Matthew Centrowitz trusts his kick. That’s why the slow pace of Saturday’s 1,500-meter final at the U.S. track championships in Des Moines didn’t faze him.
“I entertained the idea of me being last the first few laps,” Centrowitz told reporters. “We didn’t have a set plan coming into it. I just wait for everything to unfold. I had a few strategies coming into it.”
What unfolded was a 400-meter sprint for the title. The former Broadneck star held off fellow Olympians Leo Manzano and Lopez Lomong to win for the second time in three years in 3 minutes 45.17 seconds. All three will represent the United States at the world championships later this summer in Moscow. Two years ago, Centrowitz introduced himself with a third-place finish at worlds.
“I look at this year, everything was great, stronger, I’m thinking to myself, like, what do I have anything to be nervous about?” Centrowitz said. “I’m in great shape. In my head I said, ‘Dominate the final,’ and that’s what I set out to do. I didn’t really glance back. Definitely wanted to make a statement heading to worlds.”
Not to be outdone, 17-year-old Mary Cain finished second in the 1,500 meters to earn a spot in Moscow. She was edged at the line by training partner Treniere Moser. Cain is the first high schooler to make the world team since Allyson Felix nearly a decade ago.
Cain could hardly contain her enthusiasm after a nearly flawless race. This after being petrified at the prospect of running against an elite field with so much at stake.
“I called my mom the other day crying and was like, ‘I’m just a little kid. I’m so scared,’ ” Cain said, holding a stuffed yellow duck for comfort. “She’s like, ‘Mary, I know you. If I could take you away right now, I would. But you would be kicking yourself for the rest of your life if you weren’t in that final.’ I let the nerves take over me for a minute. Then, I pushed them out.
“Getting to wear a Team USA uniform is amazing. I really wanted to get a uniform.”
Meanwhile, Brianna Rollins, a standout at Clemson before turning pro this month, broke Gail Devers’s American record in the 100-meter hurdles in 12.26. It is the fastest time in a 100 hurdles race in 21 years.
“I don’t think about records,” Rollins said. “I came out here and did what I have to do.”
Former Virginia Tech star Queen Harrison was runner-up in 12.43. Lolo Jones failed to qualify, finishing fifth.
Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross was slowed by a surgically repaired right big toe and didn’t qualify for worlds in the 400, finishing sixth. Natasha Hastings won in 49.94, and Hampton’s Francena McCrory was second in 50.01.
Chantilly’s Sean McGorty capped his senior year with a fourth place in the junior 1,500 meters. After winning the title in the two-mile run at New Balance Outdoor Nationals earlier this month, he stepped down in distance at the U.S. championships and finished in in 3:49.26. Georgetown’s Michael Lederhouse finished sixth.
Portsmouth’s LaShawn Merritt captured the 400 crown, and Olympic champion Ashton Eaton took the decathlon title.
“It was an OK two days,” Eaton said. “It’s very difficult to compete in the heat.”
Yet in the heat, there were three new American records. Michelle Carter set a mark in the shot put with a throw of 66 feet, 5 inches on her way to the title.
Later, Amanda Bingson broke the U.S. mark in the hammer throw with her toss of 248-5.
Former Northwest and Wootton star Olivia Ekpone, now running for Texas A&M, advanced to the semifinals of the 200 in 22.91, as did Central Florida’s Aurieyall Scott 22.46), a former Eleanor Roosevelt runner.
David Verburg of George Mason was sixth in the 400 meters in 45.34.
Dominic Berger, a Maryland alumnus, qualified for the 110-meter hurdle semifinals in 13.33, the eighth-fastest time in the prelims. Former Paint Branch and Maryland runner Adam Durham finished eighth in the 400 hurdles in 51.44. Landria Buckley, a Maryland volunteer assistant coach and former Howard athlete, ran 56.64 in the 400 hurdles to make Sunday’s final.
Former Fauquier star Sarah Brown (formerly Bowman) finished sixth in the 1,500, just behind Kerri Gallagher, who trains under Matt Centrowitz Sr. for the Pacers-New Balance team in the D.C. area.