Another Millrose Games victory for Bernard Lagat (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
Preview New York, USA

Lagat challenges the Chairman in New York - Millrose Games preview

Bernard Lagat and Eamonn Coghlan have a lot in common.

Both men have won World championships at 5000m (Coghlan in 1983, Lagat in 2007), both have run a mile faster than 3:50 indoors (the second- and third-fastest of all time, respectively), and both have won the climactic event of the Millrose Games, the Wanamaker Mile, seven times. Lagat's attempt to top Coghlan with an eighth win might be the most dramatic event of the 103rd Millrose Games, the first IAAF Indoor Permit meeting of 2010, to be held Friday evening (29) at New York City's Madison Square Garden.

For all his versatility in the sport, Coghlan's most-frequent successes came in the golden days of the American indoor track circuit, when he set three World records at the mile distance (two in San Diego and one at the Meadowlands, in New York City's New Jersey suburbs) and earned the nickname "Chairman of the Boards." Of the many meetings he raced, the only one remaining is Millrose, where the Madison Square Garden track - in Coghlan's day still actually made out of boards - is crammed into an area designed for nothing larger than a hockey rink.

Lagat, who holds the third-fastest indoor mile mark in history (3:49.89, run in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2005) has not had the same competitive opportunities indoors that Coghlan did, but he does hold the record for the Wanamaker Mile (named for a long-since defunct department store sponsor), 3:52.87 from 2005 (the 98th Millrose Games).

After matching Coghlan's tally of Millrose victories last year, Coghlan suggested that Lagat was now the "co-chairman", but Lagat will face a tough executive challenge before he can claim a title of his own. Beside him on Friday evening's starting line will be the 2008 Olympic gold medallist Asbel Kiprop. Kiprop, all of fifteen years younger than Lagat, may find Lagat's indoor experience the equalizer in New York; this is one chair which cannot be reached through buyout, bailout, or leverage. World Championships silver medallist and defending indoor World 1500m champion Deresse Mekkonnen was scheduled to run but withdrew due to visa difficulties.

World Champions in the short races

The full oval at Madison Square Garden may be challenging, but the 60m straightaway - fit in the arena by temporarily dismantling both banked turns - is as fast as may be found anywhere, and a full field of world class sprinters have lined up to take it on.

There are outdoor World champions entered in both hurdles races, with Perdita Felicien of Canada (2003 World champion) taking on two-time Millrose winner Priscilla Lopes-Schliep in the women's race and Ryan Brathwaite of Barbados, last summer's World champion outdoors, in the men's. Brathwaite will line up against Terrence Trammell and 2009 decathlon World champion Trey Hardee.

In the women's 60m, the unparalleled Veronica Campbell-Brown will return to Madison Square Garden for the first time since she won here in 2006.

Heavyweights in the Shot Put

While the track crew rebuilds the bends after the sprints, World class weight will be thrown around inside the track. Christian Cantwell, Adam Nelson and Reese Hoffa will square away in the men's Shot Put, and though Cantwell is the defending World champion both indoors and out, it was Nelson who walked away with the win last year. Nelson also holds the Madison Square Garden record with a 22.07m toss in 2008 - taking the record from Cantwell - but Cantwell has the season's lead with a 21.32m mark in Nordhausen last weekend. Dan Taylor will round out the four-man field.

Suhr returns to action in the Pole Vault

Jen (Stuczinski) Suhr, the reigning Olympic silver medallist, will return to Pole Vault competition at Millrose as the defending champion this year, after withdrawing from competition in Berlin last summer with an injury. The men's Pole Vault will feature Tim Mack, Derek Miles, and Berlin's bronze medal-winning Renaud Lavillenie of France.

Another World champion on the track will be 2005 400m Hurdles champion Bershawn Jackson, contesting the 600y with Trinidad & Tobago's Rennie Quow. Quow, the bronze medalist in the flat 400m in Berlin, won the Millrose 600m last year, but lost to Jackson in 2007.

NFL stars square off in ‘Super 60’

With American football quiet this weekend before next weekend's Super Bowl, Millrose organizers will stage a special "Super 60" on Friday evening. The race will feature a full field of NFL athletes, all with Super Bowl experience, many of whom had their day on the track as collegiate athletes before entering pro football. While several younger stars will hit the track Friday evening, track fans will have their eyes on Willie Gault, part of the USA's World record-setting 4x100m Relay at the first IAAF World Championships in Helsinki 1983.

Gault, who holds masters World records at 100m and 200m, has been credited with a recent mark of 4.27 for 40 yards, a benchmark distance for football players.

Parker Morse for the IAAF