Matt Centrowitz Wins 1500, So Does Gregorek, Berian Struggles, Ce’Aira Brown Keeps Rolling: 2018 USATF Distance Recap

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May 17, 2018

The Olympic champ might just be back.

From 2011 to 2016, Matthew Centrowitz was among the world’s very best 1500 runners, but he has not looked the same since winning 1500 gold in Rio two years ago. Part of that was due to a variety of maladies which afflicted him last year, including injuries to his hamstring and adductor and a bout with pericarditis, which led to him exiting in the first round of the 2017 World Championships. His 2018 season had not gone any better to this point as he could not break 1:52 in either of his 800s and finished a well-beaten 6th in the 1500 at Payton Jordan just two weeks ago.

However, we got a glimpse of the old Centrowitz at tonight’s USATF Distance Classic in Los Angeles as he closed well to win section 2 of the 1500 in 3:38.99, after running a 1:48 800 earlier in the evening.

Centro was not the fastest 1500 runner of the night (Johnny Gregorek ran 3:36.95 in section 1) but his performance was certainly the headliner from a distance fan’s perspective. We have results of all the races below, including Boris Berian’s difficult return to the 800, starting with a recap and analysis of the men’s 1500.

Men’s 1500: Gregorek runs 3:36 as Centro doubles back to win section 2

The first two sections were meant to be seeded equally, but the first heat was willing to go with the rabbits and as a result the four fastest times of the night came from section 1. Leading the way was 2017 World Championship finalist Johnny Gregorek, who moved up to #3 on the 2018 U.S. list behind collegians Robert Domanic (Ole Miss) and Sam Prakel (Oregon).

In section 2, Olympic champ Matthew Centrowitz — who was initially slated to run in the slower section 3 but decided to move up to the faster section — closed in 54.33 to impressively win in 3:38.99.

Gregorek leading before finish

Gregorek leading before finish

Section 1

The pace was relatively quick in this one as Australian Jordan Gusman was the first racer behind the rabbits at 57-mid at 400. They slowed over the next lap, hitting 800 in 1:57, and Gregorek, sensing the pace was slowing, moved off of Gusman’s shoulder and into the lead, with U.S. 10k champ Hassan Mead moving into second. Gregorek continued to lead at the bell (2:40.89) and began to separate from the six-man chase pack on the first turn. Though the pack would close him down slightly over the final 200, no one seriously challenged Gregorek, who won in 3:36.95 thanks to a 56.07 last lap. Gusman got a PR of 3:37.52 in second, as did Oregon’s Blake Haney (competing unattached), who finished 5th in 3:39.07.

Afte rthe race, Gregorek said he’s ready to do something special in the upcoming Bowerman Mile: Johnny Gregorek Is Pumped for Bowerman Mile: “I want to really run something fast… I’m going up to Eugene now to get locked and loaded.”.

13John GREGOREKAsics3:36.9543.45 [43.45]1:42.53 [59.08]2:40.89 [58.36]3:36.95 [56.07]
24Jordan GUSMANTelford/Saucony/Bankstown TP3:37.5242.62 [42.62]1:42.14 [59.53]2:41.38 [59.24]3:37.52 [56.15]
39Hassan MEADNike Oregon TC Elite3:38.3243.25 [43.25]1:42.68 [59.44]2:41.16 [58.48]3:38.32 [57.16]
48Edward CRAWFORDHoka Njnytc3:38.6742.82 [42.82]1:42.39 [59.57]2:41.35 [58.97]3:38.67 [57.32]
55Blake HANEYUnattached3:39.0743.64 [43.64]1:42.88 [59.25]2:41.62 [58.74]3:39.07 [57.46]
66Daniel HERRERAHigh Performance West3:39.4543.04 [43.04]1:42.76 [59.72]2:41.44 [58.69]3:39.45 [58.01]
71Eric AVILAUnattached3:40.7943.79 [43.79]1:42.95 [59.16]2:41.88 [58.93]3:40.79 [58.92]
82Luc BRUCHETCanada3:47.2044.04 [44.04]1:43.39 [59.35]2:43.93 [1:00.55]3:47.20 [1:03.27]
DNS10Salim KEDDARAlgeria

