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Monday, March 21, 2016

Gold: Mathew Centrowitz Is 1500m World Champion

Mathew Centrowitz Out-Runs Kenyans and Ethiopians
PORTLAND - In a championship that has been nearly perfect for the Americans, local hero Matthew Centrowitz has added the icing on top of the cake.

And it’s golden icing, at that. Centro is the World Indoor 1500m champion, an exclamation point on a perfect season. The 26-year-old is the first American to capture gold in this event, and the first U.S. medalist period since 1995.

 With a grit in his teeth, the former Oregon NCAA champ crossed first out in lane two in 3:44.22, pumping his fist all the while. The crowd went absolutely nuts.

Now the American owns a medal of every color, with this one joining his 2013 World Outdoor silver and the 2011 bronze from Daegu. A boisterous home crowd urged him along as he successfully hunted down Nick Willis in a maddening finish, a scene that put Centrowitz at ease as he had beaten the New Zealander each of the last two years in close Wanamaker mile finishes.

“Luckily Nick made a strong move about 500, 600 out, and just kind of replayed like Millrose Games. I just said to myself, ‘look, I’ve been in this position before. Stay relaxed. Nick’s going pretty hard.’ [I] used the crowd to my advantage that last lap,” Centrowitz said.

The 26-year-old caught his friendly rival in the final straightaway, striking just as the finish line came squarely in view. His 26-second last lap brought down the house of 7,191.

“At one point I thought, ‘he’s looking pretty good up there.’ It was hard to get on his shoulder. Like I said, with about 100m to go, I started inching my way over. The crowd got a little bit louder, a little bit louder. Found myself level with him 50m to go, and I just thought how bad I really wanted it,” he said.

“It was an awesome race. Hats off to Nick, I think it just shows you how really good Millrose Wanamaker mile is.”

The powerful move by the 32-year-old Willis came with 400m to go, and Centrowitz zoomed to chase him with his typical genius tactics in tow. But it wasn't easy.

Willis slammed his accelerator to the floor to zoom around the entire field with two to go, quickly taking him from last to first with the rest of the field scrambling to give chase. The 25.71 penultimate lap busted the race open, with the race's defending champion and early leader Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti the hardest hit by Willis' knockout attempt. The 2014 champion would finish last by over seven seconds in 3:53.69.

Ultimately, Centro would ride a sub-52 second last 400m to slip past Willis, just as the Czech Republic’s Jakub Holusa did the same to nab silver in 3:44.30, with the Kiwi taking a hard-earned— although bittersweet— bronze in 3:44.37.

For Willis— who tonight won his first global medal since his Olympic silver in 2008—his aggressive tactic was the product of not wanting to have any regrets. Talking with his wife pre-race, they determined that Willis wasn't going to leave his biggest move until the last moment, a strategy that has back-fired on him in the past.

“I’m flat out exhausted. My wife and I said even if I finish third, we do not want the fastest part of my race to be the last 100m. So often in my career I’ve saved it, wondering ‘what if.’ And today I was like there wasn’t going to be a what if,” Willis said.


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