How it works
This meet, as with the first two meets in the series, will be team-scored, though this meet counts far more heavily than either of the first two. There are four teams — the New York Empire, Philadelphia Force, Portland Pulse and San Francisco Surge — and since San Francisco and New York won the first two meets, they begin the final in New York with 14 points each while Portland and Philadelphia start with 13 points each. In the grand scheme of things, however, one point isn’t worth much. In fact, it’s pretty much irrelevant as it’s equivalent to an last-place finish in a single event. In all, 19 events will be scored in Thursday’s final, with eight places scoring in each individual event as follows: 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. In relays, the scoring is 18-14-12-10. Money: Individual event payouts – 1, $4,000; 2, $3,000; 3, $2,000; 4, $1,000; 5, $750; 6, $500.
While the team scores basically meant nothing in the first two meets, they mean something here and the athletes will definitely be paying attention to the team title as each athlete on the winning team receives a $1,000 cash bonus. San Francisco won the final last year with 179 points.
TFN has an event by event prediction and they have it as a close meet.
Overall Projected Team Scores by TFN:
Philadelphia Force 195
New York City Empire 193
San Francisco Surge 190
Portland Pulse 189
5K road race (6:30 p.m. ET)
Men’s elite start list
|Tommy CURTIN||New York Empire|
|Craig LUTZ||Philadelphia Force|
|Edwin KIBICHIY||Philadelphia Force|
|MJ ERB||Portland Pulse|
|Stanley KEBENEI||Portland Pulse|
|Reid BUCHANAN||San Francisco Surge|
|Trevor DUNBAR||San Francisco Surge|
Women’s elite start list
|Ashley HIGGINSON||New York Empire|
|Kim CONLEY||New York Empire|
|Kellyn TAYLOR||Philadelphia Force|
|Alia GRAY||Philadelphia Force|
|Tori GERLACH||Portland Pulse|
|Liz COSTELLO||Portland Pulse|
|Lauren PAQUETTE||San Francisco Surge|
|Caroline WILLIAMS||San Francisco Surge|
The men’s race should be a good battle as Tommy Curtin, Trevor Dunbar and Reid Buchanan all ran5 000s PRs in the same race at the Portland Track Festival this year where they were very tighlty bunched (Dunbar (13:26) – Curtin (13:26) – Buchanan (13:27). They then battled again and finished very close together – 6-7-8 – in the 5,000 at USAs only in a slightly different order (Curtin, Dunbar and Buchanan), which means we should expect another close one again on Thursday. That is, unless Stanley Kebenei has anything to say about it. Kebenei is fresh off making his first U.S. team in the steeple and he’s been good on the roads this year, taking 4th at the U.S. 15K champs in March and winning the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in April.
In the women’s race, Kim Conley had a rough USAs (DNF in the 10k, 13th in the 5k), but her 15:08 track PR is easily tops in the field. Liz Costello (7th in the 10k at USAs) and Lauren Paquette (15:14 pb, 6th in USAs 5k) both ran well at USAs and should be in the hunt. Kellyn Taylor is more focused on longer distances these days, but she was 4th in the 10k at last year’s Olympic Trials.
LRC prediction: The cream (Olympians/world championship team members) rises to the top – Kebenei and Conley FTW.
Women’s 3000 (8:12 p.m. ET)
|Stephanie GARCIA||New York Empire||8:53.20|
|Marisa HOWARD||San Francisco Surge||9:08.84|
|Sara SUTHERLAND||Philadelphia Force||9:00.35|
|Ashley MATON||Portland Pulse||9:19.87|
|Nicole TULLY||New York Empire||8:55.48|
|Lianne FARBER||San Francisco Surge||9:14.04|
|Alexina WILSON||Philadelphia Force||9:17.36|
|Megan ROLLAND||Portland Pulse||9:13.92|
Garcia, who was 4th at USAs in the steeple, won this event handily when it was contested four days ago in Portland and she’ll be favored to do so again in New York, especially considering that the only woman within seven seconds of her in that race, Lauren Paquette, is moving up to the 5K road race for this meet. The only wild card is 2015 U.S. 5,000 champ Nicole Tully (9th 2017 USAs), who sat out the first meet. Tully lives and trains in the NYC area and will be well-rested as she’s the only athlete in the field who hasn’t raced since USAs. She also has a strong kick, so if this one comes down to the wire, watch out.
LRC prediction: Garcia runs the kick out of Tully.
Women’s 800 (8:50 p.m. ET)
|Kenyetta IYEVBELE||Philadelphia Force||2:01.68|
|McKayla FRICKER||San Francisco Surge||2:00.81|
|Sanne VERSTEGEN||New York Empire||1:59.29|
|Chrishuna WILLIAMS||Portland Pulse||1:59.59|
|Cecilia BAROWSKI||San Francisco Surge||2:00.90|
|Kendra CHAMBERS||New York Empire||2:00.76|
|Alena BROOKS||Philadelphia Force||2:02.71|
|Ce’Aira BROWN||Portland Pulse||2:01.10|
31-year-old Sanne Verstegen of the Netherlands won this race in the first meet at Stanford as she beat 2016 Olympian Chrishuna Williams of the U.S. by a fairly comfortable .55. Considering this field is identical to the one that lined up a week ago, we’ll take Verstegen FTW again. Fun fact: Verstegen has won eight national titles outdoors across three different events — 400 (2009, 2010), 400 hurdles (2009, 2010, 2011) and 800 (2012, 2014, 2016).
