Men’s 1500 Prelims Recap: Matt Centrowitz Dazzles as All the Favorites Make Final and Robby Andrews Qualifies Easily

March 18, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. —  If they gave gold medals for prelims, Matthew Centrowitz would have been taking a victory lap in front of the home fans tonight at the Oregon Convention Center. But finals, unlike Centrowitz’s relatively stress-free prelim, are messy affairs, and they introduce different math. Tonight, the reward for first, second and third were exactly the same. When Centrowitz and the finalists reconvene on Sunday afternoon, the stakes will be significantly higher.

All of the big names — Centrowitz, Ayanleh Souleiman, Nick Willis, Robby Andrews — advanced with ease to the final, but none looked as smooth as Centrowitz. Quick recaps of the heats with analysis and post-race video below.

Mo Farah was on hand to watch Centro (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for IAAF)" Mo Farah was on hand to watch Centro (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for IAAF)”

Heat 1: Centro is Magnificent

After this one went out slow (400m 67.16, 800m 2:10.68), there was some jostling as the pace picked up after 800. Then, Centro made two simples moves and won the heat with ease.

The first came with 400 meters to go. Centro, last at that point, required only 100 meters to move outside and onto the shoulder of leader Dawit Wolde as the partisan home crowd responding by roaring their hero on. The second came at the bell, when Centro assumed the lead and clicked off a 26.90 final lap to glide away from his opponents in heat 1 and earn victory in 3:47.15. Wolde and Jakub Holusa were clearly best of everyone else and took the two other automatic spots for the final.

Quick Take #1 : Word of the day for Centro? R-E-L-A-X

Centrowitz didn’t speak for very long, but he said he was perhaps too relaxed at the start of the race and said that being at the back of the race felt a little foreign to him given he’s been winning everything in sight this year. He said ideally he would not have been that far back in the race, but he remained relaxed throughout and shifted gears effortlessly when he needed to.

Centro’s gold medal chances certainly went way up today.

1) In case you missed our 3000 heats recap, Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider, who was our gold medal pick if he ran this event, surprisingly opted for the 3000 and not the 1500.

2) Centrowitz looked as good as you can in a semi today.

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Heat 1 Results

1 374 Matthew CENTROWITZ USAUSA 3:47.15 Q
2 199 Dawit WOLDE ETHETH 3:47.24 Q
3 168 Jakub HOLUŠA CZECZE 3:47.62 Q
4 149 Iván LÓPEZ CHICHI 3:48.63
5 217 Charlie GRICE GBRGBR 3:49.03
6 263 Bethwell BIRGEN KENKEN 3:49.35
Splits 400m 67.16 800m 2:10.68 1200m 3:06.99
Robby Andrews Advances (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for IAAF)" Robby Andrews Advances (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for IAAF)”

Heat 2: Run Decently Fast and Beat 1 Other Guy and You Make the Final

With Matt Centrowitz taking the first heat in a super tactical 3:47, the second heat turned into a complete joke as the rest of the men knew all they had to do to make the final was run faster than the equivalent of a 4:05 mile and not finish bottom two in their heat. Given that there were only eight men in the heat and two of them were Nicaragua’s 3:49 1500 runner Erick Rodriguez and Spain’s Marc Alcala (3:38 1500 PR), it became a contest of who could run the slowest while not being passed by the man from Spain. Ethiopia’s defending silver medalist Aman Wote did most of the leading until the last few laps when Ayanleh Souliman took over and won the heat in 3:41.04 ahead of UK’s Chris O’Hare and Robby Andrews who grabbed the other two automatic qualifying spots. Wote and Kenya’s Vincent Kibet finished 4th and 5th while the real winner of the day was Nick Willis who conserved the most energy by finishing sixth in 3:41.53, about half a second ahead of Spain’s Alcala.

Quick Take #1: An Excited Robby Andrews Says He and Centro “Have a Good Shot at Doing Something Special” In the Final

When Robby Andrews was asked as he came through the mixed zone if his semifinal was anti-climatic with 6 of the 7 top guys making the final, he was full of enthusiasm saying, “That was super climatic, what are you talking about?  We’re onto a world championship final!”

He was in high spirits and thanked Matt Centrowitz for not making heat 1 fast.  Andrews said when heat 1 went out in 32 seconds the first lap, he and Chris O’Hare just looked at each other and smiled knowing six guys from their heat would likely make the final.

Andrews still had to deliver a solid performance and his was very workman like. “I got up front, stayed out of trouble, moved up when I had to, secured an auto spot. Real simple,” he said.

Now it’s on the final and Andrews was aiming big. “I think Matthew and I have a good shot at doing something special.”

Andrews was asked if he wanted a real slow final and said he felt like he didn’t need that anymore. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a runner, I don’t think it necessarily matters to me. You have a championship race right, you don’t know what type of race you’re going to get…(but) yeah I’d like to make it an 800m race.  Hopefully, Matthew and I can come away from some hardware.” (link fixed below for video)

Quick Take #2: Ayanleh Souleiman Very Confident Going Into Sunday’s Final

Souleiman said that he felt very good and that it was an “easy win” for him today. His English wasn’t the easiest to understand, but he was very confident about his chances in the final and at the Olympic this summer. Skipping to 1:06 into the video, you can see Souleiman point his finger at the camera (and his competitors), talking about winning gold.

Quick Take #3: Willis Conserves As Much Energy As Possible

Willis said that when he saw the first heat going slow and Aman Wote took the pace in their heat he knew that they should get six through to the final. At that point he focused on conserving energy and just making sure he didn’t finish out of the top six, looking back several times in the final 100m while easing his way to the finish line.

As far as his confidence level going into the final, Willis admitted that he “didn’t feel fantastic” in this heat when it should feel great as he just came down from altitude, but that he hoped it was just a bit of a rust buster and he’ll be all-right for the final.

Quick Take #4: Chris O’Hare’s Plan For the Final — “Don’t Race Like a Donkey”

O’Hare said “it wasn’t very difficult” to qualify once he knew that the time qualifiers were coming from his heat and as a result he really focused on getting in good position tactically as he doesn’t get to race world-class 1500 men like Souleiman, Wote and Willis every week. There was nothing wrong with O’Hare’s tactics tonight as he was well-positioned in the latter stages of the race and comfortably advanced to the final.

The goal for O’Hare is to do the same thing under more pressure on Sunday. He said that he raced “like a donkey” earlier this season at Millrose when he lost to Centrowitz and Willis as he knew they were they guys to beat but still let a gap form. When they did move, O’Hare was not in position to respond and as a result they ran away from him.

Better tactics will help, and they’re certainly important in a global 1500 final. But at some point, the talent differential is too great to overcome and that may be the case between O’Hare and a guy like Centrowitz (who rarely makes tactical mistakes) right now.

 Heat 2 Results
1 175 Ayanleh SOULEIMAN DJIDJI 3:41.04 Q
2 218 Chris O’HARE GBRGBR 3:41.09 Q
3 365 Robby ANDREWS USAUSA 3:41.21 Q
4 200 Aman WOTE ETHETH 3:41.25 q
5 266 Vincent KIBET KENKEN 3:41.42 q
6 300 Nicholas WILLIS NZLNZL 3:41.53 q
7 181 Marc ALCALÁ ESPESP 3:42.02
8 284 Erick RODRIGUEZ NCANCA 3:58.37 NIR
 400m 60.21 800m 1:59.64 1200m 2:59.02
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