2017 USA Indoors Preview, 2-Mile: Olympic Silver Medallist Paul Chelimo Takes On World Indoor Silver Medallist Ryan Hill
March 2, 2017
For the pros, this weekend represents the end of the 2017 indoor track and field season (the collegians wrap up a week later at NCAA Indoors). With no World Indoor Championships to qualify for, the fields aren’t as loaded as 2016, but there will be plenty of star power in Albuquerque: Cas Loxsom, Donavan Brazier, Clayton Murphy, Robby Andrews, Ben Blankenship, Evan Jager, Paul Chelimo, Ajee Wilson, Charlene Lipsey, Shelby Houlihan, Colleen Quigley are among the big names taking part.
We give you the need-to-know details about U.S. Indoors below before taking a closer look at the 2-miles below. We’ve previewed the 600, 1k and mile already:
What: 2017 USATF Indoor Championships
When: March 3-5, 2017
Where: Albuquerque Convention Center, Albuquerque, N.M.
How to watch: The entire meet is live on USATF.TV +PLUS (requires subscription), except for the final two hours on Sunday (5:30 p.m. ET to 7:30 p.m. ET), which will be shown live on NBC Sports Network. NBC Sports Network will also air tape-delayed coverage of Saturday’s events from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m ET on Saturday night.
Men’s 2-Mile (Saturday, 9:44 p.m. ET; straight final)
|Paul Chelimo||7:39.00 (3k)||7:42.39 (3k)||Olympic silver medallist is 2-for-2 on his resolution to win every race in ’17|
|Caleb Hoover||7:52.07 (3k)||7:52.07 (3k)||NAU grad has made big improvement over 3k since joining Furman Elite|
|Daniel Winn||7:52.27 (3k)||7:52.27 (3k)||7th and 8th at last 2 US Outdoor Champs in 1500|
|Brian Shrader||8:35.45||7:54.05 (3k)||NAU grad was 11th in 2-mile at Millrose|
|Collin Leibold||7:54.34 (3k)||7:54.34 (3k)||Georgetown grad ran 7:54 at UW on 2/11 in only race of ’17|
|Tabor Stevens||7:54.62 (3k)||7:54.62 (3k)||Former DII stud/8:26 steepler|
|Woody Kincaid||7:48.89||7:54.84 (3k)||Portland grad now running for BTC lowered 5k pb by 15 secs to 13:12 last weekend|
|Riley Masters||8:37.26||7:55.05 (3k)||Now training under Mark Wetmore in Boulder|
|Hillary Bor||7:55.49 (3k)||7:55.49 (3k)||7th in Olympic steeple final last year|
|Brian Doyle||7:58.40 (3k)||7:58.40 (3k)||7:58 at BU on 1/28 was big PR for Providence grad|
|Ryan Hill||8:11.56||8:11.56||Has won this race at USAs last two years; World Indoor silver in ’16|
|Garrett Heath||8:19.61||8:19.61||6th in 2-mile at Millrose; also entered in mile|
|Ben Blankenship||8:16.53||8:27.10||2nd in this race in ’15; 8th in Olympic 1500 last year; also entered in mile|
|Craig Lutz||8:01.19 (3k)||8:01.19 (3k)||2016 US XC champ is on the shorter end of his range here|
|Jeremy Greenwald||8:02.80 (3k)||8:02.80 (3k)||Has run 8:02 and 8:04 this year for 3k and 4:02 in the mile|
|Mason Ferlic||7:55.03 (3k)||13:42.32 (5k)||7th at USA XC on 2/4, then 13:42 in Birmingham on 2/18|
Chelimo vs. Hill made for a terrific race a year ago at USA Indoors, with Hill holding a hard-charging Chelimo off over the final 200 meters. Since then, both men have won silver medals (Hill at World Indoors, Chelimo at the Olympics) and have been running well this season, setting the stage for what could be an even better clash in Albuquerque on Saturday night.
As the Olympic silver medallist, Chelimo is going to be favored in most races he runs. He kicked off the year in Boston by telling us about his new year’s resolution to not lose any races in 2017, and so far he’s made good on that vow, stomping a loaded field in Boston to win in a world-leading 7:42.39 before heading to the Camel City Elite meet a week later and running 7:45 on a flat track. You can’t ask for much more from an athlete’s first two races.
Hill has also looked good in his two indoor meets as well, running 8:11.56 for two miles at Millrose and 13:07.61 for 5,000 last week in Boston, though he didn’t win either race — he was second to Ben True at Millrose and fourth in Boston behind Mo Ahmed, Eric Jenkins and True. There’s no shame in that; the guys who beat Hill are all really good. The problem is, Chelimo is also really good and his kick is the best of the bunch. Hill has a tremendous kick in his own right, of course, and 3k/2 miles is his ideal distance — long enough to tire out the milers but short enough for Hill to still feel good kicking at the end of the race. We’re not ruling out a victory by Hill, but when you’re facing Chelimo, the bar is set very high. Chelimo’s 2017 indoor season has been better so far than his 2016 indoor season while Hill’s had been slightly worse. Considering Hill only beat Chelimo by .40 at USAs last year, that gives an edge to Chelimo.
