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Emmanuel Mutai Ready to be Number One(Feb 20 2014, 02:50 PM)



USA Indoor Track and Field Champs - Distance Preview

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/Pro   on Feb 20 2014, 06:43 PM

Deep Fields Define Distance Races in Albuquerque

By Scott Bush

There are quite a few loaded distance races, which means a couple things. First, it’s going to produce some very fast and furious finishes. Second, a few surprises are bound to happen. Third, the entire weekend will be thoroughly entertaining. Lets break it down.

Men’s 3,000m

This is the marquee race of the weekend, regardless of distance. This race is loaded and fans will get their monies worth by watching this one play out. Best of all, while many of the top contenders are also entered in the 1,500m, they’ll all be running fresh in this one on Saturday.

Galen Rupp leads the way, entering as the pre-race favorite. Rupp holds the top indoor marks for 3k, two mile and 5k this season, running 7:34.68, 8:07.41 and 13:01.26. The Portland-based runner seems poised to run away with this one, but he’ll certainly have plenty of competition.

39-year old Bernard Lagat is coming off a monster 2,000m American record performance at the Millrose Games last weekend., where he ran a staggering 4:54.74. Lagat has a best of 7:38.51 for 3,000m, run in Karlsruhe earlier this season and has the experience to upset Rupp.

Ryan Hill is the other main challenger to Rupp. Hill is having one heck of an indoor season and is eyeing the upset victory in Albuquerque. The Jerry Schumacher-coached athlete is running so well, including an eye-opening 7:34.89 3,000m performance at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix earlier this month and ran 3:59 in the mile, at altitude (in Albuquerque) in January.

Don’t discount Hill’s teammates Lopez Lomong and Andrew Bumbalough either. While neither seems as sharp as Hill, both have shown plenty of speed and skill on the indoor track over the past two years. Lomong has been relatively quiet this indoor season, but one must remember he simply dominated indoors last year. Meanwhile, Bumbalough ran a 7:37.62 3k effort at New Balance, only to come back with a fourth place finish in the 2k at Millrose, finishing in 4:57.35.

Will Leer and Garrett Heath both have the speed necessary to kick with any of the top contenders, especially if the race goes out a bit slower. Leer shocked the track and field community with his upset win in the Wanamaker Mile last weekend at Millrose, where he ran 3:52.47. He couldn’t hang with the top dogs in the 3k at New Balance, but a new level of confidence and a little fine-tuning should have Leer ready to challenge anyone. Same goes for Heath, who has indoor 1,500m and mile bests of 3:38.89 and 3:54.59.

Men’s 800m

While Olympian Duane Solomon won’t compete in this weekend’s 800m, the field is still stacked with talent. Leading the charge is world championship silver medalist Nick Symmonds. While Symmonds isn’t running at his top speed just yet this season, he certainly has the talent to put himself in contention for the win. A 1:48.64 performance at the Fast Track meet in Winston-Salem and a 2:18.87 performance at Millrose gives him plenty of momentum heading in.

Symmonds’ biggest competition should come from Erik Sowinski and Michael Rutt. Sowinski has season bests of 1:16.11 for 600m, 1:46.84 for 800m and 2:18.63 for 1,000m, in which he edged Symmonds. Rutt is running equally well, going 2:19.67 at Millrose and running a US#1 time of 1:46.71 for 800m in Boston in early February.

Rutt’s teammates, Robby Andrews and Brian Gagnon cannot be discounted. The two finished second and third to Rutt in Boston, as Gagnon earned runner-up in 1:46.98, while Andrews finished in 1:47.07.

Symmonds’ Brooks Beasts teammates Mark Wieczorek and Cas Loxsom are ready to roll this weekend in New Mexico, while his former OTC teammate Tyler Mulder enters coming off of a 2:21.20 1k performance at Millrose.

Women’s 800m

The women’s 800m race should come down to a two athlete battle, as Ajee’ Wilson and Chanelle Price fight it out for U.S. bragging rights. Both athletes are running so well this indoor season and both have similar strengths. Wilson ran well at Millrose last weekend, winning the 800m contest in a top U.S. time of 2:01.81, while Price ran a US#2 time of 2:01.91 in Glasgow earlier this season. Price finished second to Mary Cain over 1,000m earlier this month at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, running 2:36.63.

Molly Beckwith and Stephanie Charnigo are both running strong, too. Beckwith rocked a 2:02.13 in Bloomington earlier this season, while running 2:37.19 in the same 1,000m race as Cain and Price. Charnigo is a surprise this season, having run a best of 2:02.15.

Brooks Beasts teammates Phoebe Wright and Erica Moore aren’t the fastest seeds on paper, but each has plenty of big meet experience and success to where you cannot discount them at all, especially with rounds of racing.

