The Men’s 1500 at USAs Is Going To Be Awesome – Full Pre-Race Analysis

The 2023 Toyota USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships take place next week in Eugene, Ore. For the distance-oriented fans of, the race of the meet is the men’s 1500, which I break down for you now.

What: US Men’s 1500 Championship
When: 1st Round: 7:05 PM Pacific Thurday (July 6th). Final: 6:45 pm Pacific Saturday (July 8th)

The Big Four

There are four studly pros — Yared Nuguse (new American record holder), Cooper Teare (last year’s champion), Cole Hocker (2021 Olympic Trials champ, 6th in Olympics) and Hobbs Kessler (US U20 record holder) — who are all running great, and at least one of them will “go home devastated.”

(Interestingly, one of the earliest uses of the phrase “goes home devastated” on came in our USA preview of the same event 10 years ago. In that 2013 US final, Matthew CentrowitzLeo Manzano, and Lopez Lomong all made the team while Andrew Wheating, hampered by a foot injury, was the odd man out.)

As I mentioned earlier this week, all four men have already PR’d this year at some distance and three of the four have PR’d at 800, 1500, and 3000 in 2023.

Here is the tale of the tape with PBs set this year appearing in bold.

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Athlete Age 800 PB 1,500 PB 3k PB
Yared Nuguse 24 1:46.30 3:29.02 7:28.23
Hobbs Kessler 20 1:45.80 3:32.61 7:39.00
Cooper Teare 23 1:47.63 3:32.74 7:34.70
Cole Hocker 22 1:46.32 3:31.40 7:39.83

Let’s briefly go through the pros and cons of each runner.

Yared Nuguse (On Athletics Club)

Nuguse for sure got the American record in the mile indoors (Kevin Morris photo)

Why he’ll make the team: Have you been paying attention to what he’s done this year? In college, Nuguse was very, very good but he’s taken it to a whole other level in his first year as a full-time pro and first time at altitude as a member of the OAC. Indoors, he ran American records of 3:47.38 for the mile and 7:28.23 for 3k. Outdoors, he’s run an American record of 3:29.02 plus an 800 pb of 1:46.30 in a race he won. He’s clearly one of the top three milers in the world in 2023.

Why he might miss out: 1) Nothing is guaranteed in running. LetsRunners over the age of 40 are probably very familiar with the name Steve Holman. Back in the 1990s, Holman would annually crush it in Europe (3:31.52 pb) then come back to the US and inexplicably fail to make the US team.

But that comparison isn’t a great one. Holman’s endurance (7:42/13:47 pbs) wasn’t nearly as great as Nuguse’s. After rounds of the 1500, the more 800/1500 oriented Holman may have been more tired than he should have been when it was time to kick. In a tactical race, it’s not necessarily who is the fastest (Holman had a 1:44.98 pb) if someone is tired and the others are not.

2) Nuguse is fragile. He didn’t end up running the 1500 in the 2021 Olympics due to a hamstring issue. Last year, he missed NCAAs as he didn’t have time to put up a qualifier and then he ran awful at USAs. He reminds me of a Ferrari. When it’s going well, it goes great, but if something is off, watch out.

Hobbs Kessler (adidas/Very Nice Track Club)

Why he’ll make the team: He’s only 20 and his best days are clearly ahead of him. He’s already beaten the US champ from last year (Teare) and heads into USAs super hot with PBs in the 1500 and 800 in his last two runs. This guy has a high, high ceiling.

Why he might miss out: Lack of experience. It concerns me that Kessler doesn’t have a lot of big-time tactical 1500 racing experience as he’s so young and went pro out of high school and thus missed the training grounds of the NCAA. Kessler has never even made a US final before (semis in 2021 and 2022). Now please understand, I don’t think the moment will be too big for him — when Kessler ran 3:57 as a high schooler with a 4:18 pb, he was quite poised.

(LRC Archives: An Unknown High Schooler Just Ran a 3:57 Mile — Everything You Need To About Hobbs Kessler’s Record-Breaking Run)

Cooper Teare (Nike/Bowerman Track Club)

Why he’ll make the team: He won last year and is very consistent, plus he’s very strong. Remember, Teare was the 2021 NCAA 5000 champ so he’ll be better relatively on day 2 than most of the guys in the field. And while he lost to Kessler earlier in the year, how tapered down was he? Teare’s new coach Jerry Schumacher is known for making his athletes train super hard. When Teare tapers for USAs, will he even be better?