Section 2

Centro had a good run, Leo did not

Centro had a good run, Leo did not

No one wanted to run fast early on as the first racer at 400 (59-mid) was 21-year-old Algerian Takieddine Hedeilli. The next lap was even slower (1:59 at 800) as Colby Alexander moved by Hedeilli into the lead on the backstretch. But he would not be there for long as Hedeilli reclaimed the lead before the bell. Five men were within a second of him at that point, with Centrowitz, who ran the 800 just over an hour earlier, lurking in 6th after making a move to join the leaders with 450 to go.

It was clear on the backstretch that Centrowitz was feeling good as he moved outside and began passing guys. With 150 to go, he was third, but coming off the final turn, Hedeilli still led. From then on, it was vintage Centro. At his best, Centrowitz can run incredible speeds without looking as if he is straining at all, and though this was far from his fastest close, we got a taste of that tonight as he pulled away to win in 3:38.99. Kyle Merber was the only guy to mount a challenge over the final 50 meters after making an inside pass on the home straight, but he could not catch the Olympic champ and had to settle for second in 3:39.15.

Merber knew he had a shot to win with better positioning, as shown by the tweet below.


111Matthew CENTROWITZNike Oregon Project3:38.9944.98 [44.98]1:45.43 [1:00.45]2:44.67 [59.25]3:38.99 [54.33]
29Kyle MERBERHoka One One / Hoka Njnytc3:39.1544.54 [44.54]1:44.73 [1:00.20]2:44.16 [59.43]3:39.15 [54.99]
31Colby ALEXANDERHoka One One / Hoka Njnytc3:39.7444.34 [44.34]1:44.58 [1:00.25]2:43.94 [59.36]3:39.74 [55.81]
45Takieddine HEDEILLIAlgeria3:39.8543.90 [43.90]1:44.32 [1:00.43]2:43.78 [59.46]3:39.85 [56.08]
56Brannon KIDDERBrookes Beasts3:39.9644.69 [44.69]1:44.96 [1:00.28]2:44.35 [59.39]3:39.96 [55.62]
68Thomas RIVAVic City Elite3:40.5144.93 [44.93]1:45.18 [1:00.26]2:44.57 [59.39]3:40.51 [55.94]
77Chad NOELLEAsics3:41.5744.77 [44.77]1:45.40 [1:00.64]2:45.02 [59.62]3:41.57 [56.55]
83Robert DENAULTVic City Elite3:44.4145.53 [45.53]1:46.01 [1:00.49]2:46.04 [1:00.04]3:44.41 [58.37]
94Mac FLEETNike3:45.0645.19 [45.19]1:45.76 [1:00.57]2:45.69 [59.94]3:45.06 [59.38]
1010Leonel MANZANOHoka One One3:49.0344.12 [44.12]1:44.90 [1:00.78]2:46.79 [1:01.90]3:49.03 [1:02.25]
112Michael BRANNIGANNew York Athletic Club (Nyac)3:50.0145.38 [45.38]1:45.96 [1:00.58]2:46.19 [1:00.23]

Quick Take: A definite step in the right direction for Matthew Centrowitz, but a tougher test awaits at the Pre Classic

Kyle Merber and Colby Alexander aren’t world-beaters, but they’re solid runners, and to beat them on tired legs while closing in 54.33 is no easy feat.

Whoever runs the NOP Twitter account was evidently quite excited as well.

100 to go

100 to go

In the 800, Centrowitz was never really in the race, but he was moving well at the end and his 1:48.41 was significantly faster than either of his other races this year.

In the 1500, Centrowitz said that he knew if he put himself in it, his racing instincts would take over at the end. “I made a move with 450 to go and I said, Hey if I mix it up with these guys, I know I’ll find something extra,” Centrowitz said on the NBC Gold Broadcast. “Then [I was] just sitting back and trying to kick down that last 100.”HoHok

This was definitely a good sign for the Olympic champ, but his real test comes next week when he’ll face the world’s top two milers in Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot at the Pre Classic. Centro will have to be close to PR shape (3:50.53) just to contend for the win there, but now enters the race with a reasonable chance to contend.

