Men’s 1500 Heats: Asbel Kiprop Looks Great, Ronald Kwemoi Struggles and Robby Andrews and Johnny Gregorek Move On

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August 10, 2017

LONDON – The men’s 1500 heats got underway this evening and there was a shocking result in the very first heat. Last year, a tactical Olympic final resulted in America’s first Olympic gold in the 1500 in more than 100 years as Matthew Centrowitz controlled things from start to finish. Tonight, the first heat was tactical once again, but Centrowitz had nothing in the final lap and finished last in 3:48.34.

(For more on Centrowitz, see this article: LRC Olympic Champion Matthew Centrowitz Eliminated in 1st Round of 1500 at 2017 World Champs )

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Centrowitz was by far the biggest casualty of the first round today. He was the lone entrant among those ranked in the 10 in terms of seasonal best times that didn’t moved on to tomorrow’s semifinals, although Kenyan champ Ronald Kwemoi, who has been battling injury of late, didn’t look good in heat #2 and only got in as the final time qualifier.

In more positive news, three-time world champ Asbel Kiprop, who has had a middling season so far by his lofty standards, looked like the Kiprop of old in the first heat. Last at 1k, he quickly accelerated and found himself in first at the bell, going on to qualify with ease.

In other newsworthy developments, the two other Americans in the field did move on as Robby Andrews was an auto qualifier out of heat #1 and Johnny Gregorek a time qualifier out of heat #3. NCAA champ Josh Kerr, just 19, of New Mexico/GBR didn’t move on but former NCAA champ Chris O’Hare of GBR did. It wasn’t a good day for Ethiopia as they advanced no one to the semifinals thanks to one DNS, one DNF,  and one 3:46.22 showing.

Heat 1

Heat 1 Results
1 Elijah Motonei MANANGOI KEN 3:45.93 Q
2 Asbel KIPROP KEN 3:45.96 Q
3 Timo BENITZ GER 3:46.01 Q
4 Abdalaati IGUIDER MAR 3:46.03 Q
5 Marcin LEWANDOWSKI POL 3:46.06 Q
6 Jordan WILLIAMSZ AUS 3:46.11 Q
7 Mahiedine MEKHISSI FRA 03:46.2
8 Samuel TEFERA ETH 03:46.2
9 David TORRENCE PER 03:46.4
10 Ayanleh SOULEIMAN DJI 03:46.6
11 Josh KERR GBR 03:47.3
12 Abderrahmane ANOU ALG 03:47.4
13 David BUSTOS ESP 03:47.5
14 Matthew CENTROWITZ USA 03:48.3
Thiago ANDRÈ BRA DNSSplits: 400m 1:02.99 Abderrahmane
800m 2:10.87 Abderrahmane
1200m 3:06.52 Elijah Motonei

If you got put in this heat, luck wasn’t on your side as it appeared to be the most difficult on paper. Check this stat out. This heat had all three medallists from 2015 in it plus the 2016 Olympic champion and 4th placer in it. It was also the first heat chronologically, so you were running blind in terms of knowing what it would take to snag one of the six time qualifiers for the semis (top 6 were auto and then next 6 fastest out of the three heats).

The first heat was very tactical through 800 (62.99 , 2:10.87) before things started to pick up. At 1k, Kiprop, who had been running in the back from the start, made a big move and found himself in the lead at the bell (2:53.45). He and compatriot Elijah Manangoi, the 2015 silver medallist who is the world leader this year, would stay up front all the way home as they hit 1200 in 3:06.52 (55.65 lap) before closing in 39.4 (52.5 last lap) as Manangoi won in 3:45.93 to Kiprop’s 3:45.96.

Behind them it was a furious dash for the final 4 auto qualifying spots. Given how tactical it was, it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that just .24 separated 1st from 7th. That being said, not once during the final 100 did we worry about the two Kenyans. They were the only two we were certain were going to advance.

The third medallist from 2015, Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco, was running just behind Manangoi and Kiprop at the end of this one but he’d finish fourth (3:46.03) as Germany’s Timo Benitz finished strong to nab third (3:46.01). The final two qualifying spots went to Marcin Lewandowski, the Pole who has twice finished 4th at Worlds in the 800, and former Villanova runner Jordan Williamsz (3:46.11) who was just ahead of steeplechaser Mahiedine Mekhissi (3:46.17) who didn’t advance. Williamsz qualified by throwing down the best final 300 of anyone in the field (38.69) to go from 11th to 6th.

Other non-advancers besides Centrowitz included Kerr, David Torrence and Ayanleh Souleiman.

As for Centrowitz, he ran in a perfect tactical position for the first half of the race as he was up front on the outside shoulder of the leaders. At 800, he was third but he soon started to get passed and found himself just 9th at 1200. After, there was no rally. Last entering the final stretch, he’d pack it in halfway home and finish last.