LRC prediction: Verstegen looked so good at Stanford that it would be silly to pick against her.
Men’s 3000 (8:55 p.m. ET)
|Paul CHELIMO||Portland Pulse||7:31.57|
|Donn CABRAL||New York Empire||7:47.42|
|Travis MAHONEY||Philadelphia Force||7:47.66|
|Mason FERLIC||San Francisco Surge||7:53.82|
|Lopez LOMONG||Portland Pulse||7:39.81|
|Graham CRAWFORD||New York Empire||7:49.93|
|Josh THOMPSON||Philadelphia Force||8:04.94|
|Anthony ROTICH||San Francisco Surge||7:52.33|
The fact that Paul Chelimo is in this race is something of a mixed blessing. He’s one of the U.S.’s biggest talents and thus a great get for the TrackTown Summer Series. But at the same time, his he’s so good that this race won’t be very competitive up front. As Chelimo showed at USAs and at the first TrackTown meet at Stanford, there’s no one in the U.S. close to his level right now. So trotting him out against the same bunch of guys in New York is quite obviously going to have the same result.
Again, it’s nice for the fans in New York to be able to see a star like Chelimo in person, but what would you rather watch: Chelimo beating up on a bunch of Americans in New York or Chelimo challenging the world’s best at the Diamond League meet in Lausanne (which will be held earlier in the day)? Obviously the best-case scenario from an American perspective would be for the world’s best to compete in New York, but the Diamond League in New York didn’t prove to be a financial success.Between the travel and prize money discrepancy, the TrackTown Summer Series is not in a position to compete with the Diamond League for international talent right now.
LRC prediction: This isn’t hard. Chelimo FTW.
Men’s 800 (9:10 p.m. ET)
|Curtis BEACH||Philadelphia Force||1:47.75|
|Andres ARROYO||New York Empire||1:45.74|
|Jesse GARN||Philadelphia Force||1:45.82|
|Drew WINDLE||Portland Pulse||1:45.02|
|Erik SOWINSKI||San Francisco Surge||1:44.58|
|Edward KEMBOI||New York Empire||1:45.58|
|Shaquille WALKER||San Francisco Surge||1:44.99|
|Harun ABDA||Portland Pulse||1:45.55|
|Casimir LOXSOM||New York Empire||1:44.92|
The first run of this race in Portland on Sunday was fairly entertaining, with Erik Sowinski reprising his USA strategy and trying to go wire-to-wire. Once again, he was able to create a gap on the backstretch, but once again he was run down by Drew Windle, who earned his first win of the season. With the way Windle is closing races right now, he’s going to be tough to beat, but we’ll be interested to see if Sowinski, who won the final last year in Eugene, changes up his tactics in New York. Sowinski’s third-place, 1:46.63 finish in Portland was actually his worst race of the season, which goes to show you how consistent he’s been in 2017 (all of his other finals have been in the 1:45s).
LRC prediction: Windle keeps it rolling and wins again.
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Women’s 1500 (9:30 p.m. ET)
|Lauren JOHNSON||Portland Pulse||4:04.17|
|Amanda ECCLESTON||Philadelphia Force||4:03.25|
|Emma COBURN||New York Empire||4:05.10|
|Alexa EFRAIMSON||San Francisco Surge||4:03.39|
|Katrina COOGAN||Portland Pulse||4:13.13|
|Emily LIPARI||Philadelphia Force||4:07.29|
|Megan MOYE||New York Empire||4:11.53|
|Hannah FIELDS||San Francisco Surge||4:05.30|
The first edition of this race came down to Hannah Fields and Amanda Eccleston battling it out to the line at Stanford with Fields taking the win in 4:05.30 — a PR of almost six seconds. Fields, like her Brooks Beasts teammate Drew Windle, had a lot of success at a small school in college (in Fields’ case, NAIA Oklahoma Baptist) and has begun to shine in her second full season as a pro. So far this year, she’s PR’d three times in the 800 (from 2:03.89 all the way down to 2:00.53) and her win at Stanford represented a similar leap in the 1500.
But she’s not the only woman in this field running well this year. Eccleston was just .14 behind her at Stanford and should contend again. Lauren Johnson was one spot away from making the U.S. team at 1500. Emily Lipari has made a similar improvement to Fields this year, going from a 4:12.17 pb at the start of the year to 4:07.29 at Stanford. 20-year old Alexa Efraimson, who did almost all of the work in Stanford after the rabbit departed, ran 4:06.16 last week to take third there, her fastest time in two years, and looks poised to challenge her 4:03.39 pb which dates to 2015. It will be interesting to see Efraimson changes up her tactics and tries to use someone else to pull her to a PR. Finally, there’s Emma Coburn, who will run her first 1500 of the year five days after taking fifth in the steeple at the Paris Diamond League.
