2018 USATF Indoor Championships

Craig Engels Gets Another Crack At Making US Team

Craig Engels Gets Another Crack At Making US Team

Craig Engels will attempt to make his first US team at this weekend's US Indoor Championships.

Feb 14, 2018 by Kevin Sully
Craig Engels Gets Another Crack At Making US Team

Just like the men’s 800m, the world championship standard will play a large role in Sunday’s men’s 1500m at the US Championships. The first two men across the line who possess the standard will qualify for the IAAF World Indoor Championships. Currently, only five men in the field have run under 3:39.50 (or 3:55.00 in the mile) during the qualifying window -- Brannon Kidder, Craig Engels, Ben Blankenship, Kyle Merber and Ford Palmer. 

Running fast during championship 1500s is rare and the prospect of a quick time is even more unlikely given that the meet is taking place at elevation in Albuquerque. As a result, it’s unlikely that we will see someone run under 3:39.50 on Sunday. 

Engels enters as the favorite. He ran 3:53.93 last week at Boston University to grab a qualifying mark. He’s young, but already has racked up a bit of experience in championship settings both during his time in the NCAA system and when he competed deep into the finals at the last two US outdoor championships. Engels has gotten excruciatingly close to making a team before (he was fourth in the 1500m at the 2017 US Championships, fourth at the 2016 Olympics Trials in the 800m and fifth at the Olympic Trials in the 1500m). Sunday provides his next opportunity to make a US team. 

There’s other reasons to like Engels in this race. Even though the indoor season operates on a truncated schedule, he has raced quite a bit. This weekend will be his fifth race of a 2018, winning in three of his appearances. In his lone defeat, Engels finished fourth at the Camel City Invitational behind Edward Cheserek, Paul Chelimo and Henry Wynne. Chelimo is entered in Sunday’s 1500m as well as Saturday night’s 1500m. 

If Chelimo attempts the double, he will definitely be able to challenge for the win in the 1500m. Unlike Engels, Chelimo hasn’t raced much indoors (two races in total, both at the Camel City Invitational), but the success of his 2017 alone makes him a threat. 

Chelimo’s teammate, Shadrack Kipchirchir, is also attempting the 3000m/1500m double. In his three appearances this indoor season, Kipchirchir produced about as good an outcome as you could aim for. He opened with a 7:42 3000m in Boston, followed it up with a 3:55 mile the next day and then won the Millrose Games 3000m the following weekend. If he chooses to double this weekend, Kipchirchir will be in the mix in the 1500m.

Of the four runners besides Engels who possess the 1500m standard, Kidder and Blankenship have looked the best this season. Blankenship placed third at the Wanamaker Mile, after leading a late race charge to catch eventual winner Chris O’Hare. Blankenship is the reigning US indoor champion in the mile. 

Kidder has had an eventful indoor season. He’s raced four times in four different locations and was also was one of the two rabbits for Edward Cheserek’s 3:49.44 mile last Friday in Boston. Some of that magic may have rubbed off on Kidder. The next day, he ran the mile and posted a time of 3:56.36, a lifetime best.