January 31, 2019
It’s a very good weekend to be a running fan.
We’ve already told you how excited we are for the LOADED 2019 USATF Cross Country Championships, which features the likes of Molly Huddle, Shelby Houlihan, Shannon Rowbury, Amy Cragg, and Karissa Schweizer all squaring off for spots on the plane to Denmark for March’s World XC champs.
But that’s far from the only big-time racing going down on Saturday. In North Carolina, there’s a terrific showdown at the Camel City Elite meet between the US’s two best 800 runners in Ajee’ Wilson and Raevyn Rogers, where they won’t just be chasing a nice prize purse ($6,000 for the win) but the 200-meter flat track world record of 1:59.41 (okay, there’s also a $1,000 bonus if they break that time). Big names Edward Cheserek (mile), Nick Willis (mile), and Clayton Murphy (800) will also be in action at Camel City, and Abbey Cooper (D’Agostino) will be running her first race on the track since her Olympic fall in 2016. Across the Atlantic, the IAAF World Indoor Tour continues with a stop in Karlsruhe, Germany, which will be streamed free around the world. Start lists aren’t up yet for that meet, but we do know that American Erik Sowinski will be going in the 800 while 20-year-old Cuban sensation Juan Miguel Echevarria will compete in the long jump for the first time since July.
Assuming you are willing to pay for USATF/Runnerspace+, really, there’s no reason to leave your couch on Saturday afternoon — consider this a dry-run for testing out seating arrangements, snacks, and the beer selection before your Super Bowl party on Sunday. Call it Super Saturday.
Camel City Elite Races
Track Race of the Day: Women’s 800 (2:45 p.m. ET) — Can Raevyn Rogers Beat Ajee’ Wilson for the first time ever?
Last week, training partners Ajee’ Wilson and Raevyn Rogers both won their 2019 season openers, with Wilson clocking 1:25.91 for a 600 at the Dr. Sander Invite and Rogers covering the same distance in 1:27.31 to win at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix (the fact that Rogers ran 1.40 seconds slower doesn’t matter too much to us since she still won the race easily). Now we get a true showdown in Winston-Salem.
Or at least, we hope we get a true showdown. Rogers may be one of the best 800 runners in the world — she was 5th at World Indoors and 5th at the Diamond League final last year — but Wilson, who is two years older, has absolutely owned her during their careers: she is 12-0 all-time against Rogers, racking up nine of those victories in 2018 alone.
In fact, Rogers only finished within a second of Wilson twice in any of those races last year: she was .14 behind at USA indoors and .39 behind at USA outdoors. That makes us optimistic that Rogers has a chance to challenge Wilson on Saturday. In the Diamond Leagues, where the pace was hot up front, Wilson was able to separate and pull away. But Camel City will be more like a US championship, where Wilson and Rogers are clearly the cream of the crop and there is no Caster Semenya to chase. Wilson has proven to be an adept front-runner, but we could also imagine Rogers playing sit and kick and rolling by her at the end.
Keep an eye on the clock as well. As we mentioned above, there’s a $1,000 bonus for a 200m flat track world record, and the 1:59.41 by Maria Mutola from 1996 seems doable if Wilson and Rogers are fit and willing to go for it.
High schooler Athing Mu of New Jersey, who ran 2:04.51 last year outdoors, could also be towed along to a fast time.
Women’s 800m – presented by BB&T
Start time = 2:45 pm
Martha Bissah – Norfolk State
Abike Egbeniyi – Middle Tennessee State
Kristen Metcalfe – Embry-Riddle
Athing Mu – HS athlete from Trenton, NJ
Lindsey Butterworth – Unattached
Hanna Green – Nike Oregon Track Club
Georganne Moline – Xendurance – Pacer
Raevyn Rogers – Nike
Ajee’ Wilson – Adidas
Men’s Mile (3:15 p.m. ET): Cheserek vs. Willis
Cheserek came to this meet last year and blasted one of the fastest 200m flat track miles ever seen, clocking 3:53.85 to win handily over Paul Chelimo and Craig Engels. However, we expect the 200m flat track world record of 3:52.30 by Ireland’s Frank O’Mara will likely stand for two main reasons. First, Cheserek looks to be a little behind his fitness from this time last year — he ran 7:42 last week in the 3k in Boston (compared to 7:38 last year) and revealed that he had been dealing with some recent training setbacks. Second, he has the Wanamaker Mile at Millrose next week, where he’ll face a huge test in Yomif Kejelcha. We imagine he’ll leave something in the tank (if he can) this weekend.
