The performances of Matt Centrowitz and David Torrence this weekend have further jumbled up the mix for the American 1500 meter team for the World Championships.
Centrowitz looked dominant on his way to winning the NCAA 1500 meter title. Sitting near the front of the pack through the slow early pace, the Oregon junior closed his last 800 meters in 1:51 and his final quarter in 53.6 seconds. Centrowitz looked smooth kicking past Dorian Ulrey of Arkansas on the final homestretch to win his first individual national championship.
Torrence won the “national” section of the 1500 meters at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York over an elite field of primarily U.S.-based athletes including Nick Willis, Lopez Lomong and Leo Manzano. Torrence ran in the pack for much of the race and steadily moved up before seizing the lead with 200 meters remaining and held Willis off on the last straightaway. Although the winning time of 3:36.15 was not particularly fast, Torrence proved he can finish strongly to defeat a strong field.
Lomong and Manzano both struggled in that race. Lomong was sixth in 3:38.90 in front of Manzano in seventh in 3:39.71. Neither of the 2008 Olympic team members has looked particularly impressive thus far in 2011.
With Alan Webb not participating at nationals, I see seven as being in serious contention to make the World team: Andrew Wheating, Russell Brown, Manzano, Lomong, Centrowitz, Torrence and Will Leer.
Wheating is my pick for the win given his ability to finish well in the last 100 meters, a skill particularly important in tactical races that come down to a finishing kick. Manzano and Lomong have been able to close well in the past but have failed to show fitness. Brown does not have the greatest kick in the world, but has shown to be in great shape, good enough to make the team. Leer is my upset third place pick. The man who has perennially finished fourth at USA’s to miss the World team will finally come through this year to punch his ticket to Daegu.