the team. He was the closest American to Centrowitz at Millrose (4th in 3:53.16) and has the best final 200 in the field, which is important in a championship final. He’s also in great shape as in addition to that 3:53 at Millrose, he’s won his other three races in 2016, running 1:48, 1:47 and finally 1:46 for 800 on February 27 in New York. Andrews has always been good indoors (he upset Andy Wheating to win his first NCAA title indoors in 2010 and won his first U.S. title at 1k indoors last year) and he’s coming off a season in which we ranked him as the U.S.’s #2 1500 runner behind Centrowitz. Unless it’s a super-slow race that comes down to the last lap, it’s unlikely Andrews beats Centrowitz, but he’s got a good chance to beat everyone else — and that’s enough to get him on the team to Worlds.

Cory Leslie is a fine runner, but he doesn’t have the kick of Centrowitz or Andrews as Leslie’s best event is the steeple. He was competitive against both this year, hanging with Centrowitz at the Camel City meet until Centrowitz pulled away at the end and finishing just .71 behind Andrews at Millrose. If either of them are off their games, he has a chance to pounce, but if everyone is at their best, Leslie will be left out.

Finally, there’s Ben Blankenship. The Oregon Track Club athlete put together a breakout 2015 season and was an agonizing .02 of a second from making the World Championship team last summer. It’s hard to gauge exactly where he stands right now as he’s only raced twice in 2016. His opener on February 5 — a 3:42.95 1500 for third behind 3k/5k guys Eric Jenkins and Paul Chelimo — was not encouraging.

Race #2 went better, as he ran 7:44.96 in Glasgow on February 20, but that was a few ticks slower than the top Americans ran in New York on the same day (six U.S. runners ran faster). It’s only a sample size of two races, but it does appear that Blankenship is a little behind where he was at this point in 2015, when he ran 3:35 indoors took second in the mile and 2-mile at USAs. If he can recapture that form in Portland, he’ll challenge for the second spot on Team USA, but given Andrews beat Blankenship when they were both 100% at USA outdoors last year, we’re going with Andrews for second behind Centro.

LRC Prediction: Centro 1, Andrews 2.

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