New York City, USAIn front of a crowd of over 13,500 spectators Kenyan Bernard Lagat with a record winning performance in the Wanamaker Mile provided the historic highlight of the Millrose Games at the 98th running of the event at Madison Square Garden last night (Fri 4 Feb).
In the infield Reese Hoffa surprised Adam Nelson with a huge last round Shot Put performance, as many of the old guard including Stacy Dragila and Allen Johnson took straight forward wins.
Lagat named Outstanding Performer
Lagat, the World Indoor 3000m champion clocked 3:52.87 to break the all-time Millrose Games and Madison Square Garden Mile records over the 160-yard banked oval to the roar of a crowd of 13,519. Lagat’s mark eclipsed Irishman’s Eamonn Coghlan’s meet record of 3:53.0 set in 1981 and the Noureddine Morceli’s Madison Square Garden record of 3:52.99 set in 1991.
The performance netted Lagat the Rodman Wanamaker Trophy as well as the Fred Schmertz Waterford Crystal Trophy as the meet’s outstanding performer.
It was the third Millrose victory for Lagat, who also won in 2001 and 2002, but the fashion of the victory taken by the 2004 Olympic 1500m silver medallist was his most impressive of all his appearances in the Big Apple. Lagat led from the gun with pace setter and compatriot Elkanah Angwenyi through splits of 55.8 through the quarter mile, and 1:54.3 at a half mile. Lagat won by nearly eight seconds from countryman Laban Rotich (4:00.33). Alan Webb of the U.S. was third in 4:00.91 in his Millrose debut.
Rotich was never in the hunt
Lagat’s victory avenged a narrow defeat by Rotich in the Reebok Boston Indoor Games last weekend (29 Jan - 3:53.18 to 3:53.61), on a 200-meter layout at the Reggie Lewis Center at Roxbury Community College. Yet Rotich was never in contention last night running well back for much of the race before moving up for second place in the latter stages. Lagat glanced back several times in the final quarter in anticipation of a surge by Rotich which never materialized. “He can be behind and kick really hard or he can be following the pace and keep on going,” Lagat said of Rotich, the 1998 and 2002 Wanamaker Mile winner. “You can never predict how he runs.”
Lagat said he felt sluggish during his race in Boston but felt a lot more energetic at Millrose. He spent the week training in New York City, including a hill run at Central Park and a workout with the Manhattan College on Tuesday. “I wasn’t scared (of Rotich),” Lagat said. “My body felt a lot different. The crowd helped me on every turn and straightaway the final two laps letting me know I was close to the record.”
Despite the absence of any speed training, Lagat believes he is in condition to approach 3:50 indoors on a 200m track in the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, next weekend. “My goal is go run faster this year,” Lagat said. “With that in my mind, this is a step forward. It is an indication of a good season to come.”
Hoffa upstages training partner Nelson
Reese Hoffa got the upper hand on training partner Adam Nelson to win the Shot Put with a Madison Square Garden record and career-best 21.62 in the fourth and final round of the competition held in the spotlight in the centre of track.
Former three-time World outdoor champion John Godina was second with an opening round throw of 21.17m but fouled on his final three attempts. Nelson, the double Olympic silver medallist and the winner of the Boston Indoor Games last week, was third on 21.00m exactly, and 2004 World Indoor Champion Christian Cantwell was fourth with 20.37m.
Hoffa’s mark broke Cantwell’s Madison Square Garden record of 21.28m set in 2004. Randy Barnes holds the Millrose Games record of 22.12m set in 1989 in a competition held at Manhattan College. Hoffa, a 2004 U.S. Olympian, but who didn’t pass through the qualification round in Olympia, only had a best effort of 20.19m heading into the final round last night after fouling on two of his three attempts before producing his winning throw. Hoffa said the concentrated on straightening his throw after his other efforts veered to the left.
“I knew I had the possibility of going over 70 feet,” Hoffa said. “I had to make the adjustment in the back of the ring and do everything that I did exactly the same on the last throw. I had some trouble putting it together when I needed to. I finally got to one of those meets where I finally did.”
Hoffa trains with Nelson in Athens, Georgia under the tutelage of University of Georgia throws coach Don Babbitt. Hoffa said the friendly rivalry with Nelson helped him rise on the international level in 2004 and capture a World Indoor silver medal. “Adam is the No. 1 guy in the world so having him there every day in practice elevates the way I practice,” Hoffa said. “The preparation for practice is just like going to a competition so when I come here it’s just like another practice.”
Dragila, Johnson, Clark win again
Other regular Millrose stars, Stacy Dragila, Allen Johnson and Hazel Clark continued their winning ways last night.
Dragila remained undefeated at Millrose to win the women’s Pole Vault for the seventh time with a vault of 4.48m to win comfortably over former NCAA champion Tracy O’Hara (4.28m). Mary Saxer, a senior at Lancaster High (NY) who cleared a high school record 4.27m in the Dartmouth Relays, was sixth at 3.98m.
Johnson, 33, won a duel with 21-year-old French prodigy Ladji Doucoure in the men’s 60m Hurdles, 7.53 to 7.55, for his fourth Millrose win, and the current world season's quickest time.
Clark timed 2:06.00 to win the women’s 800m for the third year in a row. It was the 11th 800m victory for the Clark family at Millrose along with sister Joetta Clark (1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1996 and 2000) and sister-in-law Jearl Miles-Clark (2001).
Miles out-duels Stevenson and Hartwig
Derek Miles won the Millrose men’s Pole Vault for the second time in three years to defeat defending champion Toby Stevenson and Millrose Games record holder Jeff Hartwig. Miles was the only vaulter to clear 5.70m before taking three attempts at a meet record 5.88m. Stevenson and Hartwig finished second and third at 5.60m.
Daigle and Scott are sprint winners
Angela Daigle and Leonard Scott ran to sprint victories respectively in the women’s and men’s 60m. Daigle powered away from Shaunta Pelham for a 7.22 to 7.29 win. LaTasha Colander, the 2004 Olympic Trials 100m champion, was third on 7.30 and 2004 Olympic silver medallist Allyson Felix was fourth in 7.37. The triumph provided redemption for Daigle after being overtaken by Marion Jones at the tape to finish second in the 2004 meet.
In the men’s 60m, Scott with a 6.59 clocking held off Mardy Scales (6.61) and Terrance Trammell (6.64).
Of the other news…
Bershawn Jackson won the men’s 600 yards in 1:10.90, while Berhanu Alemu was the victor in the men's 800 (1:53.44) and Jaime Nieto was the best of the men’s high jumpers (2.27m).
Women’s winners included U.S. 4x400m Olympic relay gold medallist Dee Dee Trotter in the 400m (53.94); World Indoor silver medallist Carmen Douma-Hussar of Canada in the women's Mile (4:32.47); and Linda Ferga-Khodadin of France, who won the 60m Hurdles in 8.01, in a blanket finish over runner-up Danielle Carruthers and third-place Vonette Dixon of Jamaica, who were both timed in 8.02.
Kirby Lee for the IAAF
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