Could anyone else steal it? Hill’s Bowerman Track Club teammate Woody Kincaid has an underrated kick and is coming off a big 13:12 5k PR last weekend, but Hill beat him by five seconds in that race and Hill’s advantage will only be magnified over 2 miles. Hillary Bor was an Olympic steeple finalist, but he lost to a bunch of college guys in his only track race of 2017; he’s not ready to challenge the likes of Chelimo and Hill. Ben Blankenship is the best threat to break them up. Though his first 2-mile of the year went poorly (8:27 at Millrose, 16 seconds behind Hill), he bounced back by running 3:36 FTW over 1500 in Birmingham, defeating fellow Olympic finalists Ryan Gregson and Nate Brannen in the process. As a strength-oriented 1500 runner, Blankenship is well-suited for the step up to two miles (he was second in this race two years ago), and if it turns into a sit-and-kick (which it may do at altitude), he could be dangerous.
LRC prediction: As the two-time defending champion, Hill won’t give up his crown without a fight, but Chelimo has been too good this year for us not to pick him. Chelimo FTW.
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Women’s 2-Mile (Sunday, 6:37 p.m. ET; straight final)
|Heather Kampf||8:51.27 (3k)||8:51.27 (3k)||4th in Wanamaker Mile; 4th at USA Indoors last year in 1500; doubling back from mile|
|Emily Lipari||8:57.24 (3k)||8:57.24 (3k)||2014 NCAA mile champ was 9th at USA Indoors last year in 1500|
|Katie Mackey||8:59.53 (3k)||8:59.53 (3k)||10th in Wanamaker Mile, then 13th in 3k in Birmingham|
|Sara Sutherland||9:00.35 (3k)||9:00.35 (3k)||Won only race of 2017 — 3k at Camel City on 2/4|
|Katie McMenamin||N/A||15:51.12 (5k)||NCAA DIII 1500 champ at Swarthmore last year|
|Rachel Schilkowsky||9:16.70 (3k)||15:58.50 (5k)||Two-time Heps steeple champ at Cornell|
|Emily Oren||9:15.58 (3k)||9:15.58 (3k)||Won 3k at BU Valentine on 2/10|
|Katrina Coogan||9:01.16 (3k)||9:16.14 (3k)||Gtown grad anchored Hoyas to NCAA DMR title last year|
|Patricia Terry||9:18.21 (3k)||9:18.21 (3k)||TCU grad ran 9:18 in her only race of ’17 on 1/28|
|Ayla Granados||9:20.09 (3k)||9:20.09 (3k)||Former DII star at Chico State|
|Shelby Houlihan||9:01.11 (3k)||N/A||Olympic 5k finalist coming off mile PR at BU on 2/10; doubling back from mile|
This is one of the weaker fields in the distance portion of the meet, and the two best women on paper (Shelby Houlihan and Heather Kampf) will be doubling back from the mile the day before. That makes for a bit of a letdown in what will be the final distance event of the weekend.
Though we have a limited sample size on Houlihan, her only race — a 4:24.16 mile win at BU on February 10 — was very good. Even with the mile the day before, we expect Houlihan to come back and contend for the win here considering her chief competition (Kampf) is doing the same thing. There is one other woman we’ll be watching for: Katie Mackey, who came up one spot shy of making the Olympic team at 5,000 meters last summer. 3,000 meters may be Mackey’s best event (her outdoor PR is 8:46 and she actually won a Diamond League 3000 in 2015), so she should handle this 2-mile race pretty well. Her Wanamaker Mile performance (4:33, five seconds slower than her ’16 time) wasn’t great by her standards, but 8:59 isn’t bad for 3,000 meters and against this field it’s good enough to be in the mix to win.
Emily Lipari, Sara Sutherland and Katrina Coogan have all run 9:01 or faster in their careers (Lipari and Sutherland did it earlier this year), but they haven’t shown anything to suggest they’d be capable of defeating Houlihan, even if Houlihan is tired. However, if Houlihan and/or Kampf scratches, they could find themselves in contention. Of the three, Lipari has the best kick, and she’ll have fond memories of this track — it’s where she won her lone NCAA title in the mile back in 2014. Lipari actually beat Houlihan in that race, but beating the new-and-improved Houlihan over double the distance would be a big upset.
LRC prediction: Even on tired legs, Houlihan is the class of this field. If she wins this and the mile on Saturday, she’ll join Shannon Rowbury (2015) and Jenny Simpson (2011 and 2012) as women to pull off the distance double at USAs in recent years.
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