Coburn may be known as America’s best steepler right now but she was the NCAA indoor mile champ in 2013 and has a 4:05.10 1500 pb from 2015.
LRC prediction: It’s been over a year since Efraimson won a race outdoors, but she’s trending in the right direction, which is a great sign as we’ve been saying for months this is a pivotal year for her. We’ll take her FTW.
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Men’s 1500 (9:40 p.m. ET)
|Pat CASEY||New York Empire||3:35.32|
|Craig ENGELS||Philadelphia Force||3:37.65|
|Kyle MERBER||Portland Pulse||3:34.54|
|Colby ALEXANDER||San Francisco Surge||3:34.88|
|Johnny GREGOREK||New York Empire||3:36.04|
|Ben BLANKENSHIP||Philadelphia Force||3:34.26|
|Cristian SORATOS||Portland Pulse||3:36.73|
|Robby ANDREWS||San Francisco Surge||3:34.78|
Once again, the men’s 1500 should be the highlight of the night, and if it’s anything close to the two men’s 1500 in the series so far (last year’s final in Eugene and Sunday’s race in Portland), the fans are in for a treat.
In case you missed Sunday’s race, Ben Blankenship edged out Kyle Merber for the win by just .006 of a second. The final 100 meters were terrific as Blankenship, Merber, Craig Engels and Colby Alexander (who ran 3:34.88 to win the final in Eugene in 2016) all had a shot to win on the home straight. All four men will be back in New York, where they’ll be joined by Robby Andrews, Johnny Gregorek and Cristian Soratos, who went 1-3-5 at USAs.
This race will be particularly important for Andrews, Engels and Soratos as all three men are still chasing the 3:36.00 IAAF standard. If Andrews (US champ) gets it, he is going to Worlds in London. But if he misses, Engels (4th at USAs) or Soratos (5th at USAs) can (temporarily) take his spot by getting the time in New York. But no matter what Engels and Soratos do, if Andrews runs the time by midnight on July 21, he’s going to Worlds.
And if you are an Andrews fan, you shouldn’t totally panic if he doesn’t get it here. If he doesn’t get it here, his next (and last) attempt will likely come in Monaco on July 21. And if he can’t get it in that race, which annually is the fastest 1500 in the world, he’d have a hard time doing much at Worlds anyway.
As for Thursday’s race, the ideal scenario for Andrews is that the pace is a little slower at the beginning than it was in Portland (it was 26 point for the first 200 and 56.3 for the first 400) and for someone else (perhaps Engels or Soratos) to be up front in the early going as everyone besides Andrews stayed way off the rabbit in Portland. Andrews is at his best when he’s racing for place, not time, and if the guys up front can tow him through 1100 meters in 58-second pace (2:39.5), he should be able to close in 56 seconds for the final lap. That’s basically what happened at last year’s meet in Eugene as the pacing was good up front and the field did not allow the pace to lag too much during the third lap. In Portland, rabbit Lopez Lomong went out a little quick on Sunday in Portland and then Andrews (leading the racers) didn’t stay close enough to Lomong on the next two laps, putting them too far behind at the bell (2:42.31).
Now, Soratos and Engels certainly may not want to help Andrews get the time (and Blankenship who already has it has zero incentive to go for it) but they have more incentive to go for the time here than they did in Portland as if they don’t get it, they are going to have a hard time getting into a Diamond League race in Europe to chase it. As the US champion and Olympic semifinalist, Andrews will be able to find a lane.
So who wins? It’s impossible to say. Andrews’ win at USAs was the single most impressive performance by anyone in this field this year, but he’s looked ordinary in his four other races this year. Engels and Soratos were 4th and 5th at USAs but only 3rd and 7th in Portland. Meanwhile, Blankenship and Merber battled it out for the win in Portland but Blankenship faded to 12th at USAs while Merber didn’t even reach the final.
LRC prediction: Predicting this race is hard. If they were just racing, we’d pick Andrews to win as he won USAs but Andrews would probably rather take fifth in 3:35 than win in 3:45 and Blankenship probably deserves to be considered the favorite as he won in Portland, was an Olympic finalist and has the best PR. If we were coaching Andrews, we’d be tempted to tell him, run to win and don’t worry about the time. That sounds crazy but running for time isn’t something he’s excelled it. If Andrews competes well here or in Monaco, he’ll get the standard.
Our prediction: We’re very confident Andrews gets the standard – we’re just not 100% sure if it will come in this meet.
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More: Talk about the meet on our messageboard: MB: TrackTown Summer Series Championship is Thursday in NYC (and on ESPN) – Official Discussion Thread