Another guy running Millrose next week is Nick Willis, who will be trying to win for the first time in seven attempts. Considering he got drilled last week by Kejelcha (3:51 to 3:56), that looks unlikely, but the Olympic silver medalist may have better luck against Cheserek this week. Also keep an eye out for Ryoji Tatezawa of Tokai University — he’s the Japanese record holder in the mile thanks to his 3:57.31 at Boston University last year (yes, that’s the fastest mile ever by a Japanese man, indoors or out).
Men’s Mile – presented by Mondo
Ryan Adams – Furman
Robert Heppenstall – Wake Forest
Festus Lagat – Iowa State
Garrett O’Toole – Arizona State
William Paulson – Arizona State
Benjamin Young – Kentucky
Diego Zarate – Virginia Tech
Edward Cheserek – Skechers
Tripp Hurt – Unattached
Craig Nowak – Furman Elite – Pacer
Ryan Sanchez – Puerto Rico
Ryoji Tatezawa – Tokai University
Nick Willis – Adidas
Other stars to watch: Murphy runs the 800 again, Abbey D C returns
Clayton Murphy, fresh off his 1:45 in Boston last weekend, is entered in the 800 (2:55 p.m. ET) here and should cruise to victory; his biggest competition is Virginia Tech grad and new Oregon Track Club signee Drew Piazza, who was 5th at USAs in the 800 last year and ran a 3:59 mile in his season opener last week in Seattle. The 200m flat track WR in that event is Mark Everett‘s 1:46.28 from 1990.
In the women’s mile (3:05 p.m. ET), Abbey Cooper (formerly D’Agostino) will be making her long-awaited return to the track. It’s been 30 months since she went viral for falling to the ground during her Olympic 5k prelim and stopping to help up fellow competitor Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand. D’Agostino gutted the race out, finishing last in 17:10, and though she was advanced to the final, she could not compete due to a torn ACL and meniscus. Since then, it’s been a long, long road to recovery for D’Agostino, who has encountered numerous injury setbacks.
It will be a very different runner who competes in the mile on Saturday as Cooper has a new last name (she got married last year), a new coach (her agent Chris Layne), and a new home base (Asheville, NC, though she’s been in Flagstaff recently). Given that this is her first track race in 30 months, her first serious race in 15 (she did run her local turkey trot in November), and the fact that she’s running an off event, there are no expectations for Cooper in this race, where she’ll face the likes of Stephanie Garcia and former Villanova star Angel Piccirillo. The biggest thing for Cooper is to make it through the race healthy and continue logging consistent training.
Indoor Meeting Karlsruhe
Karlsruhe, the second stop on the 2019 IAAF World Indoor Tour, doesn’t have quite the same star power (at least from a US perspective) as the first meeting in Boston a week ago. But there are still some notable names entered, and, best of all, the meet is being shown free around the world on YouTube. Thumbs up to the IAAF for that (the World Indoor Tour meets in Torun on February 6 and Dusseldorf on February 20 will also be streamed for free on YouTube).
While the rest of the world wants to squeeze every last $15 out of track fans, the IAAF is actually giving something out for free.
A quick rundown of the events you should care about:
- Men’s long jump (1:40 p.m ET): Remember how fun it was to watch Juan Miguel Echevarria last year? He burst onto the scene by winning World Indoors as a 19-year-old and followed that up by leaping a barely wind-aided 8.83 meters in Stockholm — a jump that caused him to bump up against the end of the pit — before sailing out to a 8.68-meter jump in Germany on June 30, the longest in the world since 2009. After cutting his outdoor season short due to injury, he will make his 2019 debut in Karlsruhe.
- Men’s 800 (1:44 p.m. ET): Globe-trotting American Erik Sowinski will head to Europe for the first of two trips this winter — he’ll run in Karlsruhe and Torun this week, fly back to the US for Millrose, and fly back to Europe to run in Athlone and Birmingham before flying back for USAs. He’s in the 800 here where he’ll face a field headlined by last year’s European silver medalist Andreas Kramer of Sweden.
- Women’s 3,000 (2:48 p.m. ET): Germany’s steeple specialist Gesa Felicitas Krause will be the home favorite, but she’ll have her hands full with Rababe Arafi of Morocco (who ran 1:57/3:59 pbs last year), sub-9:00 steepler Norah Jeruto of Kenya, and the favorite, Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia, who ran 3:57 and earned a Diamond League win in Stockholm last year (she also clocked 8:33 for 3k).
- Men’s 1500 (2:01 p.m. ET): World Indoor 3k bronze medalist Bethwell Birgen squares off against 3:29 man Aman Wote and Vincent Kibet, who was 5th in the mile at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix last week. Birgen was second in that race in 3:54, only behind Yomif Kejelcha, and should go off as the favorite here.