Heat 2

Heat 2 Results
1 Sadik MIKHOU BRN 3:42.12 Q
2 Jakub HOLUŠA CZE 3:42.31 Q
3 Chris O’HARE GBR 3:42.53 Q
4 Ronald MUSAGALA UGA 3:42.75 Q
5 Nicholas WILLIS NZL 3:42.75 Q
6 Robby ANDREWS USA 3:43.03 Q
7 Ronald KWEMOI KEN 3:43.10 q
8 Federico BRUNO ARG 03:43.2
9 Ryan GREGSON AUS 03:43.3
10 Marc ALCALÁ ESP 03:43.3
11 Benjamín ENZEMA GEQ 03:48.4
12 Dominic Lokinyomo LOBALU ART 3:52.78 PB
13 Richard DOUMA NED 03:55.4
Chala REGASSA ETH DNSSplits: 400m 59.93 Marc ALCALÁ SPAIN ESP
800m 2:03.32 Marc ALCALÁ SPAIN ESP
1200m 3:02.71 Marc ALCALÁ SPAIN ESP

With the first heat being so tactical, six time spots were there for the taking but after a decent first lap (59.97), things slowed over the next 400 (800 in 2:03.36) in the heat that was being led by Spain’s Marc Alcala. Things picked up a little bit over the next 300 as they hit the bell in 2:48.47 and 1200 in 3:02.83, but like the first heat this was going to be all about who had the best last 300.

Bahrain’s Sadik Mikhou (Moroccan-born) had the best close as he ran 39.22 and went from sixth to first to win in 3:42.12 ahead of the Czech Republic’s Jakub Holusa and Britain’s Chris O’Hare (3:42.53), who had the lead at 1200. Those three were clear coming down the homestretch. The question was who would get the final 3 auto spots. Uganda’s Olympic finalist Ronald Musagala claimed fourth (3:42.75) and two-time Olympic medallist Nick Willis, who used a nitfty inside move to get out of a box at one point on the last lap, closed well as he so often does to grab fifth in the same time (3:42.75). The final auto qualifying spot, thanks to a little fortune, went to American Robby Andrews (3:43.10).

Just 11th heading into the final 100, Andrews was moving up throughout the last 100 but not at a speed that would get him into the top 6. However, Kenyan champ Ronald Kwemoi, who ran in 2nd for the first 3 laps but was fading over the last 100, got tangled with Richard Douma of the Netherlands and Douma went down. So when Andrews passed Kwemoi just before the line, he had the final auto spot although Kwemoi would move on as a time qualifier in 3:43.10.

UPDATE: The Netherlands protested and Douma has been advanced to the semis. Text of decision below:

A protests [sic] was presented by the Dutch team after Round 1, Heat 2 of the 1500m Men, claiming that their athlete Richard DOUMA had been obstructed by Ugandan athlete Ronald MUSAGALA.

The Dutch team requested the disqualification of Ronald MUSAGALA and that their athlete Richard DOUMA be advanced to the next round, under Rule 163.2 (Obstruction).

The Jury of Appeal examined the video evidence decided not to disqualify MUSAGALA, but advanced DOUMA to the next round.

Andrews had a lot of ground to make up in this one

Andrews had a lot of ground to make up in this one

Heat 3

Heat 3 Results
1 Luke MATHEWS AUS 3:38.19 Q
2 Timothy CHERUIYOT KEN 3:38.41 Q
3 Filip INGEBRIGTSEN NOR 3:38.46 Q
4 Jake WIGHTMAN GBR 3:38.50 Q
5 Homiyu TESFAYE GER 3:38.57 Q
6 Adel MECHAAL ESP 3:38.99 Q
7 Fouad ELKAAM MAR 3:39.33 q
8 John GREGOREK USA 3:39.62 q
9 Kalle BERGLUND SWE 3:39.62 q
10 Benson Kiplagat SEUREI BRN 3:39.77 q
11 Michal ROZMYS POL 3:40.28 q
12 Ismael DEBJANI BEL 03:43.7
13 Harvey DIXON GIB 3:44.03 NR
14 Erick RODRÍGUEZ NCA 3:52.35 SB
Taresa TOLOSA ETH DNFSplits: 400m 58.60 Kalle BERGLUND SWEDEN SWE
800m 1:59.30 Kalle BERGLUND SWEDEN SWE
1200m 2:57.90 Jake WIGHTMAN GREAT BRITAIN & N.I. GBR

The runners in the third heat had it easy. All they had to was finish in the top 12 and run faster than 3:43.10 and they’d be into the semis. Sweden’s Kalle Berglund made sure that that anyone who didn’t move on had no excuses as he took things out in 58.60 and 1:59.30. In the end, the top 11 guys from this heat would move on.

