2018 Payton Jordan Preview: Centro vs. Chelimo in a Loaded 1500 Highlights; Justyn Knight (5K) & Shadrack Kipchirchir (10K) Lead Distance Fields

Chelimo vs Centro for the first time.

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By LetsRun.com
May 3, 2018

Usually the purpose of Stanford’s Payton Jordan Invitational (at least for the top pros competing) is to hit World Championship/Olympic standards in the distance races. That’s not the case this year, as the qualifying window for the 2019 Worlds hasn’t opened in any distance event save for the 10,000, and even there the standard has not been published (it was 27:45.00 in 2017).

Even so, the general purpose of the meet remains the same: get a bunch of great athletes together under perfect conditions and see how fast they can go.

What: 2018 Payton Jordan Invitational
Where: Cobb Track and Angell Field, Palo Alto, Calif.
When: Thursday, May 3, 2018
How to watch: Live on Flotrack Pro (requires subscription)
Entries/section assignments * Schedule * Live results
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And as usual, there is plenty of talent on hand. All of the following athletes are entered in Thursday’s meet: Eric Jenkins (800/1500), Matthew Centrowitz (1500), Paul Chelimo (1500), Craig Engels (1500), Grant Fisher (1500), Jakob Ingebrigtsen (1500), Sean McGorty (1500), Drew Windle (1500), Filip Ingebrigtsen (5k), Justyn Knight (5k), Andy Trouard (5k), Shadrack Kipchirchir (10k), Elise Cranny (1500), Katie Mackey (5k), Meraf Bahta (5k), Stephanie Garcia (5k), Ednah Kurgat (5k), Allie Ostrander (5k).

The men’s 1500 is the highlight of the meet and we start with that and then go with races by the order they are run at the meet.

Men’s 1500 (Section #1 at 12:17 a.m. ET)
USATF Outdoor Championships standard: 3:39.00

Section 1 start list

Event 9  Men 1500 m Section 1 (9)
           Name                        Year School                                
  1    143 Colby Alexander                  Hoka One One                
  2    168 Matthew Centrowitz               Nike Oregon                 
  3    169 Paul Chelimo                     Unattached                  
  4    189 Craig Engels                     Nike OP                     
  5    197 Grant Fisher                     Stanford                    
  6    216 Jakob Ingebrigtsen               Jrs Sports M                
  7    217 Eric Jenkins                     Nike OP                     
  8    244 Sean McGorty                     Stanford                    
  9    270 David Ribich                     Western Oreg                
Chelimo and Centro will square off for the first time on Thursday

Chelimo and Centro will square off for the first time on Thursday

This is the race of the night. You’ve got the reigning Olympic 1500 champ, the reigning Olympic 5000 silver medalist, the world’s youngest-ever sub-4:00 miler, plus Grant FisherCraig Engels, and Eric Jenkins (last year’s winner). Look at those nine names on the start list and there’s a reason to be excited about every single one of them (and if you haven’t heard of DII star David Ribich by now, who made the 1500 final at USAs last year, you haven’t been paying attention).

Matthew Centrowitz is the guy we’re most interested to watch, and not just because he’s the Olympic champ. After an injury-plagued 2017 season that saw him exit in the first round at Worlds, Centrowitz relocated to the East Coast from Portland, where he can work more closely with his father Matt (though Alberto Salazar remains his primary coach). Centro went to Australia in March, and though his 3:37 opener in Sydney was solid, his 1:53.25 800 five days later in Brisbane was not — it was his slowest 800 time since high school and caused him to cut the trip short.

Centro is still only 28 and remains a supreme talent, so there’s obviously no need to panic. Still, it will be interesting to see what he’s capable of on Thursday coming off altitude camp in Flagstaff. He’s by no means a lock as several of these guys have been running well recently. His Nike Oregon Project teammate Engels was 7th at World Indoors in March, while Ribich (3:37.35 two weeks ago at Bryan Clay) and Colby Alexander (3:56.07 last week at Penn) have both run pretty quickly recently. Jenkins won the Wanamaker Mile last year but he’s also entered in the 800 and may be doubling back.

