(UO Athletic Department Media Release)
Matthew Centrowitz snapped a 108 year-old dry spell in the men’s 1,500 meters for the United States with a wire-to-wire victory Saturday at the Rio Olympic Games. Duck alum Phyllis Francis followed that with a gold medal for the United States in the women’s 4x400 meter relay.
Centrowitz, the 2011 NCAA 1,500 meter champion for Oregon, took charge of the race from the outset, setting a pedestrian pace that none of his 12 competitors disrupted for three laps. Centrowitz then made an early move on the final lap, perhaps catching some of his opposition off guard, and by the time the field responded is was too late.
Centrowitz won the gold in 3:50.00, with Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria second in 3:50.11 and Nicholas Willis of New Zealand third in 3:50.24.
The last American 1,500 winner in the Olympics was Mel Shappard in 1908 – the same year the Cubs last won the World Series.
Centrowitz becomes just the fourth alum of the Men of Oregon to win Olympic gold. His UO teammate Ashton Eaton has won the last two Olympic decathlons, Otis Davis captured gold in the 400 meters and the 4x400 relay in 1960, and Joaquim Cruz won gold in the 800 meters for Brazil in 1984.
In another wire-to-wire victory, Francis and Team USA held off a challenge from Jamaica to win gold in the women’s 4x400 meter relay.
Courtney Okolo got the Americans out front quickly and Natasha Hastings and Francis kept the United States in position before Allyson Felix brought the Americans home in 3:19.06. Jamaica won the silver in 3:20.34 and Great Britain finished in bronze position in 3:25.88.
Entering the Rio Games, the UO women’s track and field program had two Olympic medals in its history. The Ducks surpassed that total in 2016 with Brianne Theisen-Eaton’s heptathlon silver and English Gardner’s 4x100 meter relay gold joining Francis.
Early Saturday, former Duck steeplechaser Claire Michel competed in her first Olympic triathlon for Belgium today but did not finish.
The track and field portion of 2016 Summer Olympics wraps up Sunday with a school-record 17 current and former Ducks in Rio (11 on Team USA, three for Canada, and one each for Australia, Greece and Guatemala). This is the 20th straight Olympiad that the University of Oregon has been represented, a streak that dates to the 1932 Games in Los Angeles.
In addition to the 17 current and former Ducks competing in Rio, the head coach of the U.S. Men's Track and Field team is UO associate athletic director Vin Lananna.
What to Watch – Sunday, August 21
Two teammates from the Ducks’ 2007 NCAA championship cross country team will run in the Olympic marathon for the first time.
Galen Rupp ran a season-best 27:08.92 to finish fifth in the 10,000 meters, missing out on a medal by less than three seconds, on Aug. 13.
Rupp was the silver medalist at 10,000 meters at the London Olympics and is an eight-time U.S. champion at that distance. He is the American 10,000 meter record holder (26:48.0) and won five NCAA titles (cross country, indoor 3,000 and 5,000 meters, outdoor 5,000 and 10,000 meters) as a senior at Oregon in 2008-09.
Carlos Trujillo was the 2008 Pac-10 champion at 10,000 meters, and will represent Guatemala in the marathon.