Analysis and Post-Race Interviews:

Quick Take: Robby Andrews — “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good”

Andrews ran much of the race on the outside in order to be able to respond to any moves that were made, but by the bell he had still found himself shuffled toward the back of the pack. With 200 to go, he still had a lot of work to do. Even as he began to pick up steam, it looked like top six wasn’t going to happen, but he caught a break when the Netherlands’ Richard Douma went down, allowing Andrews to sneak in for sixth.

“I just got bumped around, wasn’t even necessarily my fault. I thought I was in a great spot and all of a sudden you find yourself in last. And it’s like, Well, I ran in lane 2 the whole time to avoid this.”

The important thing is that Andrews is in the semifinals, but he needs to do a better job of defending his position in that race. If he’s in the same spot tomorrow as he was tonight against better competition, he’ll have a hard time making his second straight World Championship final.

Quick Take: Nick Willis is ready to roll again

Willis had a rough start to his spring after running a 4:11 road mile on May 11, he took some time to rest up and recover before rebooting his season with a 3:36 1500 in Padua on July 16. He knocked two seconds off that five days later in Monaco and though he was hitting his longer workouts, his speed was still taking some time to come around. But 10 days ago, Willis ran a session that he traditionally does before big meets and said the times ranked right up there with what he ran in the sessions before his 3:29’s and his Olympic bronze last summer. So Willis is fit; the question is whether he has the strength to use that fitness in Sunday’s final after running three races in four days at age 34.

“That’s probably the biggest challenge as you age, is the recovery time,” Willis said.

Quick Take: Johnny Gregorek felt pretty comfortable and was glad to be in the third heat

With six time qualifiers for the taking and no one breaking 3:42 in either of the first two heats, it was a big advantage to be in heat 3 tonight and Gregorek knew it. Gregorek said he felt comfortable at the faster pace until the final 200, when the jockeying for position made him work harder. Still, he knew he was assured of a time qualifier (the top 11 finishers in his heat made it) and is looking forward to tomorrow’s semifinals.

Quick Take: Asbel Kiprop was mum on his fitness but he wants the gold

Kiprop often enters these championships as the favorite. This year, that’s not the case — even though he’s the three-time defending champ — as he was only 11th in his last race before Worlds in Monaco and his season’s best of 3:33.17 is his slowest in 10 years. But Kiprop said that no matter how he enters a championship, once he gets there he becomes just like everybody else — trying to make it through the prelims and the semis and into the final.

And just because he’s not the favorite doesn’t mean Kiprop’s not facing pressure.

“This is the moment that I have a lot of pressure because I want to — if I win four times, I will equal Hicham El Guerrouj,” Kiprop said.

Quick Take: NCAA champ Josh Kerr was not just happy to be here at age 19

Kerr was the NCAA champ this year and finished second at the British Trials, but today was a big step up in competition, and Kerr wasn’t ready for it. When you’re better than everyone else — and at the NCAA level, Kerr was this year — it’s a lot easier to move up during the race and overcome bad positioning. But Kerr was in a stacked heat and learned the hard way today that the margin for error is much finer against pros.

“I thought I was fine with like 700 to go,” Kerr said. “I thought I would come out, come up. But it’s just not that easy. I just thought it would be a lot more simple than it was.”

Kerr could have easily written today off as a learning experience but, he was tough on himself and said he wanted more.

“Qualifying for these championships is not good enough. That’s not what I want to do. I don’t want to just come here for the experience. I want to come here and really just go for it and smash it.”

That’s an admirable approach, but we’ll drop in some perspective. Kerr has already accomplished a ton at the age of 19 and his future remains very bright — he mentioned medalling, and that’s certainly achievable somewhere down the road. Tonight’s race will sting, but the more he races against better competition, the more he’ll improved.

And we can’t wait to see what he’ll do at the NCAA ranks next year. With Craig Engels and Edward Cheserek graduated, can anyone rise up to challenge Kerr? Justine Kiprotich, perhaps?

Quick Take: For once, Chris O’Hare is healthy heading into a global championships

The last time O’Hare, the 2012 NCAA mile champ at Tulsa, entered Worlds or the Olympics healthy, he made the final in Moscow in 2013. He almost made it in 2015 and 2016 despite missing time heading into the champs, but this time things have gone very smoothly and it’s shown in his results, with a British title and a 3:33.61 Scottish record in Monaco. With all the craziness in this meet so far, it’s not insane to think about the home crowd carrying O’Hare to a medal in the final, but he has to get there first.

QT: Filip Ingebrigtsen taking it one race at a time

Ingebrigtsen said he got a later start this year due to injury but he ran well at Monaco and seems primed to do well here in the final. He however is not thinking that far ahead taking it one race at a time.

He also talked about what a great talent his 16 year old brother Jakob is.

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