Why he might miss out: Since Teare was a 5000 guy in college, one would think he wants the race to be fast, but his 1500 pb is the slowest of the big four. He also has the slowest 800 pb, so he doesn’t want a super slow race. I actually think I first started paying attention to Teare in the midst of COVID when his buddies made a video about the first time he broke 1:50 in the 800.

Cole Hocker (Nike/Oregon Track Club)

Why he’ll make the team: Do you remember what he did in 2021? As a true sophomore at the age of 20, he won NCAAs and then got 6th in the Olympics by running 3:31. Plus he’s got a great kick and just ran a negative-split 800 pb.

Nuguse and Hocker made the Olympic team together in 2021 (Adam Eberhardt for TrackTown USA)

Why he won’t make the team: Hocker only raced once indoors and didn’t open his outdoor season until June 4. Yes, he’s since run 1:46.32 and 3:34.32 (and 1:47.23) but clearly he missed some time with an Achilles injury. Is he fit enough to run with the others who have all PR’d at 1500 this year?


So there you have it. My 1500 race preview. Just kidding. I think there is one massive wild card.

When I was coaching in college, I used to say, “I don’t recruit times. I recruit talent.” Now times often reflect one’s talent, but not always.

And in terms of talent, I’m expanding the Big 4 to the Big 5. Nathan Green of the University of Washington is a STUD.

Make That The Big 5

Nathan Green (Washington)

Why he’ll make the team: In his last race, Green won the NCAA 1500 title in Austin by using a 51.88 last lap to win in 3:42.78.

Do you know how fast Cooper Teare closed last year to win USAs? 51.87 but that was in a 3:45.86 race. Here are their splits, side-by-side:

Athlete 300 split 700 split 1100 split 1500 split
Nathan Green 2023 NCAAs [46.23] 1:49.38
Cooper Teare 2022 USAs 49.39

Teare’s final 800 was 1:53.00. Green’s final 800 was 1:53.40 but Green’s race was faster.

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Anointing someone who wins the NCAA men’s 1500 title as a true sophomore as a stud doesn’t require an advanced degree. But what was interesting was what people were saying about Green before he won NCAAs. When we were in Austin, we asked several people associated with Washington who was the most talented of the eight sub-4 milers they had on the team this year and they all, including coach Andy Powell, said Nathan Green.

If it wasn’t for COVID, the rest of us might not have needed to be inside the program to realize it.

Green’s HS career was phenomenal. As a freshman, he won the Idaho state title in the 1600 and was runner-up in the 3200. As a sophomore, he ran 4:06 for the mile. As a junior, he was the top junior at the Nike Cross Nationals (11th). As a senior, he didn’t get a chance to win the national title as COVID canceled NXN. Still, he won every major race in which he competed during his senior year — XC, indoor, and outdoor. He ran 4:00.97 in a mile where second place was 4:24. He won the Brooks PR mile and the Nike Outdoor Nationals mile.

And he’s young — 26 days younger than Hobbs Kessler.

Why he won’t make the team: The fact that Green’s pb is only 3:37.46 doesn’t concern me. Remember, as I wrote above — look at someone’s talent, not times. Most of the time one’s pbs are an accurate reflection of their talent but not in this case. Indoors, Green ran 3:52.76, which equates to a 3:35.48. Outdoors, he’s never run a time trial in college as his pb dates to the semis of NCAAs in 2022.

I’m just concerned he’s not fit enough. Green is super fresh, but that’s because he didn’t open up his season outdoors until Pac-12s because of a nerve impingement. And he doesn’t run much — no more than four or five times a week, with a max weekly mileage of 55. I’m just not sure he’s fit enough to crush the race of his life against four total studs in the second race of the week.

The Others

Green’s UW teammate Joe Waskom also won NCAAs as a sophomore in 2022 (albeit he was a redshirt sophomore) and was the runner-up this year. When Waskom won NCAAs, he beat Mario García Romo, who ended up getting fourth at Worlds a month later, by closing a 3:45.58 race with a 1:52.32 final 800 (53.26 final 400). He’s got a great kick so seeing him sneak a third isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Unsponsored Eric Holt of Empire Elite is a great story. At Binghamton University he was only an NCAA regional qualifier once and only ran 4:00 in the mile. For some reason, he kept on running after college and he got 4th at USAs last year. He’s been even better this year.

