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Centrowitz, Martinez shine in Middle Distances

Matt Centrowitz

Matt Centrowitz

MOSCOW – Matthew Centrowitz and Brenda Martinez won historic medals in the men’s 1,500 and women’s 800 meters, Will Claye took bronze in the men’s triple jump and the U.S. men’s and women’s 4x100m relay teams placed second and third, respectively, in a dramatic day of competition Sunday at the World Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

When the drama had cleared, Team USA finished with 25 medals – six gold, 13 silver and six bronze – tying their second-best medal tally at the World Outdoor Championships. Team USA again dominated the scoring table, finishing with 281 points to Russia’s 182 and Kenya’s 139.

Centro, Martinez sprint to podium

In winning silver in the men’s 1,500m and bronze in the women’s 800m, Team USA won a medal in both the men’s and women’s 800 (Nick Symmonds, Martinez) as well as the men’s and women’s 1,500m (Centrowitz, Jennifer Simpson).

Centrowitz (Portland, Oregon) improved upon his bronze medal finish from the 2011 World Championships, sprinting to a silver medal in Moscow. A masterful technician, he bided his time, staying in the top half of the pack and running as high as second place as the pack moved along at a measured but honest pace of 1:59.24 at 800 meters. At the bell, the pack remained relatively tightly bunched, with Centrowitz patiently sitting on the rail. When the field broke down the final straightaway, Centrowitz was in third and seized an opening, running three wide to move up to second in 3:36.78. Asbel Kiprop of Kenya defended his title and took the gold in 3:36.28, with Johan Cronje of South Africa third in 3:36.83. Centrowitz joins Bernard Lagat as the only U.S. men to win two medals in the 1500m at the World Championships.

Martinez (Big Bear Lake, Calif.) won the first ever World Championship medal in the 800m for an American woman. She started conservatively, running eighth at 200m and 7th at 400m. Martinez managed the traffic well as five women sprinted to the line in a race for second place behind Eunice Sum of Kenya. Martinez found a spot on the rail to nab the bronze in a personal best of 1:57.91, behind Sum (1:57.38) and Mariya Savinova of Russia (1:57.80). Alysia Montaño (San Francisco, Calif.) bolted to an early lead, splitting 56.06 for 400m, but her lead disappeared with 150 meters to go, and she dove across the line in fourth 1:57.95. 19-year-old Ajeé Wilson (Neptune, N.J.) set an American Junior record of 1:58.21 in sixth.

Claye snares bronze

Will Claye (Gainesville, Fla.) repeated his bronze medal performance from the 2011 World Championships with his mark of 17.52m/57-5.75. Claye landed progressively better marks on each of his first three jumps, though he maintained his third place position throughout. Claye’s best mark came on his third attempt, but it was enough to hold him in the medal position through the next three rounds. Defending Olympic and World Champion Christian Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) opened with a jump of 16.99m/55-9 to place him fourth, and improved on his final attempt to 17.20m/56-5.25, but was unable to move onto the medal stand.

Team USA relays survive tense hand-offs to medal

Both the men’s and women’s relays featured breath-holding moments for American fans. In the men’s 4×100, Charles Silmon (Waco, Texas) led off for Team USA and handed off even with Jamaica.  A strong second leg by Mike Rodgers (Round Rock, Texas) put the Americans in the lead at the second exchange, which Jamaica slightly bobbled. Mookie Salaam (Edmond, Okla.) ran hard around the turn on the third leg. As Justin Gatlin (Clermont, Fla.) took off for the final exchange, he stumbled and struggled to recover and get the baton from Salaam. Once he did, he ran home to silver behind the Usain Bolt-led Jamaicans, who won in a world-leading time of 37.36. The U.S. was second in 37.66 with Canada third in 37.92 after Great Britain (37.80) was disqualified.

In the women’s 4×100, anchor Octavious Freeman (Lake Wales, Fla.) snatched bronze from the jaws of defeat in a reshuffled Team USA relay order. With Allyson Felix (hamstring) and Carmelita Jeter (quadriceps) out with injuries suffered or exacerbated in Moscow, Team USA presented a brand new lineup. Jeneba Tarmoh  (Voorhees, N.J.) got out well in the first leg, handing off to Alexandria Anderson (Austin, Texas), who ran a blazing second leg and approached English Gardner (Los Angeles, Calif.) in the lead for the second exchange. Gardner took off well in front of Anderson and had to slow almost to a stop in the exchange zone to complete the pass as Anderson also slowed. Gardner ran a hard turn and handed off to Freeman, who ran from seventh to third in an amazing final leg, almost edging out France for the silver. Jamaica won in a World Championships record 41.29, with France second in 42.73 and Team USA third in 42.75.