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Full House Watches Webb Win Rbk Mile at Reebok Grand Prix
By David Monti
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (02-Jun) -- With a boisterous crowd of 5000 filling the grandstand at Ichan Stadium, Alan Webb won the first significant mile

of the season with an overwhelming kick, handing both Bernard Lagat and Craig Mottram with rare defeats at the third annual Reebok Grand Prix on Manhattan's Randall's Island.

The win provided Webb, 24, with much-needed dose of redemption.  In his last race in front of New York City fans, he watched from well behind as Lagat and Mottram finished 1-2 in the Wanamaker Mile at the 100th Millrose Games last February.  It is a race which Webb remembers all too well.

"The last time I was in New York City wasn't my finest hour," said Webb after the race.

But tonight, he timed his effort to perfection.  Pacemakers Moise Joseph and Justus Koech became separated from the field after the 57+ second first lap, so Lagat decided to control the contenders' pack and ended up doing a lot of the work.  Both Webb and Mottram kept Lagat in sight as did Suleiman Simotwo.  Lagat built a slight lead going into the final lap of the race, but did not want to get ahead of himself.

"I wanted to run smart over there," Lagat said referring to the pentultimate turn before the finish.  "But Alan had a stronger kick, honestly."

Mottram had come up on Webb's shoulder on the backstraight, and the two were right behind Lagat as all three came into the final turn.  That's when Webb turned on the speed, shooting away from Mottram and quickly overtaking Lagat.

"I was just in the right place at the right time," said Webb.  He added: "I wasn't quite ready to go, yet.  Obviously, with 100 meters to go I gave it everything I had.  The rest is history."

Raising his hands with elbows bent like a preacher, Webb looked to the crowd with a big smile before breaking the tape in 3:52.94, bettering Rashid Ramzi's meet record of 3:53.55 set last year.  Lagat finished second in 3:53.88, with Mottram third in 3:54.54.  Nine men broke the four-minute barrier.

Lagat, who has yet to do much speed work, wasn't surprised by Webb's strong performance.  Nonetheless, he found himself in the rare position of being outkicked by someone other than the legendary Hicham El Guerrouj.

"I'm not so sure about it," answered Lagat when he was asked when was the last time he was passed in the last 100 meters of a race.  "I can't remember, really.  It's been a while."

Mottram, who is preparing to try to win his second medal at an IAAF World Championship at 5000m, was pleased with his effort.

"I ran good," said the big man from Geelong who had shaved the beard he had sported at the Healthy Kidney 10-K two weeks before.  "I'm happy with the way I ran."

Webb's time was not a world leader; his solo 3:51.71 at the Drake Relays on 28-Apr remains the fastest time in the world so far this year.

*   *   *    *

In other middle and long distance action, the high humidity, warm air and a bit of wind made fast times difficult to achieve.  Nonetheless, Tariku Bekele broke the U.S. all-comer's record for 5000m with a solo 13:04.05.  He beat Micah Kogo (13:13.53) and Edwin Soi (13:16.68).  Anthony Famiglietti had a disappointing race finishing in 13:54.92; he had hoped to threaten the 13 minute barrier.

"I was trying so hard not to drop out," said Famiglietti, a New Yorker, who still mustered a good sprint to the finish.  "What I took away from it is that I can finish a race hard when I'm in pain."

Tirunesh Dibaba won the women's 5000m easily in 14:35.67, but fell short of Meseret Defar's world record of 14:24.53 set at this meeting last year.  New Zealand's Kim Smith ran 15:15.22 to finish second.

Hazel Clark edged Treniere Clement in the Western Union Women's 800m, 1:59.07 to 1:59.15, while Khadevis Robinson won the men's two-lapper going away in 1:46.38.  Malindi Elmore won the women's 1500m with a long sprint in 4:07.01.

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