Women’s 800: Ce’Aira Brown keeps rolling, takes down Brenda Martinez

Screenshot (1900)HOKA NJ*NY Track Club’s Ce’Aira Brown has already had a big year in 2018, running PRs at 800 (1:59.70) and 1500 (4:09.44) and she claimed her biggest scalp yet tonight, defeating 2013 Worlds silver medalist Brenda Martinez in convincing fashion.

Martinez got to the front early and was right on the rabbit’s shoulder at the bell, which she hit in 58.56. But Brown and the Oregon Track Club’s Hanna Green were right behind her, with 2014 NCAA champ Laura Roesler giving chase in 4th. Martinez continued to lead down the backstretch as Roesler fell off, but Brown moved by her with 150 to go and Martinez had no response, as Green moved past her as well into second.

It was all Brown in the home stretch, however, as she powered home to win by over a second in 2:00.38.

Fast 800 Section Results appear below (others here)

14Ce’Aira BROWNHoka Njnytc2:00.3858.81 [58.81]2:00.38 [1:01.58]
23Hanna GREENNike Oregon TC Elite2:01.4059.13 [59.13]2:01.40 [1:02.27]
35Brenda MARTINEZNew Balance2:02.0358.56 [58.56]2:02.03 [1:03.47]
47Laura ROESLERNike2:03.4659.51 [59.51]2:03.46 [1:03.95]
52Elizabeth WHELANU of Toronto Track Club2:04.851:00.14 [1:00.14]2:04.85 [1:04.72]
61Raquel LAMBDINUnattached2:05.7159.90 [59.90]2:05.71 [1:05.82]
76Annie LEBLANCNew Balance Canada2:05.721:00.25 [1:00.25]2:05.72 [1:05.47]

Quick Take: At 30, Brenda Martinez may not have quite the same speed

Many middle-distance runners move up in distance as they age, and Martinez said last year that she was planning on focusing on the 1500 this year and beyond (she’ll run that event at Pre next week). Assuming she has altered her training accordingly, it explains her performance today, as this (2:02.03) was Martinez’ slowest non-championship 800 since July 2015.

Men’s 800: Craig Engels is back to winning ways as Berian struggles

Screenshot (1903)Craig Engels prevailed in a tight three-way kick to win this one in 1:47.40.

The race began with 2016 Olympian Boris Berian, running his second race of 2018, doing the same thing he did in his first race — going straight to the front. Unfortunately for Berian, the rest of the race played out the same way as that outing at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in February as he faded badly over the second lap after hitting 400 in the lead in 52.31. Berian would wind up 8th in 1:50.70.

Instead, this one came down to Harun Abda (6th at USA Indoors this year), Iowa’s Carter Lilly (competing unattached) and Engels. Engels was in third coming off the final turn, but made a sudden move to the outside toward the start of the home stretch and held off Lilly to win in 1:47.40. Lilly, at 1:47.54, just missed his 1:47.32 pb from two years ago. Matthew Centrowitz was never a serious factor, but was able to drop Olympians Berian and Charles Jock to finish 5th in 1:48.41.

1Craig ENGELSNike Oregon Project1:47.40
2Carter LILYUnattached1:47.54
3Harun ABDANike Oregon TC Elite1:47.87
4Henry WYNNEBrooks1:48.36
5Matthew CENTROWITZNike Oregon Project1:48.41
6Charles JOCKUnattached1:49.65
7Allen EKENew Balance / Big Bear TC1:49.76
8Boris BERIANNew Balance / Big Bear TC1:50.70
9Nicholas HARRISUnattached1:50.92


Quick Take: Craig Engels doesn’t like altitude training, can still run the 800

Engels has been focusing on the 1500 recently, but tonight was a reminder that the guy is also a pretty good 800 runner — remember, he was 4th at the Olympic Trials in the 800 two years ago. Engels was pleased to win tonight as he said that Nike Oregon Project assistant Pete Julian told him to focus on that tonight rather than a specific time.