But Centrowitz’s biggest competition is Paul Chelimo. Chelimo blew away 1500 specialists Engels and Ben Blankenship to win the 1500 at USA Indoors, and the question now is how fast can he go? He ran his PR of 3:39.33 a few weeks after the Olympics in 2016, but should be capable of going far faster than that. Remember, Evan Jager has run 3:32 for 1500, and Chelimo is a better 3k/5k runner than Jager (and Chelimo, unlike Jager, has won a USA 1500 title, albeit indoors). Jager’s PR did come in great conditions with Garrett Heath serving as a de facto rabbit, and it’s unlikely that the race sets up that perfectly for Chelimo, even at Stanford. But as the Olympic silver medalist at 5,000, Chelimo may have a 3:31 in his legs in the right race — maybe faster.

Stanford’s NCAA 5k champ Fisher is the reigning Pac-12 1500 champ but hasn’t tackled a really fast attempt at the distance since he’s been in college. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the 3:36-3:37 range. Jakob Ingebrigtsen ran 3:39 last year as a 16 year-old and will open his outdoor season in this race.

World Indoor 800 medalist Drew Windle highlights section 2, where he’ll try to lower his 3:44 pb.

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Women’s 800 (Section #1 at 11:13 p.m. ET)

USATF Outdoor Championships standard: 2:03.00

Section 1 start list

  1     12 Lindsey Butterworth              Coastal Trac                
  2     51 Lauren Johnson                   BAA                         
  3     68 Alethia Marrero                  Arizona Stat                
  4     71 Cory McGee                       Unattached                  
  5    116 Ashley Taylor                    Northern Ari                
  6    131 Jenna Westaway                   Brooks Canad                
  7    132 Chrishuna Williams               Stubbs Manag

The top American in the field is 2016 Olympian Chrishuna Williams (5th at USAs last year), who has won the last three Payton Jordan 800s, but this race is about the Canadians. With Canadian 800 queen Melissa Bishop taking the year off to have a child, the title of Canada’s top 800 woman is now wide open and three of the top candidates are in this race. 23-year-old Canadian Jenna Westaway was second at the Canadian champs last year and made big progress indoors after joining the Big Bear Track Club — all three of her times were faster than her previous overall pb of 2:01.89. But there’s also Lindsey Butterworth (3rd at last year’s Canadian champs, early 2018 Canadian outdoor leader at 2:04.25) and Northern Arizona’s Ashley Taylor, who is still new to the event (she only took it up last year) but finished 4th at NCAA indoors in March.

Women’s 1500 (Section #1 at 12:10 a.m. ET)
USATF Outdoor Championships standard: 4:11.00

Stanford's Elise Cranny

Stanford’s Elise Cranny

Section 1 start list

  1      3 Christina Aragon                 Stanford                    
  2     22 Elise Cranny                     Stanford                    
  3     37 Dana Giordano                    Reebok                      
  4     43 Hanna Hermansson                 Bizz-Sports                 
  5     88 Whittni Orton                    BYU                         
  6    105 Claudia Saunders                 District Tra                
  7    106 Stephanie Schappert              Hoka One One                
  8    122 Nicole Tully                     Hoka One One                
  9    125 Sara Vaughn                      Unattached/N                
 10    127 Carina Viljoen                   Arkansas

Sophomore Christina Aragon (4:08 pb) and senior Elise Cranny (4:09 pb), Stanford’s top two middle-distance women, are the top two collegians in the field, which is highlighted by 2017 World Champs semifinalist Sara Vaughn. The current NCAA leader is Mississippi State’s Rhianwedd Price-Weimer at 4:10.31, but both Aragon and Cranny have run faster at their best. There’s also the sibling rivalry between NJ*NY Track Club’s Stephanie Schappert and Nicole Tully. In their last meeting, at the 2017 Adrian Martinez Classic, Tully came out on top in the mile, 4:30.22 to 4:32.49, with Schappert taking third.

