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March 30, 2017

Can Jenny Simpson break the 1500m American Record?

Welcome to a new season of The Jenny and Shannon Show!

In 2014, Jenny Simpson entered the Zurich Diamond League meet with the third fastest time in the world. She’d be squaring off against the world no.1 Siffan Hassan, no.2 Hellen Obiri, Shannon Rowbury and a slew of other very fast women. With $50,000 on the line, the finale of the Diamond League season is not only an opportunity for a handsome payday, but a little bit of Stanley Cup type bragging rights. The gun went off and Simpson ran a very methodical, very sound race, until the last 20 or so meters, when she allowed Rowbury to sneak up on the inside, and nearly sniff her out at the line. The two crossed the finish, but not before God cranked up the gravity and the two hit the deck hard. Jenny won by .01 seconds.

Simpson finished the 2014 season with a Shannon sweep, going 4/4 in their head-to-head 1500m match-ups and running within a tenth of a second of Mary Slaney’s then-American record.

In 2015, Genzebe Dibaba broke the Women’s 1500m World Record at the Diamond League meet in Monaco. She crossed the line in 3:50.07 and made herself a cup of tea while waiting for her nearest competitor to cross the line almost a full six seconds later. While Dibaba took her victory lap, we learned–with little pomp or frill–that Rowbury took down Mary Slaney’s 32 year old American Record by .83 seconds. Simpson finished in 4th.

The two split their head-to-head match-ups in 2015 with each taking two races respectively. Jenny finished with the U.S. championship, but Shannon placed higher at worlds and scribbled her name into the American record book.

2016, just like two years prior, Shannon and Jenny met in Zurich to conclude their outdoor seasons. Jenny had little to prove–pointing to the Olympic medal around your neck is the track equivalent of chanting “scoreboard!”.  But with $50,000 on the line, and the opportunity to piss off your rival one more time before heading into the off season, this was either going to be icing on the cake for Simpson or a middle finger from Rowbury. Both were in position with 100m to go, but Simpson faltered and Rowbury took the scalp of the world no. 1 Laura Muir as the Nike Oregon Project star posted a top five time in the world.

For the third straight season, Jenny and Shannon were the only two American women to break four minutes in the 1500m. They went to war in 2016 five times. Jenny emerged with her 3rd straight U.S. 1500m title and an Olympic medal. Shannon, with a bit of a chip on her shoulder, posted the 5th fastest time in the world, and made it with her American record intact.  

With the 2017 season within spitting distance, there are a handful of questions to ask. Will the  Women’s 1500m American Record live to celebrate its 2nd birthday? Will Shannon and Jenny let some other players creep into the top two? Can they sustain this Chicago Bulls/Utah Jazz style rivalry for another season?

Muir and an enormous dog.

The one thing that comes into question in 2017 is Shannon’s dedication to the cause. With her success over the 5K distance at the end of 2016, perhaps the days of seeing the two clash at every major 1500m are over. Enter Laura Muir. A few weeks ago, Citius staff writer Jeanne Mack outlined some not-so-subtle shade throwing on behalf of Simpson directed at Muir. Scotland’s fastest veterinarian and Simpson could take over as the must watch match-ups in the1500m, and if they clash, expect it to be fast.

Our prediction? The American record goes down in a match up between Jenny/Shannon/Muir (I know you’re thinking we’re ignoring the presence of Dibaba, but let’s face it: 3:50 is in a different league than the AR conversation). Shannon and Jenny both have a shot, but with Shannon’s 5K aspirations, she might not even be on the line. On the flip side, there’s always the option that she chooses not to run a fast 5K since Molly Huddle owns the head-to-head advantage in their duels.

There are plenty of other players that have a reasonable shot at breaking four minutes, but it would take a huge PR from any active American woman to even be in the picture. For the sake of conversation, though, we’ll list a few that we like: recent 1500m convert Kate Grace, young gun Shelby Houlihan, last year’s breakout star Amanda Eccleston, and perennial powerhouses Brenda Martinez.

However it plays out, the past three years of 1500m racing among Rowbury and Simpson are some of the finest we’ve seen in recent memory. Let’s hope that these two have at least a few more seasons of collapsing at the finish line next to each other.

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