“My coach was just like hey get out there and win it,” Engels said. “You haven’t won one in a while.”

Engels has been training at altitude recently, which he has not enjoyed.

“It’s been rough but I figure you can fake an 800,” Engels said.

Now Engels is heading back to Portland — and you could join him. He’s looking for a couple of roommates.

Quick Take: Boris Berian still has a lot of work to do

The knock on Berian when he raced indoors in Boston three months ago was that he didn’t have the strength to hold on for the final 200 after a hard first three laps. Unfortunately, he doesn’t appear to have made much progress in that department as he went 52.31-58.39 for an ugly 1:50.70 tonight. So the bad news is that it may take longer for Berian to regain his form following his Achilles injury — which, remember, kept him out for all of 2017 — than he would like. The only silver lining is that this is a non-championship year.

Women’s 1500: Shannon Osika wins as Danielle Aragon runs a big PR

Osika, who was 3rd at USA Indoors in February, was the favorite on paper here and delivered by earning a wire-to-wire victory. Osika led the entire way, but the racing really began with 500 to go when the rabbits stepped off. Eleanor Fulton, who was 9th at USA Indoors, had been on Osika’s shoulder for much of the race, began to fall off at the bell as Dana Mecke moved into second. But on the backstretch, Mecke too was passed as Danielle Aragon assumed second place.

With 200 to go, Osika and Aragon had separated from the field and it was a two-woman race. Coming off the final turn, Aragon moved outside but she could not match Osika on this night, who closed in 62.68 to get the win in 4:09.38. Aragon actually closed faster (62.66) but was only third at the bell and thus had to settle for second. She won’t be too disappointed, however, as her 4:09.57 was a PR of almost three seconds for the Notre Dame alum, daughter of 3:51 miler Chuck Aragon, and sister of Stanford runner Christina Aragon. During her fifth year at Notre Dame last year, Aragon, the Notre Dame school record in the 1500, lowered her pb to 4:12.50 and made NCAAs for the first time individually (last (12th) in final) but today’s race was a huge breakthrough for the first year pro for the HOKA NJ*NY Track Club. She’s now less than a second from little sister Christina’s PB as Christina’s pb dates from high school when she ran 4:08.71 to snag the bronze at world junior in 2016.

19Shannon OSIKANike4:09.3848.88 [48.88]1:57.54 [1:08.67]3:06.71 [1:09.17]4:09.38 [1:02.68]
21Danielle ARAGONHoka Njnytc4:09.5749.17 [49.17]1:57.75 [1:08.59]3:06.92 [1:09.18]4:09.57 [1:02.66]
38Dana MECKETexas Elite Track Club4:11.5549.20 [49.20]1:57.86 [1:08.67]3:06.89 [1:09.04]4:11.55 [1:04.66]
411Nicole TULLYHoka One One / Hoka Njnytc4:12.2149.38 [49.38]1:58.03 [1:08.66]3:07.16 [1:09.14]4:12.21 [1:05.05]
56Sarah MACPHERSONVic City Elite4:12.6449.59 [49.59]1:58.15 [1:08.57]3:07.36 [1:09.22]4:12.64 [1:05.29]
65Mariah KELLYNew Balance Canada4:12.8949.37 [49.37]1:57.97 [1:08.60]3:07.17 [1:09.20]4:12.89 [1:05.73]
74Hanna HERMANSSONCal Coast Track Club4:13.0949.87 [49.87]1:58.40 [1:08.54]3:07.54 [1:09.15]4:13.09 [1:05.55]
82Eleanor FULTONHigh Performance West4:13.4648.95 [48.95]1:57.65 [1:08.70]3:07.03 [1:09.39]4:13.46 [1:06.44]
93Ayla GRANADOSStrava TC / rabbit4:13.8150.00 [50.00]1:58.50 [1:08.50]3:07.64 [1:09.14]4:13.81 [1:06.18]
107Megan MANSYHoka One One / Hoka Njnytc4:19.0449.62 [49.62]1:58.25 [1:08.63]3:07.34 [1:09.09]4:19.04 [1:11.71]
1110Lucia STAFFORDU of Toronto Track Club4:29.3449.82 [49.82]1:58.46 [1:08.64]3:08.79 [1:10.34]4:29.34 [1:20.56]