Women’s 5000 (Section #1 at 12:24 a.m. ET)
USATF Outdoor Championships standard: 15:25.00

Section 1 start list

  1      4 Meraf Bahta                      Hälle IF                    
  2     30 Vanessa Fraser                   Stanford                    
  3     31 Yui Fukuda                       Toyota Welln                
  4     34 Stephanie Garcia                 New Balance                 
  5     45 Madeline Hills                   adidas                      
  6     53 Weini Kelati                     New Mexico                  
  7     54 Tomoka Kimura                    Universal En                
  8     55 Maureen Koster                   Unattached                  
  9     56 Ednah Kurgat                     New Mexico                  
 10     60 Mel Lawrence                     Oiselle                     
 11     65 Katie Mackey                     Brooks Beast                
 12     66 Margherita Magnani               G.A. Fiamme                 
 13     79 Rina Nabeshima                   Japan Post G                
 14     80 Amy-Eloise Neale                 Washington                  
 15     84 Linn Nilsson                     Hälle IF                    
 16     86 Jessica O'Connell                Unattached                  
 17     89 Allie Ostrander                  Boise State                 
 18    107 Rachel Schneider                 Under Armour                
 19    109 Nicole Sifuentes                 Saucony                     
 20    123 Kate Van Buskrik                 Nike                        
 21    134 Alice Wright                     New Mexico

Sweden’s Meraf Bahta, who owns a 14:49 pb and has finished 6th and 9th in the last two global 1500 finals, is the class of this field (she also won the 10k here last year), but there are several intriguing names behind her. Australia’s Madeline Hills was 10th in the 2016 Olympic final. Katie Mackey, coming off an 8th-place finish at the World Indoor 3k, will look to lower her 15:04 pb. Other notable pro entries include steeple specialist Stephanie Garcia (15:16 pb), who was 4th in the Drake Relays 2-mile last week in 9:37, and Nicole Sifuentes (15:19 pb), who looked good in winning the BAA Mile last month. Plus Rachel Schneider looks ready to lower her 15:33 pb after finishing 2nd in the Drake 2-mile to Jenny Simpson in 9:31. Mackey, Garcia, Sifuentes, and Scheider all set their 5k pbs at Stanford.

Among the collegians, Stanford’s Vanessa Fraser is in terrific form, coming off a huge 1500 PR of 4:10, which she ran two weeks ago. But she’s always been better at the 3k/5k, which suggests that Karissa Schweizer‘s 15:23.21 NCAA leader is in serious jeopardy (Fraser’s PR is 15:25). The Stanford school record of 15:11.13 (Aisling Cuffe) may be a bit too much to ask, but Fraser could put herself above Lauren Fleshman (15:20.44) and Sara Hall (15:24.74) on the Cardinal’s star-studded all-time list. There’s also NCAA XC champion Ednah Kurgat of New Mexico, NCAA XC runner-up Amy-Eloise Neale of Washington, and NCAA steeple champ Allie Ostrander of Boise State. If one of them can dip into the low 15:10s, they might have a chance to challenge the mighty Schweizer at NCAAs next month.

Men’s 5,000 (Section #1 at 12:44 a.m. ET)
USATF Outdoor Championships standard: 13:35.00

Section 1 start list

  1    158 Hillary Bor                      WCAP                        
  2    164 Luc Bruchet                      Canada                      
  3    173 Yeman Crippa                     Nike/Italy                  
  4    175 Tommy Curtin                     Saucony Free                
  5    214 Filip Ingebrigtsen               Jrs Sports M                
  6    215 Henrik Ingebrigtsen              Jrs Sports M                
  7    222 Isaac Kimeli                     Olympic Runn                
  8    224 Justyn Knight                    Syracuse                    
  9    228 Lawi Lalang                      Unattached                  
 10    239 Riley Masters                    Nike                        
 11    247 Mahiedine Mekhissi               Unattached                  
 12    257 Julian Oakley                    Ocean State                 
 13    287 Andy Trouard                     Northern Ari                
 14    297 Henry Wynne                      Brooks Beast                
 15    298 Izaic Yorks                      Brooks Beast

