Gutting It Out
EUGENE, Ore. – Matthew Centrowitz and Robby Andrews both advanced to the final of the men’s 1,500 meters on Friday at the Olympic Trials here at the University of Oregon.
Centrowitz, whose father, Matt, made the Olympic team 36 years ago, is now one step away from a team himself. The 22-year-old, who passed up his senior year at the University of Oregon to turn professional, finished first in Heat II in 3:41.90, the fastest time of the two semifinal heats.
“It was good,” Centrowitz said. “The competition was good. I just came to qualify and give myself a good position.”
Andrews, 21, who turned pro this winter after two years at the University of Virginia, is running only the 1,500 here after years of being primarily a half-miler. He was third, behind Centrowitz, in 3:42.14, in a race in which the first five finishers were automatic qualifiers to the final, which will be held on Sunday afternoon.
Two members of the New Jersey/New York Track Club failed to advance. Brian Gagnon was sixth in Heat I, missing the final qualifying spot by .15, and Liam-Boylan Pett was eighth, another three tenths back.
Coach Frank Gagliano’s NJ/NYTC did get a runner onto the U.S. team on Thursday when Julie Culley, a Rutgers graduate, was the surprise winner of the women’s 5,000 meters. Culley outfought the favorite Molly Huddle, for first place in a lifetime-best 15:13.77, while a dramatic battle was also taking place behind them for the third and final spot on the team.
“I’m in shock,” Culley said. “All the hard work has finally paid off.
“Coach Gagliano is my coach. It feels so awesome to do this for him. Getting a hug from him and (club coach) Tommy Nohilly after the race was the greatest feeling in the world.”
Meanwhile, 50 yards up the track, another drama was under way. Julia Lucas, who had bolted to the front with three laps to go but been passed by Huddle and Culley on the backstretch, was still holding onto third place, but her lead was shrinking fast under the final furious onslaught of Abbey D’Agostino of Dartmouth and unknown Kim Conley of Davis, Calif.
Even with 10 meters left, Lucas seemed to have a secure hold on third. “It wasn’t until the last hundred meters,” Conley said, “that I thought I had a chance. Something clicked in my brain. I just knuckled down and went for it.”
Suddenly Conley flew past D’Agostino, reached the straining Lucas and leaned hard at the finish, the way a sprinter would do it. “I was pretty sure I got her,” Conley said, “but I didn’t think I had the standard.”
That is the Olympic “A” standard for the event, which is 15:20.00, a time that neither Conley nor D’Agostino had prior to the race — but Lucas did. Miraculously, thanks in part to the closing rush chasing Lucas, both got under 15:20, but barely — Conley wound up third in 15:19.79, Lucas inches back in 15:19.83, then D’Agostino — just a sophomore at Dartmouth — a stride back in 15:19.98.
“I went after it,” said Conley, who was as much as 50 yards back of Lucas with a lap to go. “I wasn’t willing to give up on a top-3 spot.”
In the steeplechase finals — the men’s on Thursday, the women’s on Friday — one Princeton graduate made the U.S. team, while another just missed.
In the men’s, Donn Cabral, a 2012 graduate, finished second to qualify for London, running 8:19.81, two seconds behind the winner, Evan Jager.
“I was in fourth for a good portion of the middle of the race,” Cabral said. “I started to try and push it and close the gap.
“I felt good in the penultimate lap, felt great in the last 400. I closed hard, and once I got out of the water, I knew I was going to London.”
Ashley Higginson, a 2011 Princeton graduate from Colts Neck, N.J., was fourth in Friday’s women’s final, running a lifetime best but missing third place by a little more than two seconds. She ran 9:38.06, a lifetime best by more than seven seconds. Shalaya Kipp of Colorado was third in 9:35.73.
Delilah DiCrescenzo of the NJ/NYTC was in contention the first half of the race but faded to seventh in 9:46.30.
In the women’s 1,500 semis on Friday, two runners competing for the New York Athletic Club advanced to Sunday’s final. Maggie Infeld, the Georgetown graduate, was third in Heat I in 4:09.38, behind Morgan Uceny and Jenny Simpson and two places ahead of fellow clubmate Nicole Schappert, who was fifth in 4:09.60.
Non-qualifiers included Kate Grace of NJ/NYTC (4:12.92) and Melissa Salerno of New Balance (4:16.33).
In the women’s 5,000, the New Yorker Liz Maloy faded to seventh in the late going, running 15:24, just ahead of Georgetown’s Emily Infeld, eighth in 15:28.
In the women’s high jump, in qualifying on Thursday, the St. John’s senior Priscilla Frederick qualified for Saturday’s final, clearing 5-10 1/2 and 6-0 without a miss. It was Frederick’s first time over six feet this season.