Matthew Centrowitz redeems, Jenny Simpson upset at USATF Outdoors

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Matthew Centrowitz never doubted — and, based on post-race comments, other top American milers didn’t, either — but after a dreadful year that followed his Olympic breakthrough, and moving across the country, his fifth national title had unique significance.

“Satisfaction out there,” Centrowitz told Lewis Johnson on NBC after winning the 1500m at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. “A little sense of relief, get back on top.

“I wouldn’t say it was my best race since the Olympics, but it was a step in the right direction.”

Centrowitz regained best American miler status 55 minutes after Jenny Simpson‘s run of four straight 1500m titles ended in Des Moines on Saturday.

Centrowitz, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic 1500m champion in 108 years, won in typical fashion, moving toward the front on a 57-second penultimate lap and outkicking the field on the home stretch.

He crossed in 3:43.37, just .04 faster than his runner-up time a year ago and a comfortable .26 ahead of Izaik Yorks. Centrowitz, whose past celebrations included odes to Cam Newton and J.R. Smith, this time held his right hand to his ear to mimic a phone.

“I was calling 911,” Centrowitz said, “report a murder.”

It marked Centrowitz’s first win on this kind of stage since Rio. Last year, Centrowitz was unable to get more than two straight weeks of healthy training all season due in part to adductor issues and an ER visit with a viral infection. It showed at nationals, where Olympic teammate Robby Andrews beat him. It was clearer at worlds, where a listless Centrowitz finished last in his first-round heat.

Centrowitz announced in January he relocated from Portland, Ore., to work with his dad, a former competitive runner, in the D.C. area but would still be coached from long distance by Alberto Salazar. Then at the Pre Classic last month, Centrowitz was not the top finishing American in the Bowerman Mile for the first time since 2013 (though he missed the meet in 2016 and 2017).

Didn’t matter Saturday. Other U.S. milers still deferred.

“When you get into these big races with Matt, it’s like when you get into a big race with [four-time Olympic gold medalist] Mo [Farah], these guys, you kind of let them do things that you wouldn’t let someone you know you’re better than get away with,” third-place finisher and Nike Oregon Project teammate Eric Jenkins said. “They do what they want. They get into position. They take what they want. It comes with being as good as they are.”

Andrews, bounced in the first round Thursday, texted Centrowitz congratulations. Centrowitz is now one U.S. title shy of Steve Scott‘s post-World War II record. That’s on his mind.

“At this point in my career, I want to keep checking off boxes to leave my mark in the 1500m in the U.S,” said Centrowitz, who personal best from 2015 of 3:30.40 makes him the third-fastest American all time behind Bernard Lagat and Sydney Maree.

With no world championships or Olympics this season, Centrowitz still has motivation. He would like to win a Diamond League race (no U.S. man has done so in the 1500m) and finish the year ranked No. 1 in the country.

“My dad always calls it the three Hs,” Centrowitz said. “I’ve got to be happy, healthy and hungry. …. Relatively speaking, I’ve been healthy since Jan. 1, and I was hungrier than ever today.”

USATF Outdoors conclude Sunday on NBC (4-6 p.m. ET) and NBC Sports Gold (12:30-6 p.m.), highlighted by 200m, 5000m and 110m hurdles finals.

USATF Outdoors: TV Schedule | Results | Women’s Preview | Men’s Preview

Simpson, the Olympic bronze medalist, was beaten by Olympic 5000m runner Shelby Houlihan for the second time this season. The Sioux City native Houlihan surged past Simpson on the final straight, just as she did at the Pre Classic last month.

“I’m totally bummed, but I guess I have a lot of practice at losing as well as winning,” Simpson told media in Des Moines. “It felt a little weird being at U.S. Championships and getting outkicked.”

Houlihan won in 4:05.48, .73 ahead of runner-up Simpson.

“I feel like she’s way ahead of me,” Houlihan said of Simpson. “She’s someone I’ve looked up to since high school.”

In other events, Deanna Price took the American record back from Gwen Berry with a 78.12-meter hammer throw, the best in the world this year.

Shakima Wimbley and Kahmari Montgomery won their first U.S. titles in the 400m.

Wimbley prevailed in 49.52, lowering her personal best by .66, tying the fastest time in the world this year and torching a field lacking the last two world champions, Phyllis Francis and Allyson Felix. Wimbley showed promise at the Pre Classic last month, finishing third behind Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Francis.