*Section 2 results here

Men’s steeple: Saucony Freedom Track Club’s MJ Erb opens track season with a win

1MJ ERBSaucony / Freedom Track Club8:32.78
2Travis MAHONEYHoka One One / Hoka Njnytc8:33.09
3Brandon DOUGHTYZap Fitness Reebok8:33.43
4Jordan MANNOcean State Ac/ New Balance8:34.04
5Isaac UPDIKETeam Run Eugene8:34.09
6James HURTUnattached8:37.07
7Brian SHRADERSaucony / Freedom Track Club8:45.95
8John GAYUniversity of British Columbia8:47.30
9Austin O’NEILPrestige WW8:54.21
10Henry STERLINGNE Distance8:55.80
11Jake WATERMANBoulder Track Club8:56.47
Jordan CARPENTERUnattachedDNF

Women’s steeple: Unsponsored 2012 Olympian Shalaya Kipp earns win after missing 2017 track season

1Shalaya KIPPUnattached9:44.34
2Marie LAWRENCEOiselle9:44.80
3Rima CHENAHAlgeria9:44.92
4Laura Rose DONEGANBattle Road Track Club9:46.83
5Tori GERLACHReebok9:55.52
6Jessica KAMILOSSaucony9:59.84
7Katie LANDWEHRUnattached10:05.68
8Rolanda BELLCentral Park Tc/ New Balance10:15.32
9Susan TANUIU.S. Army10:30.90
10Emma GARNERUnattached10:37.44

Men’s 5,000: Reid Buchanan outkicks Sam Parsons

1Reid BUCHANANSkechers Perf/ Mammoth TC13:33.38
2George PARSONSAdidas / Tinman Elite13:34.16
3Samuel ATKINAmerican Distance Project13:39.38
4Joe STILINZap Fitness Reebok13:42.42
5Trevor DUNBARUnattached13:42.63
6Reed FISCHERTinman Elite13:45.88
7Takanori ICHIKAWAHitachi TS13:47.69
8Timothy RACKERSBoulder Track Club13:48.55
9Ryan MAHALSKYBrooks Hansons13:50.01
10Toshiyuki YANAGIHitachi TS13:50.90
11Zachary ZARDAKansas City Smoke13:55.98
12Matthew CROWETrack Club LA13:57.59
13Evans KIRWAU.S. Army14:12.00
14Craig LAUTENSLAGERNew Zealand14:18.55
15Mitsunori ASAOKAHitachi TS14:28.93
16Nicholas KIPRUTOU.S. Army14:32.98
17Yuki MUTAHitachi TS14:43.83
Jordan GUSMANTelford/Saucony/Bankstown TPDNS

Women’s 5,000: Lauren Paquette breaks 15:20

1Lauren PAQUETTEBrooks15:19.17
2Rachel CLIFFCanada15:20.66
3Kate Van BUSKRIKNike15:30.84
4Regan YEEUnattached15:36.30
5Danielle SHANAHANUnattached15:37.27
6Chelsea BLAASEBrooks Hansons15:39.61
7Olivia PRATTBrooks Hansons15:42.35
8Sarah PAGANOBoston Athletic Association15:42.72
9Anne-Marie BLANEYBrooks Hansons15:54.35
10Maya WEIGELStrava TC15:58.93
11Calli THACKERYHallamshire Harriers16:06.57
12Maggie MONTOYARoots Running Project16:10.50
13Alicia NELSONBoulder Track Club16:43.87
14Natasha LABEAUDRabbit/Canada16:46.54
Sasha GOLLISHOiselle/Skechers PerformanceDNS
Alycia CRIDEBRINGrabbit / Sra EliteDNS
Bethany SACHTLEBENUnattachedDNS
Waverly NEERHoka One One / Hoka NjnytcDNS