Syracuse’s Justyn Knight upset Edward Cheserek to win this race last year in 13:17.51, which remains his PR a year later. Matt Baxter‘s 13:31.00 NCAA leader looks set to fall, but how much faster can Knight run? Or will Baxter’s NAU teammate Andy Trouard, who surprisingly defeated Knight to win the NCAA 3k title in March, do the same again here?

Knight will have a chance at revenge against Trouard on Thursday (photo via Bert Richardson)

Knight will have a chance at revenge against Trouard on Thursday (photo via Bert Richardson)

Knight’s time puts him sixth on Track & Field News‘ all-time NCAA 5k list. Here are the men above him:

13:08.28i Lawi Lalang’ (Arizona) 2/11/12
13:08.4 Henry Rono’ (Washington St) 4/08/78
13:13.74i Stephen Sambu’ (Arizona) 2/11/02
13:15.33 Diego Estrada’ (Northern Arizona) 4/28/13
13:16.98 Alistair Cragg’ (Arkansas) 4/30/04
13:17.51 Justyn Knight’ (Syracuse) 5/05/17

Knight certainly has a chance to lower his time from last year. Since he ran 13:17, he’s made the World Champs final, won NCAA XC, run PRs over 1500 (3:36), the mile (3:55), and 3k (7:45), and won the NCAA indoor 5k title. That 3:36, in fact, puts him #7 on the NCAA’s all-time 1500 list, and Knight is definitely a stronger 5k runner than 1500 runner.

But will anyone else be willing to chase a 13:15 or faster? There are only two other guys in the field who have broken 13:20: Lawi Lalang (13:00 pb, but hasn’t broken 13:20 in three years) and Riley Masters (13:17 pb, won US road mile champs last week).

Payton Jordan is all about chasing pbs. Here are four guys who could challenge Knight and dip under 13:20:

  • Yeman Crippa (13:23 pb): Crippa ran 13:23 last year indoors at age 20. Now 21, the Italian is actually three months younger than Knight.
  • Filip Ingebrigtsen (debut): Ingebrigtsen ran 3:32 last year and earned the bronze medal at Worlds in the 1500.
  • Isaac Kimeli (13:24): The 24-year-old Belgian ran a 13-second PR of 13:24 to almost defeat Evan Jager at the Bryan Clay Invite two weeks ago and could go even faster here.
  • Mahiedine Mekhissi (debut): The Frenchman has never run a professional 5,000 (according to Tilastopaja), but with PRs of 3:33 and 8:00 (steeple), he could be dangerous. At 33, the Frenchman may be past his prime, but he did finish 4th at Worlds last year in the steeple. If you’re running the Payton Jordan 5k, we’d advise you right now to make sure you don’t step inside the rail.
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Men’s 10,000 (Section #1 at 1:40 a.m. ET)
USATF Outdoor Championships standard: 28:40.00

