New York, USABernard Lagat's quest for a historic 8th Wanamaker Mile title was rewarded on Friday evening (29th) at the 103rd Millrose Games, held in New York City's Madison Square Garden arena.
On the tight 11-laps-per-mile track, Lagat and Olympic gold medallist Asbel Kiprop duelled at the front until the final laps, when Lagat showed a late-race turn of speed which left Kiprop flat-footed. The victory put Lagat ahead of Eamonn Coghlan, who won the Wanamaker seven times in his career. Coghlan was the starter for Lagat's race.
The 103rd edition of the Millrose Games is the first of ten IAAF Indoor Permit Meetings for 2010.
Following pacemaker David Krummenacker through quarter-mile splits of
58.4 and 1:57.9, Kiprop looked sharp, bobbing up to Krummenacker's shoulder as Lagat tucked in behind with Andy Baddeley running fourth.
When Krummenacker stepped off Kiprop appeared to welcome the chance to stretch out his long legs, and it looked like he might keep the lead until, approaching the bell, Lagat burst to the front with a sprint Kiprop appeared to have no answer for.
"I was looking back (before making the move) because Andy caught me here (in the Fifth Avenue Mile) last September," said Lagat. "I thought Kiprop would respond, too, but by the time he was covering the ground it was a little too late. Coach Li told me before the race, make sure you run smart. I was going to take the pace when the pacemaker stepped off, but when Kiprop took it I let it go. I was not worried, it felt very comfortable.
"That's the speed I've been working on. I wanted to make the move earlier. I've been training for the 5000m this year, but I still need that speed."
"To me it is like winning the Olympics today. I've been here since 2001, and today I'm signing autographs for kids who in 2001 were not even born."
Lagat's last quarter split was announced as 56.5, and his finishing time was 3:56.34. Kiprop came in at 3:58.03. Lagat is slated to race 5,000m indoors next week, in Boston.
Cantwell just warming up
Christian Cantwell produced a 21.95m toss in the fourth of four rounds to take the men's Shot Put, besting defending champion and Madison Square Garden record-holder Adam Nelson. Nelson's best was a 20.51m effort in the third round; he took third, with Reese Hoffa second with 20.59m. Any one of Cantwell's four marks would have won the competition; his worst mark was 21.36m and he left the track itching for two more attempts.
"With six throws I think I could get out a little farther," he said.
"I think I can get close to the World record, and I want it real bad."
Millrose's format, which runs the Shot Put as the only event while the bends on the track are restored after the sprints, is "90% terrifying and 10% exhilarating," said Cantwell. "You don't want to screw up with all those people watching, but that brief second when you get a good mark is thrilling. With only four throws, you have to pin your ears back early."
The reigning World champion both indoors and out, Cantwell also has his sights set on Doha. "Nobody's ever won three" World Indoor titles in the Shot Put, he says. "If this is any indicator, watch out."
Three wins over five for Trammell, Lopes-Schliep
Terrence Trammell and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep each won their third Millrose titles in the 60m Hurdles. Trammell simply ran away from 2009 outdoor World champion Ryan Brathwaite of Barbados over the first three hurdles, finishing out in 7.49 to Brathwaite's 7.61. Decathlon World champion Trey Hardee opened his 2010 season with a 7.78 clocking in third.
"I'm happy with the win, but I expected a faster time," said Trammell. "It felt like a decent start. I like competing in New York, and Millrose is like the Rose Bowl."
The duel of Canadians in the women's Hurdles turned out to be a duel between Lopes-Schliep (8.01) and Tiffany Ofili (8.04), with Virginia Powell (8.07) catching Perdita Felicien (8.10) at the line for third.
"Tiffany got out well and made me work at the end," said Lopes-Schliep. "There were a lot of girls there gunning for it. You never know when it's going to be somebody else's day."
Lopes-Schliep professed to relish the close race. "I had to work off the last hurdle," she said. "I'm doing what I love doing, which is running the hurdles. Technique is a huge thing in this race, and you never know who's coming up. It keeps me on my toes."
Barber by an eyelash in women's 60m
Melisa Barber scored an upset over Veronica Campbell-Brown in a tight women's 60m, with Barber getting the nod in 7.24 over Campbell-Brown, who was awarded the same time. Barber's time to thousandths was 7.237, with Campbell-Brown at 7.240 and Muna Lee in third at 7.25 (7.243), the first three within a hundredth of a second.
"I'm not happy with the time, but I'm happy with the win," said Barber, repeating a common early-season theme. The race was Barber's first win at Millrose and her first race since winning the U.S. indoor title in 2009. "I didn't run for seven months" while rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon, Barber said.
The men's 60m was almost as close, with Ivory Williams getting the nod over Michael Rodgers, 6.59 to 6.60. "I am my own competition," said Williams, who got the best start of the field and was never headed. "I pretty much stumbled down the track," Williams said.
Chelsea Johnson class of the vault
Chelsea Johnson, the 2009 World Championships silver medallist in the women's Pole Vault, capitalized on the absence of American record-holder and 2009 Millrose winner Jenn Suhr in New York much as she did in Berlin. Johnson won the women's Pole Vault with a 4.51m clearance and raised the bar to 4.65m, where she had "two good attempts," she said. Johnson opened at 4.31m and advanced through 4.41m and 4.51m without a miss. Becky Holliday was the only other vaulter to clear 4.41m.
"I felt fast and prepared to jump high," Johnson said.
The men's vault went to Mark Hollis over Derek Miles and Tim Mack.
Hollis and Miles both cleared 5.60m, with Hollis winning on countback.
Hollis, who was fourth at the U.S. nationals last year and just outside selection for Berlin, hopes to qualify for his first national team in 2010.
"Things were starting to come together last year," he said. "I feel like I'm ready now."
Tight turns and tight races
Other action on the track saw Hannah England taking the women's mile in 4:31.48 over Sara Hall (4:31.50). It was England's first run on the Millrose track but "I took the opportunity of consulting with some people who knew it," she explained, and as a result ran a perfect strategy to hold off the fast-closing Hall. "Last year I was holding off the late closer," observed Hall, often second at Millrose, "and when I was in high school I won here with the strategy I used today."
Bershawn Jackson led for the length of the men's 600 yard race, running 1:11.26 to hold off Edino Steele (1:11.30) of Jamaica. "I want to go undefeated this year," said Jackson. "I need to show the world I'm still number one."
Monica Hargrove won the women's 400m in 55.07, and the men's 800m went to Boaz Lalang, a training partner of Lagat's in Arizona, in 1:50.51.
Sheree Francis won the women's high jump with a 1.88m clearance.
A special 60m race featuring athletes from the American football NFL was won by Anthony Dorsett Jr. in 7.01. Willie Gault, a former world record holder in the 4x100m, was third in 7.07.
Parker Morse for the IAAF
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