USA Champs preview, NCAA wrapup


Young Turks Matthew, Robby lead Eastern contingent at USAs



By Jack Pfeifer


Two young men from the East Coast, Matthew Centrowitz and Robby Andrews, hope to challenge the old guard for spots on the U.S. World Championships team at this week’s USATF national championships in Eugene, Ore.


Centrowitz, the 21-year-old junior at the University of Oregon, won the NCAA 1,500 a week ago, his first individual college championship, and Andrews, the 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Virginia, came from way back to win the NCAA 800, in a lifetime-best 1:44.71. Both are considered serious contenders to make the U.S. team, which will be selected at this week’s meet.


Centrowitz went to high school in Maryland and won two Penn Relays high school titles. Andrews went to Manalapan (N.J.) H.S.


So long as they have met the demanding IAAF standards for qualification, the top three finishers in each event this week will make the U.S. team. Andrews’s 1:44.71 surpassed the “A” standard of 1:45.40, but things are more complicated in the men’s 1,500. Not a single American has met that “A” standard of 3:35.00 within the narrow time window; 10 have met the “B” standard of 3:38.00. For a nation to send more than one competitor in an event, all of them must meet the “A.”


Only performances since last October now qualify. In past World Championships, marks counted from two previous seasons. As a result, in many events, the actual qualifiers for the U.S. team may not be known until Aug. 8, the final allowable date for meeting a standard.


In the men’s 1,500, the main contenders for this year’s U.S. team figure to be Andrew Wheating, a teammate of Centrowitz’s at Oregon one year ago, and Russell Brown, a Stanford graduate. Ironically, Wheating and Brown grew up together in New Hampshire.


The top contenders in the 800 include two Olympic veterans -- Nick Symmonds, 27, who grew up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and 34-year-old Khadevis Robinson. Wheating has also entered the 800; he won the NCAA 8/15 double in 2010, defeating Andrews in one and Centrowitz in the other.


The Virginia native Alan Webb, who made the 2004 Olympic team as a 21-year-old, has not entered the meet, because of injury. Webb relocated to Portland, Ore., in the off-season, but he is reportedly planning to return to Virginia.


On the women’s side, the New Yorker Natasha Hastings will be trying to return to the national team. Hastings, 24, won gold medals as a member of the U.S. 4x400 team in both the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2009 World Championships. Hastings won this year’s U.S. indoor nationals 400, in 50.83, her season’s best time.


It is not yet clear which top American women will be running this year’s 400, in part because defending World champions are given a free pass to the meet, so long as they run an event – any event – at the USA meet. For this reason, Sanya Richards-Ross, reigning 400 champion, may elect to run the 200 instead, and Allyson Felix, reigning 200 champion, may run the 400 instead – or not. Felix has entered the 100, 200 and 400, and could run one or all of those.


Another 400 contender is Francena McCorory, a 2010 graduate of Hampton University in Virginia. McCorory has run 50.50 this spring.


The New York Athletic Club is sending 13 athletes to the Nationals, led by the Seton Hall graduate Rob Novak, who has run a PR 1:46.01 in the 800 this spring. Also representing the NYAC are Trevor Barron (20k walk), Tim Seaman (20k walk), John Freeman (hammer), Ian Waltz (discus), Kibwe Johnson (hammer), Jamie Nieto (high jump), Annick Lamar (1,500), Julie Culley (5,000), Katherine Newberry (10,000), Lesley Higgins (steeplechase), Jillian Camarena-Williams (shot put) and Loree Smith (hammer).


Camarena-Williams, who broke the American indoor record this winter, is the overwhelming favorite in the women’s shot, and Johnson is the favorite in the men’s hammer.


The Shore AC is sending 10 athletes, led by the Fordham graduate Matt DiBuono. DiBuono recently threw the hammer a lifetime-best 251-4, second only to Johnson on the current U.S. list. His Shore teammates are Rafeeq Curry (TJ), Lucais Mackay (hammer), Barry Krammes (javelin), Brandon Roulhac (TJ), Erin Taylor (20k walk), Sarah Stevens-Walker (SP), Jessica Pressley (SP), Shameka Marshall (LJ) and Jennifer Austin (jav).