Montgomery clocked 44.58 to win, two weeks after finishing seventh at the NCAA Championships for the University of Houston. The men’s field lacked 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt and Michael Norman, the fastest man in the world this year who opted to race the 200m this week.

World-record holder Kendra Harrison repeated as 100m hurdles champion. Harrison clocked 12.46, off of her world record of 12.20. Olympic champion Brianna McNeal, who beat Harrison in Shanghai on May 12, was not in the field.

World gold and silver medalists Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs went one-two in the 3000m steeplechase. Coburn, the Olympic bronze medalist, earned her seventh national title in eight years by clocking 9:17.70. She pulled away from Frerichs on the last lap to win by .99. Nobody else finished within 15 seconds.

“[Frerichs] gave me a run for my money,” Coburn, who has been beaten by a countrywoman once in eight years, said on NBC. “This is going to be a battle that’s worth watching for years to come.”

In the pole vault, Olympic bronze medalist and world champion Sam Kendricks cleared 5.85 meters for his fifth straight U.S. title.

Vashti Cunningham repeated as high jump champion by clearing 1.95 meters. Cunningham, whose father and coach is retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, was 13th at the Olympics and 10th at the world championships.

Darrell Hill upset Olympic champion Ryan Crouser in the shot put, winning with a 21.57-meter throw. Hill improved to 3-17 against Crouser. Crouser came to Des Moines with the top 23 throws by an American this year out of his 24 total legal throws, according to Tilastopaja.org. But on Saturday he had five fouls in six throws. His only legal throw was 20.99 meters for second place.

NCAA runner-up Kenny Selmon won the 400m hurdles from lane eight against a field that lacked Olympic champion Kerron Clement. Selmon clocked 48.21 seconds, three tenths ahead of TJ Holmes, who was fifth at 2017 Worlds.

The favorites advanced to Sunday’s semifinals in the 200m and 110m hurdles, including 400m indoor world-record holder Michael Norman and Olympian Ameer Webb in the 200m and world-record holder Aries Merritt, Olympian Devon Allen and NCAA champion Grant Holloway in the hurdles.

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Steeplechase barrier set too high causes chaos at Diamond League

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A barrier set too high marred the women’s 3000m steeplechase at a Diamond League meet in Oslo on Thursday.

A few competitors ran into the barrier. American Emma Coburn, the world champion, made it over clean but then motioned over and over again that something was wrong as she continued the race.

The barrier was wrongly set at the men’s height, which is six inches higher than the women’s height, Coburn and TV commentators said. A similar mishap occurred in qualifying at the 2009 USATF Outdoor Championships.

The runners went through the barrier three times before it was fully fixed. Kenyan Hyvin Kiyeng won in 9:09.63, holding off Coburn’s late charge by .07.

“I’m incredibly frustrated that we had to hurdle the men’s barrier on the back straight three times — we were waving around, and it wasn’t solved until my husband [who doubles as her coach] went out onto the track to tell the officials,” Coburn said, according to the IAAF. “It panicked me, but I tried to stay calm and feel as easy as possible from then on.”

Full Oslo results are here.

In other events, Caster Semenya extended the longest winning streak (by days) in the sport, winning the 800m by 1.32 seconds in 1:57.25. Semenya last lost an 800m in 2015 but is expected to be impacted by an IAAF rule limiting testosterone levels in female middle distance runners scheduled to go into effect after this season.

Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba, the breakout of the outdoor season, won the 400m hurdles in 47.60 seconds, breaking a 32-year-old meet record. The 22-year-old Samba debuted in the 400m hurdles last year and is now ranked 14th all-time in the event, having run the fastest time since 2010 in his last meet (47.48).

In the pole vault, Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris won with a 4.81-meter clearance, while Olympic and world gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi of Greece no-heighted, failing on all three attempts at 4.41 for last place. Stefanidi has struggled in three outdoor meets this season with a top clearance of 4.64 meters, ranking outside the world top 20.

The 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr, who was not in Oslo, has the highest clearance in the world this season of 4.93 meters.

World champion Tom Walsh won a shot put that included the four men who combined to earn every medal at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. His winning throw of 22.29 meters was a meet record but well off his world-leading 22.67 for the year.

Olympic champion Ryan Crouser said he believed his last throw was near 23 meters, but it was ruled a foul.

