By: Patrick Larson
The USATF road mile championships are tonight in Des Moines as part of Drake Relays week. There are many notable names in both the men’s and women’s field highlighted by the highly anticipated matchup between former Oregon Project teammates Clayton Murphy and Craig Engels.
While Murphy is the reigning Olympic bronze medalist in the 800 meters, we have only seen him race once in 2021 when he ran a fairly pedestrian 1:48.4 at the American Track League. With just this one data point, Murphy has been a wildcard in the 2021 Olympic conversation and will surely be looking to show that he is on the right track to competing in Tokyo.
Just a month ago, Murphy sent a not so subtle reminder to the track community that any races, times, and places are quickly forgotten when you crack the top 3 at the Olympic trials. In his words, “nothing else matters until Eugene in June.”
Now moving on to Craigathor who has shown a bit more consistency from 800-5000 meters during the 2021 track season. While his times of 1:46 in the 800, 3:36 in the 1500, and 13:36 for 5000 are nothing to write home about, Engels has proven time and time again an ability to show up when it counts. Engels has raced four times since the start of 2021, with the most recent being the 5000m at the Trials of Miles Texas Qualifier in late February.
We had the chance to talk with Craig leading up to the race.
“I’m just excited to get out there and have some fun. Clayton is such a competitor, so I’m excited to line up against him and all the other guys. It’s just nice to be back racing and crushing it with the boys.”
Clayton Murphy may have laid the groundwork to prevent people from hitting the panic button too quick if he underperforms tonight. But, in a year with limited racing, this is easily one of the most highly anticipated match-ups between two proven world-class competitors.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what their overall record is as pros in head-to-head matchups? Clayton currently has the edge having beat Engels in 5 out of 8 races they have been in together.
Watch the race on USATF TV