He heads into USAs after running the race of his life at the USATF NYC Grand Prix, where Holt dominated in a seasonal best 3:37.07 (his pb is 3:35.80) after a 54.21 last lap. In the race before that, he PR’d in the 800 at 1:47.40. On Tuesday, he did an incredible workout — 1200 (2:51), 1000 (2:19), 600 (1:18), 400 (49.1) with some “flush” 400s in between — that is getting rave reviews on the messageboard: MB: Eric Holt Big Workout on Strava before USAs. Our intern Alex Geula was there to witness it so we’ll have more on Holt prior to USAs.

(Update: Alex’s piece is now out: Meet The Empire Elite’s Eric Holt: The Dark-Horse Contender For the U.S. 1500m Team Our intern was lucky to be on hand as the best unsponsored runner in the US ran the best workout of his life, “You picked the best day of the year to come. This was the best workout of my life.”)

You can’t be hotter than Holt is right now but I just don’t think his talent level is high enough. Holt fans, don’t take that personally. I view him as the modern-day 1500 equivalent of my brother, Weldon. Didn’t do anything of note at a national level in college, goes all-in after college, and gets right on the cusp of USAs (my brother was 4th twice). But good luck if the top talents are on their game, and they are on top of their games this year.

I’m sure Holt is feeling amazing right now. But at the 2003 USAs, my brother was feeling amazing heading into the final mile of the 10,000  as he was in a five-man lead pack and felt so good he “raised the roof” and put his hands up to try to excite the crowd. When it was over, he’d run a PB but was 4th as the three guys ahead of him — Alan Culpepper, Meb Keflezighi and Dan Browne — combined to make seven Olympic teams. Weldon only nabbed five-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman at the line as Abdi let up, but that let up enable Weldon to run for the US at Pan Ams.

Josh Thompson also has a big kick and was the only American to make last year’s world final. He also was top 3 at USAs in 2019 (but didn’t have the standard), but I don’t expect him to contend. He’s been out of action for most of outdoors, recording only two results — a 1:48.66 800 and a 3:51.38 1500 — but even if he was in top form, I’d give him little chance. When he’s been top 3 at USAs, it was in super slow races where he ran 3:45 and 3:46. I’d be shocked if USAs is that slow this year (more on that later). Plus he’s not even declared as of Thursday at 5 pm so he may not run.

There are four other Americans whom I haven’t mentioned yet who have run 3:34 this year but I’d be shocked if they factor in final in terms of placing.

Casey Comber 3:34.24 (Under Armour) – The 2019 NCAA mile runner-up for Villanova, 26, is having a great season for UA Mission Run Baltimore.
Johnny Gregorek 3:34.36 (Asics) – The 31-year-old Asics runner has made two teams, including last year.
Kasey Knevelbaard 3:34.55 (Under Armour) – The former Sothern Utah and Florida State runner, 26, started the year with a best of 3:38.07 but has PR’d twice this year including in his last race in Nice on June 17.
Sam Prakel 3:34.63 (adidas) – The 28-year-old PR’d in his last race (but lost to Hocker) and he did beat Kessler in a road mile in Atlanta in May.

Jonathan Davis was a great story last year as he got 2nd at USAs after finishing just 6th at NCAAs for Illinois but the Atlanta Track Club runner isn’t running USAs and hasn’t finished a race all year.

Update: HS sensation Simeon Birnbaum also is in the field. He won’t make the team but he’s in the field which makes the prelims much more interesting to watch.

The Olympic Champ

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If we’re handicapping a race based on talent level and not seasonal best times, then Matthew Centrowitz‘s name needs to be in here. The Olympic champ is 33 now and on the comeback trail after missing last year due to injury. He said at the start of the year he doesn’t really care about 2023 — everything is geared towards making one last Olympic run next year. His results haven’t been impressive, but he does have seasonal bests of 3:36.64 and 1:48.36. I’d be shocked if he makes the team but I’m certainly not ruling him out for 2024. Remember, he’s less than two years removed from pushing Hocker at the 2021 Trials and being in such good fitness that a 3:49.26 mile on LRC Founders’ Day in 2021 (July 24) was viewed as a disappointment.

