LOS ANGELES — Olympic 1,500-meter champion Matthew Centrowitz’s training schedule had him based in Park City, Utah in recent weeks. Mo Farah, winner of the last two Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 titles for Great Britain, has spent much of the spring in Flagstaff, Ariz.
So the Nike Oregon Project teammates’ pre-race plan before the USATF Distance Classic 1,500 meters Thursday night amounted to a brief, impromptu conversation shortly before they stepped to the starting line at Jack Kemp Stadium on the Occidental campus.
“Are you going for the win or are you going for a fast time?” Centrowitz asked Farah.
“I’m going for a fast time,” Farah replied.
“That’s all I needed to hear,” Centrowitz recalled later with a smile.
Centrowitz delivered, knocking off Farah and capping a night of stellar middle and long distance running with a thrilling American-leading 3 minute, 33.41-second victory that suggested even faster things against an Olympic-caliber field at next week’s Prefontaine Classic.
Centrowitz went from first to third around the final turn and then pulled away from Farah, second in 3:34.19, and another British Olympian, Chris O’Hare, who finished third with a personal best of 3:34.35.
“I was happy obviously with the time, but more importantly I was happy with the way I closed and finished,” Centrowitz said.
Former UC Riverside NCAA 1,500 runner-up Brenda Martinez was equally pleased with her 800 victory. Running the final 400 by herself, Martinez blew away a field that included New Balance teammate Jenny Simpson, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and former world champion at 1,500, with 1:58.78 victory. Martinez’s mark was the fourth fastest in the world in 2017. Only the three medalists from last summer in Rio de Janerio have gone faster this season.
Martinez’s early season form has reminded her of her fitness level at this point of the 2013 season when she took the World Championships 800 bronze medal.
“A lot of people said oh (you’re running too fast), that’s too early,” Martinez said. “Toward the end of the season I was still strong.”
Centrowitz arrived in Southern California as U.S. track and field’s rock star after becoming the first American to win the Olympic 1,500 gold medal since 1908 in Rio. The former Oregon NCAA champion took a post-Rio break that at times showed during the indoor season.
“Absolutely,” Centrowitz said when asked if he suffered from post-Olympic hangover or burn out. “A lot of distractions after the Olympics. A lot of appearances. The Olympic year is so stressful as it is. I definitely wanted to give myself a nice little break and gear up for the next four years so to speak.”
Along those lines Thursday night was the first step toward Tokyo in 2020. Centrowitz was 0-2 against Farah in the 1,500 and in addition to sweeping the 5,000 and 10,000 at the last two Olympic Games and World Championships, the Briton’s resume also includes the European 1,500 record…