By Chris Lotsbom
(c) Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
DES MOINES, IOWA, USA (20-Jun) -- Day One of the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships began with rounds of the 1500m, 800m, and women's 3000m steeplechase, seeing most of the pre-meet contenders advance. Among those to impress were Alberto Salazar-coached athletes Mary Cain, Treniere Moser, and IAAF World Championships bronze medalist Matthew Centrowitz.
Moser and Cain appeared to be a pair on a mission, running smart throughout the entire 1500m prelim with eyes on one another. When Moser moved, Cain followed a second thereafter.
"The plan was to win," said Moser, speaking to reporters with Cain right by her side.
Through 500 meters, Cain sat in last place with Moser slightly ahead and Katie Mackey doing the leading duties. That's when Moser, 31, began to approach the front. Following in lane-two was Cain, the 17-year-old American Junior record holder at the discipline.
"Going into it of course Moscow is on your mind," said Cain, whose strategy was to "sit back, be comfortable, and move up," she said.
Looking over her shoulder as if to say 'keep following me' with 500 meters to go, Moser surged once again and found herself in front. Cain joined soon after, and the two would finish together, Moser timing 4:11.20 and Cain 4:11.48.
With Moser mentoring Cain over the last two months, the Bronxville High School rising senior said she felt a true part of the Oregon Project, coached by Alberto Salazar.
"I just have a lot of people around me who are really confident," she said.
Team USA Minnesota's Gabriele Anderson won section two of the 1500m, with Shannon Rowbury taking second and Kerri Gallagher a surprise third. Morgan Uceny, the 2012 USA Olympic Trials champion, wound up fifth in 4:13.82, advancing to Saturday's final on time.
"Coming from England it's a bit of a shock," said Uceny, referring to the hot weather here. "To sum it up, I have to get my shit together in the next couple of days."
In the men's 1500m, nearly all of the pre-race favorites advanced, led by 2011 World Championships bronze medalist Matthew Centrowitz in 3:40.91. Centrowitz, who won the first heat ahead of Will Leer and Andrew Wheating, said he is confident in where his fitness is, encouraged by the increased turnover and speed in his legs.
"It was good," Centrowitz said. "Definitely hot, hot weather. In a big field like that I did exactly what I had to do."
Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano was the victor in the second heat, timing a slow 3:47.31 in a kicker's race. Oregon Track Club's Russell Brown was second, with recent NCAA champion Mac Fleet third. In the third and final section, Lopez Lomong narrowly defeated Ben Blankenship, with a hard charging Miles Batty taking the third and final automatic qualifying spot.
"At the end of the day, it's us who have to go out on the track and execute," said Lomong, when asked about how big a role his coach, Jerry Schumacher, played in his result today.
A very relieved Blankenship said, "Shit finally came together. It took a couple of months, but it came together."
Of note, many of the best collegiate milers this past spring failed to advance; among them were Oklahoma's Patrick Casey and Riley Masters, Indiana's Andy Bayer, N.C. State's Ryan Hill, Wisconsin's Austin Mudd and Alex Hatz, and Penn State's Robby Creese.
In the women's 800m, Olympian Alysia Montaño and New Balance's Brenda Martinez recorded the same exact time of 2:01.96 in separate heats. Montaño led from wire to wire in front.
"I felt fantastic," said Montaño, with a red flower in her hair. "It's nice to just blow it out in the first round. [I'm] looking forward to tomorrow, another two laps."
Chanelle Price, Kate Grace and Phoebe Wright all advanced to Friday's semi-finals from section one. Grace, winner of the Grand Blue Mile here in April, decided just last week that she would pass up on the 1500m and solely focus on the 800m.
Other key qualifiers in the 800m were world junior champion Ajee' Wilson, NCAA standout Laura Roesler, Olympian Geena Gall, and the New Jersey-New York Track Club's Latavia Thomas.
After relaxing with her feet up moments before taking the line, Maggie Vessey went on to win her section in 2:03.15 ahead of collegian Amy Weissenbach, 19. The lone surprise not to advance was IAAF World Indoor Championships bronze medalist Erica Moore.
Section three of the men's 800m proved to be the most interesting. More than three seconds behind heat winner Nick Symmonds came Robby Andrews, finishing last among seven in his section. Andrews bypassed the media, visibly upset and frustrated.
Brandon Johnson, a silver medalist in the 400m hurdles at the 2004 IAAF World Junior Championships, won heat one ahead of newly turned professional Cas Loxsom, while Tyler Mulder led Charles Jock and Erik Sowinski across the line in heat two.
Duane Solomon held off NCAA champion Elijah Greer down the stretch, when the latter was forced to swing wide in the final 110 meters after he got boxed in along the rail. It was a good thing he did, because Penn State's Brannon Kidder --who only just completed his freshman year-- and Mark Wieczorek were on his heels. All four men advanced to the semi-finals.
Bridget Franek led all qualifiers in the women's 3000m steeplechase, running 9:57.96. Nicole Bush was a surprise winner of heat two. Olympian Shalaya Kipp finished a distant seventh, but still advanced on time. Reigning USA champion Emma Coburn did not compete due to a back injury.
Later tonight, both the men's and women's 10,000m finals will be contested.