The Diamond League moves to Stockholm for a meet Sunday, live on NBCSN and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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MORE: Ato Boldon recalls Usain Bolt’s first world record on 10th anniversary

U.S. steeplechase stars reunite at Oslo Diamond League; stream info

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The last time Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs raced a steeplechase together, they produced one of the greatest moments in U.S. track and field history.

“Am I dreaming? Am I dreaming?” Frerichs repeated to Coburn on the track that day.

Nearly 10 months later, the reality is that Coburn and Frerichs are headliners. The steeple is one of the marquee events at Thursday’s Diamond League meet in Oslo, live on NBCSN at 2 p.m. ET and streaming commercial-free on NBC Sports Gold at 12 p.m.

It’s the second steeplechase of the season for the world champion Coburn, who was in contention for the win in Rome last Thursday when she fell on a water jump, for the first time in her life, on the last lap.

It’s Frerichs’ first steeple since August, when the 11th-place finisher from Rio chopped 15 seconds off her personal best to take silver behind the Olympic bronze medalist Coburn at worlds.

They’re joined in the Oslo field by the other medalist from worlds, Kenyan Hyvin Kiyeng, who won in Rome last week in a field including the three fastest Kenyans of all time and Coburn.

Here are the Oslo entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12 p.m. ET — Women’s javelin
12:30 — Women’s Pole Vault
1:10 — Men’s 10,000m
1:15 — Men’s Shot Put
2:03 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:05 — Men’s High Jump
2:10 — Men’s 1500m
2:17 — Women’s Triple Jump
2:20 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:35 — Women’s 100m
2:45 — Women’s 800m
2:50 — Men’s Discus
2:58 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
3:10 — Men’s 200m
3:25 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
3:40 — Women’s 400m
3:50 — Men’s Mile

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 12:30 p.m. ET
Katerina Stefanidi 
of Greece and American Sandi Morris go head-to-head for the 30th time, according to Tilastopaja.org. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Words, but Morris has been better in all three of their head-to-heads this season. The field does not include world leader Jenn Suhr, but it does have Cuban Yarisley Silva, the 2015 World champion in her first Diamond League meet of the year.

Men’s Shot Put — 1:15 p.m. ET
The four men who combined to earn every shot put medal at the most recent Olympics and worlds convene for the second time in three Diamond League meets: Ryan Crouser (Olympic gold), Joe Kovacs (Olympic silver, world silver), Tom Walsh (Olympic bronze, world gold) and Stipe Žunić (world bronze). Tack on two-time world champion David Storl and world fourth-place finisher Tomáš Staněk, and it becomes the most decorated field in Oslo. Walsh has the world’s farthest throw this season, but Crouser broke the meet record in winning the Prefontaine Classic two weeks ago.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — 2:20 p.m. ET
Coburn and Frerichs are underdogs here, given their lack of races since worlds and Kiyeng’s win in Rome with the fastest time in the world this year. But Coburn may well have beaten Kiyeng had she not crashed coming out of the water jump on Thursday. Coburn is the only U.S. woman to win a Diamond League steeplechase, doing so four years ago when the top East Africans let her go because they thought she was a pacer.

Women’s 800m — 2:45 p.m. ET
Caster Semenya puts the sport’s longest win streak (by days) on the line, one that dates to 2015, against her closest definition of a rival, plus some unusual foes. Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi has finished second or third behind Semenya in 13 straight head-to-heads, including silvers at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. Brit Laura Muir and American Brenda Martinez both raced the 1500m at the Olympics. Muir, who was fourth in the 1500m at 2017 Worlds, races a Diamond League 800m for the second time in three years. Though Martinez made her only Olympic team in the 1500m, she has primarily raced the 800m overall, including earning bronze at the 2013 Worlds. But she and Semenya have met in just one 800m final since June 2014.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 3:25 p.m. ET
Featuring the Olympic champion (Kerron Clement) and world champion (Norway’s Karsten Warholm), plus another man who made both podiums (Yasmani Copello of Turkey). But the man to watch is Qatari Abderrahman Samba, who didn’t race in Rio and was seventh at worlds. But in his last two races, Samba ran the fastest time ever recorded that early in a year — national record 47.57 on May 4 and Asian record 47.48 last Thursday, the latter the fastest time in the world in eight years. If Samba can break 47.30, he will move into the top 10 400m hurdlers of all time. He ranked No. 87 all time at the end of 2017.

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