Other club athletes from the Tri-state area include Grace Zollman (jav) and Stephanie Herrick (800) of the Central Park Track Club, Bridgette Ingram (heptathlon) of the Le Mans TC, and Delilah DiCrescenzo (steeplechase) of the NJ-NY TC.


DiCrescenzo and Novak are among a number of athletes in the Frank Gagliano-coached training group, including Erin Donohue (1,500), LaTavia Thomas (800) and Frances Koons (5,000).


Juniors Championships


The USATF Juniors (under age 20) national championships will also be held in Eugene over the same four days. A number of college freshmen from the NY area will be competing, including Alec Faldermeyer (UCLA) in the hammer, Phyllis Francis (Oregon) in the 400/800, English Gardner (Oregon) in the 100/200, Chelsea Cox (Georgetown) in the 800, Jen Clayton (LSU) in the LJ, Sam Houston (Fordham) in the decathlon, Marielle Hall (Texas) in the 1,500, Megan Patrignelli (Oregon) in the 1,500 and Karen Henning (LSU) in the hammer.


High school students also have entered the meet, including New Yorkers Zavon Watkins in the 800 and Eddie Owens in the steeplechase.


Nike Team Nationals


The 2nd annual Nike-sponsored team high school nationals will be held on Saturday night in Eugene, in the midst of the USATF nationals. Twelve boys and 12 girls’ teams have been selected for the competition.


The Eastern qualifiers are the boys’ team from Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey and the girls’ teams from Delsea Regional in N.J. and Western Branch in Virginia. No teams qualified from New England or New York.




The USATF meet will be televised on a variety of channels on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, on ESPN2, NBC and NBC Universal. Check your local listings.


NCAA Wrapup


The Division I NCAA Championships concluded last Saturday, June 11, in Des Moines, Iowa, with a dramatic two hours on national television. Both team titles came down to the final few events, and Texas A&M – despite a number of setbacks – came out on top in both, Coach Pat Henry’s Aggies winning the NCAA double for an unprecedented third year in a row.


In the men’s competition, Florida’s favored Jeffery Demps failed to make the 100 final and then did not get the baton on the anchor leg in the 4x1; A&M won the concluding 4x4 and won the meet by 1 point. In the women’s, Oregon’s Jordan Hasay, doubling back from the 5,000 the night before, finished just 8th in the 1,500 for 1 point, and A&M again won the 4x4 to beat the Ducks by 4 points.


“That’s what we’ve got to focus on more is school against school, team against team,” Henry said. “We’ve got to bring that more and more. And this was a heck of an environment here today. We’ve got to do it every weekend. If we do it every weekend, these stands will be full. You just can’t do it one or two times a year.”


Off a slow opening pace, Oregon’s Centrowitz controlled the men’s 1,500, winning in 3:42.54. “I think I focused on staying healthy this year,” Centrowitz said, “and did all the proper things – like icing, getting the right sleep, staying on top of things that have hurt me in the past. And that’s a big thing – getting out there, feeling confident, being in shape and feeling healthy.”


Villanova’s Sheila Reid became the first woman ever to win the NCAA 1,500/5,000 double.  “I wouldn’t have attempted the double if I didn’t think I could do it,” said Reid, a junior from Ontario. “I couldn’t even think straight when I crossed the finish line. I gave probably the most embarrassing celebration ever. I’m so ecstatic right now. It hasn’t totally sunk in yet.”


At the NCAA indoor championships in March, Reid was outkicked in the 3,000 by the younger Hasay, who was tripling. This time, Reid beat Hasay in both finals.


On the final day, Iona’s Leonard Korir wrapped up a brilliant meet, finishing 3rd in the men’s 5,000 in 13:35.71, a lifetime best. A day earlier, he won the 10,000, outkicking the defending champion, Samuel Chelanga of Liberty. On Saturday, Chelanga returned the favor in the 5.


Princeton’s Donn Cabral repeated as runnerup in the steeplechase, running a PR 8:32.14, and also placed 8th in the 5k.


In the week since the meet concluded, two significant athletes have announced their intention to pass up their remaining collegiate eligibility and turn professional – Kirani James of Grenada, who won the 400 for Alabama, and Ngoni Makusha of Zimbabwe, who won the 100 and long jump for Florida State.


“It’s a blessing,” Makusha said of his double win, which included a collegiate record of 9.89 in the 100. “I’m really thankful. I never planned to do this. All I did this season was listen to my coach.”