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Lagat, Mottram Ready for 2008 Wanamaker Mile Showdown
Bernard Lagat and Craig Mottram addressed the media on Wednesday in advance of their rematch at this year's Wanamaker Mile on Friday at the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden in NY.
Last year the Wanamaker Mile featured a three way showdown of Lagat, Mottram, and American miler Alan Webb. Webb was a non-factor after leading the first half. Lagat ended up shooting past Mottram on the first turn of the final lap to get his fifth Wanamaker win in 3:54.26.
Lagat acknowledged last year he wasn't sure he could get past the big Mottram (6' 3") on the tight Millrose turns on the final lap. Lagat said, "At some point I thought the race as gone... because Craig ran really hard the last 2 laps...I want to be leading with 2 laps to go.... I had to adjust my strategy. It was really hard (but) I had this winning instinct in my. I just had to get it."
Lagat is motivated to try and pass the record seven Wanamaker titles by the "Chairman of the Boards", Eamonn Coghlan, of Ireland. Lagat will be aiming for #6 this year, but it's not getting any easier for the 33 year old Lagat. As he said, "Every year its gets tougher and tougher. The most important thing is for me to just win. I'm going for my sixth win. It has become now something I want every year to win and try and actually pass the Chairman of the Boards."
Mottram is coming off a disappointing end to his 2007 season where he developed a hamstring problem and bombed in the World Championship final after running superbly during the earlier part of the year. He started out 2008 with an impressive 3000m win with the fastest time ever indoors (7:34.50) on American soil last weekend at the Reebok Boston Games.
Mottram usually entertains in any interview he gives (anyone remember this), and he didn't disappoint on
Mottram, Lagat Press Conference Video (14:53)
Wednesday. A journalist asked him if he had recovered fully from his hamstring problems and Mottram just cut him off and matter of factly said "100%". Then the journalist tried to ask if he had recovered mentally and Mottram emphatically said, "100%" (in video to left) before the journalist could finish his sentence.
Clearly Mottram's problems in 2007 did not diminish his confidence and he'll be hoping to run hard and compete once again. He said on the Wanamaker mile, "The aim for this week as it was last year is just to come and run hard. I get no benefit traveling 13-14,000 miles to come here and jog around and run 4:05. It doesn't help me in any way. I've come here to run hard. I don't know what time that will be."
Mottram said the winter meets provide some mental stimulation and help break up the monotony of training: "This is just something that is a bit exciting. It stimulates you a little bit. It gets you out of that mundane routine of running 100 110 miles a week... (I) go to two great cities, have a good time and get two hard races in and in the process meet up with a lot of people who you enjoy their company when you're in Europe."
Mottram and Lagat both said they think the race will be fast just due to the quality of the field (themselves and World Champs finalist Nick Willis are the heavyweights). They ran 3:54 last year and both expect it to be as fast this year.
Lagat's season started out fine with a 2nd place at the Reebok Grand Prix and a 2nd at the Prefontaine Mile. At US Nationals he won the 5000m, but was only 3rd in the 1500. Many assumed perhaps he was a bit tired from the 5000m and losing to Alan Webb was not a bad lost at all (we bet a lot of people forgot Leonel Manzano beat him as well).
Then when Lagat went to Europe and as he said "the problem got worse." Only 7th (in 3:35) at the Paris League Golden League Meet won by Alan Webb and 3rd in Sheffield the next week only running 3:36. This from a guy who used to run low 3:30s in his sleep.
Doubts entered the mind of the man who would go on to be double world champion at the World Champs. After his early season races he said, "I started questioning myself. Is it going to be like this the entire season?"
Lagat then took nearly 3 weeks off until his next race as his coach (Arizona coach James Li) told him "to just focus on Osaka." Lagat said he felt confidence in his coach's ability to peak him at the right time.
Lagat won his next race a 1500m in Great Britain in a modest 3:35.71, but a win is a win. In his next race he was only 3rd in a 1000m race in Stockholm, but his time was very fast (2:16.25) and a personal best. (Lagat lost by over 1 second to Bilal Mansour Ali who ran a world leader).
Lagat said of his last two races in Europe before Worlds, "I got confidence.. It changed my mind completely. I believed in everything I had been doing. I believed in my training. I believed in my strength and my experience. Going into Osaka it was a different me."
And the rest is history.
Lagat will run the 1500 in Birmingham, England on the February 16th, then run a 3000m in Stockholm on the 21st and then call it a season, skipping World Indoors.
Mottram will run a 5000m outdoors in Australia and then end his indoor season at the World Champs in Valencia, Spain the weekend of March 7-9.
It's hard to believe Dragila and Stuczynski have rarely vaulted against each other but Dragila was getting injured right when Stuczynski was just taking up the pole vault (Stuczynski played basketball and did track in college, but did not take up the pole vault until April 2004). The first time they vaulted against each other was last year's adidas Outdoor Meet where Stuczynski took down Dragila's American outdoor record.
Stuczynski did not vault well at Millrose last year (only 4th), but is hoping to excel this year on what is perhaps vaulting's biggest stage (it seems to us Millrose the last few years has become largely the Wanamaker Mile and the pole vault (which has great sight liens at Millrose as the crowd is right on the track), plus 1 top field event (shot put) and 1 top track event (60m hurdles this year for women), plus a lot of local races).
Stuczynski said on trying to excel in the bright lights, "I'm hoping for a good jump and a win...(In the past at Millrose) I think I got to excited. This year I really need to focus. I'm going to stay a little calmer."
Stuczynski practices in the bitter winter of upstate New York near Rochester in basically a shed with no heat besides a propane tank. So the temperature is nearly what it is outside minus the windchill. But it's what has worked best for Stuczynski and she continues to do it. For a while, she said a high school girl who was vaulting 9' 6" was in there with her, but now it's just her and her coach. 1 minute video clip below where Stuczynski talks about vaulting with snowdrifts and frost.
Jenn Stuczynski on Vaulting in Freezing Temperatures
*For coverage of Kara Goucher's new enthusiasm for the marathon, and her indication she may run the marathon this year click here for our other story on Kara addressing the media at the pre Millrose Press Conference
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