Men’s 1,500m

With many of the top competitors in this race most likely competing in the 3,000m on Saturday, it’ll be incredibly interesting who can double back and who the top three finishers will be. The depth over 1,500m in the United States is at an all-time high, but few athletes have broken out of the pack and shown they are definite qualifiers for Team USA.

Assuming he runs, all eyes will focus on Galen Rupp. Rupp, who obviously has the leg speed to throw down with the world’s best, enters without a seed time. Rupp has shown he’s more than capable to double back from hard efforts, so don’t be surprised if he comes away as a double winner this weekend.

He’ll have plenty of top end talent though. Olympic medalist Leo Manzano had a fine race last weekend at Millrose, showing he’s rounding into shape nicely. Manzano ran to a 3:56.73 effort and thrives off of championship style racing.

Of course, after winning the Wanamaker Mile, Will Leer seems poised to take home another national indoor title and this time earn a spot on Team USA. Leer ran a ridiculous 3:52.47 mile in New York City, splitting 3:37.89. He’s ready to roll!

Lopez Lomong, Garrett Heath and Ryan Hill are all athletes most likely doubling back. Heath threw down a 3:54.59 mile effort at the New Balance Games earlier this season, while Hill ran 3:59.00 at altitude for the mile in late January.

Veterans Craig Miller and David Torrence can’t be overlooked either. Miller ran 3:55.09 at Millrose, besting Manzano and showing he’s ready to challenge for a top three spot against such a strong field. Torrence enters with no seed time either, but should he be in the fastest heat, he’ll be a key contender.

Women’s 1,500m

The Mary Cain show moves to Albuquerque, as the teen looks to win her first national title this weekend. Cain is having one heck of an indoor season, running a 4:24.11 US#1 mile best in Boston in January, along with a 4:06.63 1,500m effort. She cruised to a 2:35.80 1,000m time at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, as well as a first place effort of 4:27.73 in the Wanamaker Mile at Millrose last weekend.

While Cain is the obvious favorite, she’ll still have to fend off a very competitive field. Sarah Brown is running very well as of late. She placed fourth in the mile at Millrose with a 4:30.13 effort, which came off of a third place 1k effort of 2:36.90 at New Balance. She also ran a 4:29.62 mile (4:11.27 1,500m split) at the New Balance Games earlier in the season.

Cain’s teammate Treniere Moser, who won the U.S. 1,500m title last summer, has a mile best this indoor season of 4:28.86, while running 2:37.88 over 1,000m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. While Moser may not have the pure leg speed she had in the past, she is certainly experienced enough to hang with anyone in the field.

Olympian Morgan Uceny and Oiselle runner Amanda Winslow both have big upside and eye top three finishes, too. Uceny is having a rollercoaster of an indoor season, with sub-par performances and strong ones. She ran 4:11.18 at the New Balance Games earlier this season, while entering with a seasonal mile best of 4:30.57.

Winslow is coming off of a strong performance in Boston, where she shocked the field with a speedy 4:26.28 mile effort. Winslow could very well be the underdog of the field.

Other notable competitors include Gabriele Grunewald and Jordan Hasay, both of whom are entered in the 3,000m event, as well as Brooks Beasts star Katie Mackey, who’s had a relatively quiet indoor season but can’t be overlooked. If Grunewald focuses on the 1,500m, know her seasonal best came in Glasgow, where she ran 4:12.76.

Women’s 3,000m

While many of the big names in distance running drop down to the 1,500m this weekend in New Mexico, there’s still plenty of talent to make this race incredibly entertaining. Leading the charge is Gabriele Grunewald, who enters with the top seed. Grunewald ran 8:53.57 at Millrose last weekend and seems ready to roll after a less than stellar 9:55.21 two mile effort at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix earlier in the month.

Grunewald’s strongest competition should come from Jordan Hasay. Hasay ran 9:36.99 for two miles at New Balance, along with a seasonal best 3,000m time of 8:54.30. She’s been running solid all indoor season and looks to earn another Team USA spot this time around.

Two other notable athletes, Brie Felnagle and Laura Thweatt, should compete for the other remaining spot on the U.S. roster. Felnagle ran a competitive 9:01.57 at Millrose last weekend, while Thweatt ran a 3k at the Husky Classic, winning in 9:01.58. Thweatt is a runner to watch, having dominated at the USA Club Cross Country Championships in December, just after having run arguably her best pro race at the .US National Road Racing Championships.

Savvy veterans Shannon Rowbury, Sara Hall and Sara Vaughn can never be discounted. Rowbury isn’t running as fast as maybe she would have hoped this time of year, but you can never count out a world medalist. Hall and Vaughn both have mighty success over 3,000m, so expect them to be in the mix.

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