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Centrowitz Wins 2nd Straight Indoor 1500m Title

CENTROWITZ HOLDS OFF ANDREWS TO NAB SECOND STRAIGHT USA INDOOR 1500M WIN
By David Monti, @d9monti

(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)

PORTLAND,
ORE. (12-Mar) — With 120 meters to go in the men’s 1500m at the USA
Indoor Championships here today, defending champion Matthew Centrowitz
was in the lead, but was anything but comfortable. Robby Andrews, who
had finished second to Centrowitz at the USA Outdoor Championships last
summer, had just come up on his right shoulder and was gaining steam.

“He
was definitely the guy I was looking to (be there),” Centrowitz said
later. “He’s such a fast guy that I think with less rounds he does
better. So, with this just being a final I was expecting someone to
come up on me in the last 200.”

Andrews, the 2011 NCAA 800m
champion when he competed for the University of Virginia, had decided
this was the time to put Centrowitz to the test. He had already passed
Ben Blankenship and showed no signs of slowing.

“I don’t know
if I should have waited for the final 50, or what, but I wanted to get
around Ben,” Andrews told reporters, violently coughing the dry air of
the Oregon Convention Center out of his lungs. He added: “Matthew knows
exactly what he’s doing. I was trying to follow him along.”

Coming
around the final bend, Andrews drew even with Centrowitz as the crowd
of 5244 spectators roared. Staying on the outside, Andrews managed to
get a half step ahead of his rival.

“It was just a matter of
how I was going to respond,” Centrowitz recalled. “I actually think he
went by me at one point, and I came back again that last 10, 20 meters.”

As
both men lunged for the finish line, it was Centrowitz who got there
first, but only by the slimmest of margins, 3:44.33 to 3:44.40. Andrews
actually ran the faster last lap, 26.73 to 26.89, according to the
official timing data.

“I was in front of him for a little bit,”
said Andrews. “He had just a little bit saved up. He knows exactly what
he’s doing. He’s a tremendous runner.”

Both men qualified for
the IAAF World Indoor Championships to be held here next weekend. They
make a formidable team. Centrowitz has two world championships medals
(bronze from Daegu in 2011 and silver from Moscow in 2013), and was
fourth at the 2012 London Olympics. Andrews, who is still only 24, just
ran a personal best 3:53.16 for the Mile at the NYRR Millrose Games and
was on the gold medal USA 4 x 800m team at last year’s IAAF World
Relays.

“Obviously, we have a great U.S. team going into worlds
next week,” said Centrowitz. “I just hope that he won’t be in my
prelim.”

The women’s 1500m offered a different kind of drama.
Heather Kampf took the field through steady laps of about 34 seconds,
and the women were content to stay together.

“It went out
perfect; I felt like it was an honest pace,” said Brenda Martinez, the
2013 IAAF World Championships 800m bronze medalist. “I just wanted to
stay on the outside on the front shoulder, and just make the move when
I needed to, just kind of commit to that.”

On the backstretch
of the penultimate lap, Martinez took one step outside and surged,
immediately gapping the field. The race was over.

“I didn’t
want it to be like a gradual (move),” Martinez explained, who stopped
the finish clock at 4:08.37. “I wanted it to be, like, sudden so nobody
could react to it.” She added: “I know I had another gear in case
somebody came up.”

Finishing a surprising second was the former
University of Florida star Cory McGee who held off a tiring Amanda
Eccleston, 4:09.97 to 4:10.42. She was thrilled to make her first
national team.

“Honestly, I’m on top of the world right now,”
McGee gushed. “I like to win, but this is the happiest I’ve ever been
to be second.”

In the 800m finals, there was little drama as
the two favorites prevailed with relative ease. On the women’s side,
Ajee’ Wilson won her third USA indoor title in four years, leading gun
to tape in 2:00.87.

“The plan was just to get out hard,” said
the always modest Wilson. “If someone was going to fight for the lead,
just tuck in behind. I found myself in the lead, so I just took it from
there. It felt really good.”

Laura Roesler was able to pass
Phoebe Wright in the last 50 meters to take second place and earn her
spot on Team USA for next weekend’s world championships. She clocked
2:02.44 to Wright’s 2:02.51, but wasn’t particularly pleased with her
effort.

“I just didn’t have it,” Roesler said in the mixed zone. “I don’t want to make excuses; I don’t know.”

Like
Wilson, Boris Berian went wire-to-wire in the men’s four-lap contest to
win his first USA title, clocking 1:47.19. The only man in the meet
with the IAAF qualifying standard for the world championships, Berian
was assured a team spot regardless of his finish position, but he said
it was important for him to win today, anyway.

“Even though I
had the spot already I still wanted it to be competitive, still make it
a race,” Berian said. “Just go in, try to win it.”

Erik
Sowinski finished second in 1:47.62, and although disappointed with his
race, he received good news after the meet. The IAAF hadn’t filled the
field for the 800m discipline for next week’s championships, and
Sowinski got a special invitation to compete.

“Not the
prettiest, but got the job done,” Sowinski said via Twitter. “Excited
to be invited to represent the US again alongside @borisgump800 next
week!”

The IAAF World Indoor Championships begin here at the Oregon Convention Center next Thursday.

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