Race strategy

This could be fascinating. I don’t think any of the Big Four would let it really dawdle like it did in the 2016 Olympic final (I’m sure Green would love that). A super slow pace creates chaos and makes it much more likely that someone falls and or gets boxed in or some no-name somehow gets in the mix. Nuguse and Teare are fit enough where I imagine they’d at least make sure it was run in the 59-61 second range. But I also don’t think anyone besides maybe Nuguse has the fitness and guts to try to pull an Ingebrigtsen and make it super fast and lead from start to finish.

If I was Teare, I think I’d try to work with Nuguse. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be formal. Make sure you run the first 600 in at least 58.0 pace. I assume Nuguse would take over from there and just squeeze it down all the way home. If you run 58.0 for 2.75 laps and close in 54.5, you run 3:34.00 which would be a US Championship record (Centrowitz has the record at 3:34.09 from 2016). That’s doable for Nuguse right now considering he closed his 3:29.02 in 55.4 (3:30.00 pace is 56 flat the whole way).

Who wins the men's 1500 at USAs?

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Who WON'T make Team USA in the 1500?

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What are the odds Yared Nuguse doesn't make the team?

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Rojo’s Prediction:

We broke this down on this week’s Track Talk podcast. I guess I have Nuguse winning it but until the day I die I think I’ll always have a bit of PTSD from having watched Holman choke at the 1996 Olympic Trials where I heard coach Frank Gagliano moan during the final lap as it was obvious what was happening.

Yesterday, I said I don’t see how Hocker doesn’t make it considering he closed a 3:34.32 race in 55.1 his season opener. Now I’m starting to get a little nervous about that logic. These guys are too hard to beat if you aren’t truly fit. But I’m not going to change my pick now. For third, I said Kessler.

  1. Nuguse 2. Hocker 3. Kessler

Talk about the race on our world-famous messgeaboard.

MB: The 2023 USATF men’s 1500 is gonna be awesome – Which of the Big 4 (or is it Big 5) will go home devastated?

Full List of Entrants

Men Men 1500m
Name Affiliation Mark Status Declaration
Yared Nuguse On Athletics Club 3:29.02 qualified declared
Hobbs Kessler adidas 3:32.61 qualified declared
Cooper Teare NIKE 3:32.74 qualified declared
Cole Hocker NIKE 3:34.14 qualified declared
Casey Comber Under Armour 3:34.24 qualified declared
John Gregorek ASICS 3:34.35 qualified declared
Kasey Knevelbaard Under Armour 3:34.55 qualified declared
Samuel Prakel adidas 3:34.63 qualified declared
Andrew Hunter adidas 3:34.86 qualified declared
Henry Wynne Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC 3:35.45 qualified declared
Eric Holt EMPIRE ELITE TC 3:35.80 qualified declared
Joseph Waskom University of Washington 3:35.86 qualified declared
Vincent Ciattei 3:36.62 qualified declared
Matthew Centrowitz NIKE 3:36.64 qualified declared
Craig Engels NIKE 3:36.79 qualified declared
Matt Wisner Oregon Track Club 3:36.87 qualified declared
Andrew Ernst 3:36.98 qualified declared
Isaac Basten Drake University 3:36.99 qualified declared
Nathan Green University of Washington 3:52.76 qualified declared
Christian Noble New Balance Boston 3:53.50 qualified declared
Sam Ellis 3:53.84 qualified declared
John Reniewicki Under Armour 3:37.06 accepted declared
Brett Meyer 3:37.57 accepted declared
Simeon Birnbaum 3:37.93 accepted declared
Elliott Cook University of Oregon 3:38.12 accepted declared
Benjamin Allen EMPIRE ELITE TC 3:38.61 accepted declared
Jack Yearian Oregon Track Club 3:38.68 accepted declared
Nick Foster University of Michigan 3:38.78 accepted declared
Rheinhardt Harrison University of Oregon 3:38.90 accepted declared
Daniel Schaffer ZAP Endurance 3:39.03 accepted declared
Davis Bove Louisiana State University 3:39.17 accepted declared
Josh Thompson NIKE / Bowerman Track Club 3:35.55 qualified


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