Section 1 start list

  1    147 Samuel Barata                    Unattached                  
  2    148 François Barrer                  Unattached                  
  3    150 Matthew Baxter                   Northern Ari                
  4    160 Soufiane Bouchikhi               Bizz-Sports                 
  5    171 Ben Connor                       Moyo Sports                 
  6    178 Tyler Day                        Northern Ari                
  7    179 Simon Debognies                  Olympic Runn                
  8    185 Noah Droddy                      Saucony/Root                
  9    195 Scott Fauble                     Hoka One One                
 10    200 Ivan Gonzalez                    Posso Sports                
 11    201 Mauricio Gonzalez Gonzalez       Posso Sports                
 12    204 Jonathan Green                   Georgetown                  
 13    205 Brendan Gregg                    Hansons-Broo                
 14    209 Garrett Heath                    Brooks Beast                
 15    223 Shadrack Kipchirchir             Nike                        
 16    227 Ian La Mere                      Hansons-Broo                
 17    230 Craig Lautenslager               New Zealand                 
 18        Colin Leak                       Philadelphia                
 19    233 Rory Linkletter                  BYU                         
 20    235 Peter Lomong                     Northern Ari                
 21    243 Matt McClintock                  Zap Fitness/                
 22    245 Connor McMillan                  BYU                         
 23    249 Alex Monroe                      Unattached                  
 24    258 Suguru Osako                     Nike Oregon                 
 25    259 Luis Ostos Cruz                  Peruvian Ath                
 26    277 Abbabiya Simbassa                Nike                        
 27    280 Joe Stilin                       Zap Fitness/                
 28    286 Seth Totten                      rabbit/SRA E                
 29    289 Luis Vargas                      Unattached                  
 30    300 Zach Zarda                       Kansas City
Kipchirchir winning the US road 5k champs last year

Kipchirchir winning the US road 5k champs last year

Shadrack Kipchirchir, who ran 27:07 (#3 all-time by an American) for 9th at Worlds last year, is the clear favorite, especially after an indoor season that saw him set PRs in the mile (3:55) and 3,000 (7:42). That’s especially true (pardon our pun) now that Ben True is no longer listed among the entries (he’s out with illness). But another PR for Kipchirchir is unlikely. Flotrack reports that the race will be rabbitted at 27:30 pace, and Kipchirchir is not going to be able to run 27:0x pace on his own.

Other pros to watch include Scott Fauble, who has put together a solid spring and was 4th at the 2016 Olympic Trials, Abbabiya Simbassa (4th at USAs last year), Suguru Osako (3rd at Boston and Fukuoka Marathons last year) and Garrett Heath, the 3:34/13:16 man who will be making his 10k debut. Colombia’s Mauricio Gonzalez also soloed a 28:13 in San Francisco in March.

This could also serve as an NCAA preview. BYU’s Rory Linkletter, the runner-up and top returner from NCAAs last year, faces the NAU trio of Matt BaxterTyler Day, and Peter Lomong, who went 2-3-8 at NCAA XC in November. Baxter leads the NCAA in the 5,000 at 13:31, and while that mark could fall to Justyn Knight, Baxter could go to #1 in the 10k (currently 28:19 by Alabama’s Vincent Kiprop). Day (29:06) is due for a big PR, while Lomong is assured of one considering this is his 10k debut on the track.

Women’s 10k Start List

Event 64  Women 10000 m Section 1 (18)
           Name                        Year School                                
  1      7 Chelsea Blaase                   Hansons-Broo                
  2      8 Anne-Marie Blaney                Hansons-Broo                
  3     18 Rachel Cliff                     Canada                      
  4     24 Tatiane Raquel Da Silva          Posso Sports                
  5     29 Emily Durgin                     Team New Bal                
  6     45 Madeline Hills                   adidas                      
  7     47 AI Hosoda                        Daihatsu                    
  8     49 Mao Ichiyama                     Wacoal                      
  9     52 Rachel Johnson                   Asics Furman                
 10     64 Bridget Lyons                    Atlanta Trac                
 11     73 Ines Melchor Huiza               Peruvian Ath                
 12     87 Natsuki Omori                    Daihatsu                    
 13     91 Sarah Pagano                     BAA                         
 14     93 Olivia Pratt                     Hansons-Broo                
 15     97 Beverly Ramos                    New Balance                 
 16    112 Carolina Tabares Guerrero        Equipo Porve                
 17    117 Gladys Tejeda Pucuhuaranga       Peruvian Ath                
 18    120 Jessica Tonn                     Brooks Beast