Lagat Caps 2010 Millrose Games With Record 8th Title

The Scoop and All The Stories From Madison Square Garden

January 30, 2010

(If you just want to read an article on Lagat, Sporting Life has a long one here)

Kenyan-American Bernard Lagat won his 8th Wanamaker Mile in Madison Square Garden, breaking the record of seven wins held by Irish great Eamonn Coghlan, who was on hand to witness the event and congratulate Lagat. Waiting behind Kenyan Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop and rabbit David Krummenacker, Lagat pounced with 150m to go and ran away from Kiprop and Briton Andy Baddeley to win by a sizeable margin.

The Wanamaker Mile with Bernard Lagat has rarely been suspenseful as he usually wins by a large amount. But as the 2010 race progressed, the suspense was really evident as nobody knew if he'd be able to blow Kiprop's doors off at the end or if the Kenyan running his first-ever indoor race would have an extra gear that the elder Lagat couldn't handle.

It turned out that Lagat had the tools to put away the field all while making it look smooth and easy. The crowd of perhaps 10-12,000 appreciative track fans stood and applauded as Lagat finished another victorious Wanamaker in classic and decisive style.

Briton Andy Baddeley lamented his lack of tactical courage after the race, saying he knew he needed to be in 1st or 2nd at the bell lap. Instead he was in 3rd right behind Lagat and Kiprop. Lagat's move, however, left the crowd roaring and everyone else sucking wind.

Coming over from Kenya for his first-ever indoor competition, Kiprop was disturbed after the race, complaining of shortness of breath, coughing, and being very cold. Almost inconceivably skinny, Kiprop put on a puffy down coat and signed autograph after autograph after the race. He seemed to be wishing he never tried this "racing indoor" thing. He told us after the race that in the future he thinks he will stick to outdoor races in New York despite his fans wanting to see him race more. He also said he thought Lagat should not retire as he still is very strong. We have to agree. Lagat can run this well in late January even in his mid-30's. He is far, far from over the hill and is still a very legitimate elite athlete.

One of our favorite moments from what is a very fun meet came around 6 o'clock when we went to the athlete warming/cooling area and saw Asbel Kiprop surrounded by kids asking him to sign their shoes and shirts and in some cases body parts. Kiprop, with eyes totally bloodshot and the most naturally skinny body you will ever see, stood and signed patiently and laughed as we asked the kids if Kiprop was going to win that night. We took a video of the scene and you can watch it to the left. It was good to see that one of our favorite runners was getting a good welcome in New York City. This theme of Kiprop being sort of mobbed by kids from the age of 10 to over 20 was a common theme all night. He didn't take a single step of warm-down after the race with all the people around him asking for autographs and pictures. He didn't turn anyone down.

Before the race, the crowd was introduced to some special guests of honor. Four excellent milers were introduced, starting with Irishman Ray Flynn, Villanova coach and Irish miler Marcus O'Sullivan, former American HS mile record-holder Jim Ryun was next followed by Eamonn Coghlan who not only won 7 Wanamaker Miles but also ran under 4:00 for the mile an astounding 83 times including 1 time as a Master's runner (O'Sullivan ran under 4:00 101 times). The mile tallies do not include 1500m conversions and really shows how the guys back then raced much more than most of today's athletes. To run 100 miles under 4:00 is almost inconceivable as very few people will have the longevity to run 100 mile races in their professional and collegiate careers let alone break 4:00 in all of them.

College Men's 4x800m - Robby Andrews Kicks To Another Big Millrose Win
University of Virginia freshman Robby Andrews anchored the Cavalier team to a Millrose relay title as he easily outkicked NYAC's Brendon Mahoney to win the college 4x800m. You may be wondering why the New York Athletic Club was in the college mile. Don't worry, we're wondering the same thing. The NYAC team was composed of post-collegians Sean Tully, Rob Novak, Steve Sherer and Mahoney. UVA, who ran 7:26 and 7:27 with 2 teams at the Va. Tech meet a week ago, took care of the pros thanks to solid runs from all 4 legs.

Last year Andrews exploded in his last 200m to take the HS boys mile. It was a kick to remember. It was a kick for the ages. This year he kicked away from Mahoney in a fairly similar fashion. How good is Mahoney? He's a 4:00 miler and a 1:50 guy at best indoors (he has run faster on oversized indoor tracks). So Andrews had a good finish but it wasn't like he blew the doors off of a 1:46 indoor guy.

Pat Schellberg goes 2:12, 2:02 to take boys' high school mile over Anthony Kostelac.
In a sign of things to come, UNC-bound Pat Schellberg took the boys' mile in impressive fashion, closing in 2:02 to win by a couple seconds over UVA-bound Anthony Kostelac. Now that UNC has decided to throw some more support towards men's cross country, more top high school boys will be signing up to become Tar Heels under former Auburn coach Pete Watson.

Sara Hall Runs Really Well In Narrow Mile Loss To Hannah England
Though she didn't win, Asics' Sara Hall ran a great race to almost defeat Great Britain miler Hannah England in the professional women's mile that also included many-time NCAA champion Sally Kipyego from and Penn Relays standout Sarah Bowman. Running in a rabbited race that went out hard, England and Hall asserted themselves in the latter stages as Bowman, running indoors in sunglasses again, relinquished her lead. England, a 2-time NCAA champion while at Florida State, led the charge but Hall challenged her strongly and narrowly missed the win as both ran strong 4:31 miles on the tight turns of Millrose. Hall will next race the 3000m at Boston Indoor Games before focusing on cross country.

