Boston, MA. – The city of Boston is still under the sway of its Super Bowl XLIX champion New England Patriot’s. The game, the interception (by rookie DB Malcom Butler), the controversial pass play call by Seattle at the Pat’s one-yard line with 26-seconds remaining, is still as fresh as the snow that has this old city’s narrow brownstone-lined streets clogged tighter than a cheese lovers arteries.
But sport moves on, as it always does. And this Saturday night the crème of the world’s track and field talent will gather in Roxbury’s Reggie Lewis Center for the 20th New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, second stop on the USATF Championship Series.
Among the most anticipated events is the opening pro race of the night, the men’s 1000 meters, a hybrid distance run mostly indoors that tests the strength of the 800m men even as it challenges the speed of the 1500m guys. And the eight-man field is evenly matched between those two skill sets with the American record (2:16.76, David Torrance 2014) in danger of falling. If it does, it would be at least the 12th American record set on the Reggie’s 200-meter banked red oval over the 20 years the event has been staged. There have also been seven world records set.
Three of the four members of last week’s Team USA Distance Medley Relay world record squad are in Boston turning their attention on another over the 1km run. Last weekend in New York’s Armory Invitational Matthew Centrowitz (2:49.47 1200m), Mike Berry (46.4 400m), Erik Sowinski (1:47.60 800m) and Pat Casey (3:56.48 anchor 1600) teamed up to set the new world indoor best of 9:19.93, knocking six seconds off the old record.
Centro, the two-time World Championship medalist at 1500m said he needs to work on his early race positioning to improve his 1500m chances at the World Championships in Beijing later in the summer (assuming he qualifies for the USA team). Two-time U.S. indoor 800m champion Erik Sowinski is a proven relay champ, having anchored a USA All-Star team to a world record in the 4 X 800m at last year’s NBIGP. And Montana-bred Pat Casey knows how to handle the Reggie too, having run second here at the NBIGP in the mile last year in 3:58.
But it isn’t just themselves the DMR boys must keep an eye on. The other man to watch is New Haven, Connecticut native Cas Loxsom, now out of the Brooks Beasts Track Club in Seattle, Washington. Cas arrives back in New England as the new American record holder in the indoor 600m, an honor he earned two weeks ago at the University of New Mexico’s Lobo Open. His time 1:15.58 knocked 3/100ths off Erik Sowinski’s old mark.
Though he is the youngest of the one kilometer favorites at 23, Loxsom may have the most indoor experience at the Reggie Lewis Center.
“My senior year (2009) at Wilbur Cross High I broke the New England school boy record for 600 meters, and set the (Reggie) facility record (1:18.72),” said Cas during a talk following today’s press conference. “I think my very first high school race was an indoor 600.”
Wanting a change of scenery, Cas stumbled into Happy Valley and Penn State after considering Columbia and U Conn.
“We had a very strong team, plus a hydraulically banked indoor Mondo track. We ran the 600 in the Big Tens every year, and my senior year I won it and set the Big Ten record (1:15.42), which is faster than the time I just ran in New Mexico, but I ran it at the Spire institute on an over-sized track, so it didn’t count as an official American record.”
One key to his success, says Loxsom, has been his consistency. Throughout his Penn State days he was never injured as he followed coach John Gondak’s scaffolding system.
“Plus, we had a great group. My freshman year we had four guys qualify in the 800 for NCAAs. The main challenge was not to go overboard and compete too much in training.”
Cas signed on with Brooks in June 2013 while still having some time to finish school. He joined the team in Seattle in January 2014 still “a little rough around the edges.”
“My goals for 2015 center on U.S. Nationals. Last year I was fortunate to get second place as my fitness isn’t where it is now. So I’d like to get top three again and book a ticket to Beijing. It’s important to set your outdoor goals early, to have an idea what you want to do. Then focus on the short term goals so you can train in the moment. But it should all culminate at USAs.”
Though he’s been a pro for only one year, Cas tells an old and haggard story about life in the USA as a professional runner, as in some things never change.
“When I moved out to Seattle I was going to live with Matt Scherer, Mark Wieczorek, and Riley Masters,” explained Cas. “But we had a hard time renting our house, because the owners were skeptical of our income stream. We explained we were professional runners with Brooks, but they wanted to see our contracts. It shouldn’t have been that hard.”
You are too young to know, Cas, but this is a hoary chestnut of a story told by many a pro runner. Years ago Boston and Chicago Marathon champion Lisa Rainsberger had to get her dad to cosign a loan so she could buy a house, because the bank didn’t recognize pro runner as real job.
In any case, back to the business at hand.
“I’ve only run one competitive 1000 (2:19.16),” Cas told me. “And that was in Birmingham last year at the end of the season when the wheels were falling off a little. Tomorrow will be a good test. I was speed tested in the 600 in New Mexico. It hurt, but I was physically strong enough. Tomorrow I will test where my aerobic base is. I’m excited to test out my kick now that I’ve come off an altitude race. And I’ve never done as much strength work. If ever I was in shape to run a good kilometer, this is it.”
The test begins at 6:12 p.m. Saturday.
You can watch the entire New Balance Indoor Grand Prix Live on NBCSN 6-8:30pm ET).