Men's 800m - Boaz Lalang Wins As Expected - Duane Solomon Should Be Sponsored
Both Rojo and Employee #1 agreed that Boaz Lalang should take the men's 800m and he did just that with an easy 1:50 win over USC graduate Duane Solomon. Talking to Lalang after the race, the Eldoret, Kenya native says he is training in Arizona with Bernard Lagat and Abdi Abdirahman. Lalang, competing for adidas, plans to run world indoors and Commonwealths in 2010.

As we talked with Solomon, we realized that he was wearing some adidas, some Puma and some Nike. The man has no sponsor and is working out with former 800m stud Johnny Gray in Santa Monica and working at USC. Starting with Gray in September, Solomon says he's been doing a lot more endurance stuff than ever before (he used to train with US 800m stalwart Khadevis Robinson). We'll see how Solomon does this year as he tries to make the US indoor worlds team at the US Championships in Albequerque, New Mexico in March. Solomon had more in the tank than Prince Mumba and 2008 US Olympican Christian Smith.

Cory McGee of Mississippi Wins After 3 Runner-ups
After finishing 2nd in her previous 3 Millrose hs girls mile attempts, Cory McGee won in convincing fashion on Friday night. She ran a very solid 4:52 and looked great doing it. Cross country star Aisling Cuffe shook off mid-race struggles to charge through the field for a clear 2nd-place showing over, among others, Emily Lipari.

Shot Put tops the field events
American world champion Christian Cantwell put on the best show in the men's shot put as all four of his throws went over 70 feet. His last throw truly energized the crowd as he threw for over 72 feet and almost toppled rival Adam Nelson's meet record of 72'6" set in 2007. Nelson, Dan Taylor and Reese Hoffa struggled to find their best form as any of Cantwell's 4 attempts would have easily won the competition. We thought his third throw was mis-marked by the tuxedo-clad Millrose officials as it appeared to be about a 71 foot throw but was marked at just over 70'. Luckily his last throw did justice to his efforts.  

For the most part the other field events were uneventful. The worst was the women's high jump as they had not a single big name. This is unfortunate as Blanka Vlasic was originally scheduled to compete. The men's pole vault was disappointing as Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie didn't have his A-game. The crowd nonetheless loved the acrobats and was oo-ing and ahh-ing during the warm-up jumps before the competition even got going. Last year we got spoiled with Aussie Steve Hooker going for 6.00m clearances as he was definitely at his best in January.

The women's pole vault was won by Chelsea Johnson, the surprise US silver medal winner at the 2009 IAAF World Championships. Jenn Suhr (Stuczynski) pulled out of the competition in the final days so there was no real drama in the women's vault.

Willie Gault Is The Unheralded Performer Of The Night
49-year-old Willie Gault impressed everyone in the arena when he ran the "Super 60" against guys that were in some cases 20 years his junior. Anthony Dorsett, Jr. ended up winning the race composed of 5 former Super Bowl champions in a 60m dash. He won narrowly over Philip Buchanon and Gault, who still managed a 7.09 clocking despite being almost 50 years old. Gault looked great and even smoked former Big Ten 100m champion and kickoff return speedster Tim Dwight who couldn't crack the 7.20's. Dwight is 34 and was older than Buchanon, Dorsett, Jr. and the other guy who clearly should not have even been in the race as he looked like he was hobbling down the track.

Some track purists thought this event was a further disgrace to the sport of track, but as one long-time track spectator told us during the meet, "Track has no mass appeal." The statement is totally accurate as MSG was only partially full and almost everyone in the stadium knew someone competing or was a former track athlete. It's not like football or basketball where people who have no connection to the players will pay large sums of money to sit for a couple hours and watch a game. The Super 60 was the only Millrose article to make it in the New York Times before Friday and so it served its purpose, mainly to provide some much-needed exposure for a sport that not a whole lot of people are following.

The Sprints
Terrence Trammell was the star of the sprints as he won the men's 60m hurdles over world champ Ryan Brathwaite and other good hurdlers. Last year he wore a purple speed suit that would have made the artist formerly known as Prince proud. This year, same sponsor but more mundane white suit. Trammell got the crowd pumped and is a good showman. Other than that, Michigan alum Tiffany Ofili had a good indoor pro debut even in a loss to Canadian power-lifter- ahem - sprinter Priscilla Lopes-Schliep in the hurdles. In the flat sprints Ivory Williams scored a big upset to take the men's race over guys like Daniel Bailey and Michael Rodgers.

We want to write more but it's almost 3am so it's probably time to stop. Overall it was a great meet with a really dramatic last few races. The crowd was going nuts for the mile as well as the boys 4x800m Catholic School race right before it. One school (Regis, we think) had 500 kids there and another school had half of their senior class there and it all came down to a surprise winner with a huge kick on the last lap. The mix of HS, college and pro (and little kids) was fun. The meet still needs to tinker with some things like the music playing over the loudspeakers and taking better care of the elites in the media area but it sure seemed like most fans had a good experience.

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