Millrose Recap - Lagat Goes Down, Evening Entertains

LRC's On-The-Scene Critics Recap The Meet Conversationally

By Emory Mort And Doug Krisch
January 29th, 2011

The Wanamaker Mile: Deresse Mekonnen Holds Off Lagat's Late Charges To Score Big Win In Young Career
Emory: The top story of the night has to be Bernard Lagat getting squarely beaten by perhaps the only guy in the world who could run the boards at Millrose better than himself.

DK: In the post-race press conference, Lagat spoke about how well his workouts have been going and how strong he feels right now. This was not so much Lagat being off, but Deresse Mekonnen being dialed in to racing on that track. It was a really smart 4-lap to go move and it displayed the chess match that is 11-lap-to-the mile racing. When Lagat responded with his counter-move, Mekonnen held him off. Lagat tried again and both times he couldn't get around him. The race was over with a lap to go, wasn't it?

EM: Mekonnen also mentioned afterwards that his move with 4 laps to go was a move to secure 2nd place. That was really surprising because he ended up dominating Lagat, the big winner of 8 Wanamaker miles, at his own game. Mekonnen said it wasn't until the last lap that he thought he could win.

DK: Lagat took the loss as you'd expect Lagat to take it. He's such a devoted and respectful competitor. He mentioned that he's more motivated than ever to come back to Millrose next year and in future years. Observing the race, he looked great, he just got beat. And that's the way he looks at it. He's very excited for his season. He talked about his plans to go after the US 2-mile indoor national record and said some of his workouts have been as fast as ever. He's looking to go to Australia in early March to get an outdoor World Championships qualifier in the 5k. He said he's in 13:10 shape right now.


Mekonnen Is The World's Best Indoor Miler
EM: Any comments on Mekonnen? Kenenisa Bekele couldn't beat Lagat here several years ago (he lost by 5 seconds). So what do Mekonnen's 2 indoor world 1,500 championships and this Millrose win mean? Also, what is your take on his supposedly being 23?

DK: From his warmups to his presence at the press conference to his in-race tactics, he just doesn't seem like a 23-year-old kid. I'm not saying he's trying to hide his age but I just wanted to note that he simply carries himself like a very mature racer.

EM: I think Mekonnen is the best indoor miler in the world. Which is somewhat strange for a guy who trains in Ethiopia and never runs on indoor tracks.

DK: He's quiet and serious, but he also had some interesting comments after the race. He says he would definitely come back to the race because "the spectators had a lot of love for the athletes."

EM: And it was true, the presentation of the Wanamaker Mile was great and the crowd was roaring. From the singing of the national anthem in the dark arena to the spotlight introductions of the athletes, finishing with Lagat, the race was very dramatic, even more so because Lagat lost.

Wanamaker Mile Results

1 Deresse Mekonnen ETH 3:58.58            
 2 Bernard Lagat USA 3:59.01            
 3 David Torrence USA 4:00.13            
 4 Lee Emanuel GBR 4:04.91            
 5 Rob Novak USA 4:06.11            
 6 Peter van der Westhuizen RSA 4:15.82            
 DNF Matt Scherer USA  


Oregon Sweeps Boys HS Mile
DK: I did not expect to see the Oregon bat signal being flashed 3 times at the finish of the boys HS Mile.

EM: So in case you didn't see it, Chad Noelle edged Matt Jablonski in 4:16 with Jeramy Elkaim coming in third. Immediately after the race, the top-3 flashed the "O" hand signal that the Ducks do when they're happy. That's right, Oregon isn't just getting Lukas Verzbicas next year; they're also getting the TOP-FRIGGIN-3 from the Millrose boys mile.

DK: There is a notorious NYC HS character named "Skeete" who took the race out in sub-60 for the first 440. He had about a 30-meter lead on the field after like 2 laps. He didn't really serve as a great pacer because they didn't really go with him. The splits were 60 (63 for the leaders), 2:07 (2:08), 3:16 (they catch Skeete) and 4:16.

EM: After the race, the top 3 took a trio victory lap with several more "O" flashings as they jogged around the track. I talked to Noelle after the race for a while and he mentioned that he talked to his future coach Vin Lananna last night about some racing strategy.

DK: We're witnessing the Chad Noelle experiment. About 18 months ago He was playing soccer in the fall, karate in the winter and running in the spring because his school in central NY didn't have indoor or cross-country. Now he's a Foot Locker finalist, a sub-4:10 guy. He looks like he's going to be the real deal.

EM: I'm willing to say he is probably the #2 recruit in the country behind Verzbicas. And he might end up being better than Verzbicas. The kid has all the tools, he's been doing strength training (mentioned a recent 5 x mile workout), he's flexible and balanced, he's just an animal. He's undertrained and fresh and I think he's going to be an absolute monster, but I'm not sure if he's a miler or a 5k-er. Somehow I think they'll figure it out.

DK: Well, lets not get too far ahead of ourselves here. There are a lot miles between a high school star and a college star and beyond. I think the potential is there, and I think the karate is key. I mean c'mon, karate plus central New York toughness, sent over to Lananna's farm ... the potential is there and it will be a good story to follow.

EM: Mark my words, he's gonna be up there with Centro Jr.

Boys Mile Results

1 Chad Noelle Greene 4:16.71            
 2 Matt Jablonski Loyola Blakefield 4:16.88            
 3 Jeramy Elkaim Livingston 4:19.60            
 4 Miles Schoedler Ocean City 4:20.46            
 5 Jeff LaCoste Bishop Guertin 4:22.54            
 6 Mike Mazzaccaro CBA, NJ 4:23.01            
 7 Zavon Watkins Liverpool 4:29.19            
 8 Tim Luthin Warwick Valley 4:30.34            
 9 Owen Skeete Westbury 4:31.40            
 10 Tommy Awad Chaminade 4:35.61  


Sara Hall - Great Win Followed By A Plea To Her Husband To Shave His Beard
EM: Next Topic - Sara Hall winning on her tenth anniversary of her high school mile triumph.

DK: Talking with her after the race, she mentioned that when she won the high school mile in 2001, it was a close nip at the line over Erin Donohue. This win was triumphant and she looked as strong as I have ever seen her. She won pulling away.

EM: Sara said she's being coached by her old Stanford coach and that she goes back and forth between Flagstaff, AZ ('s "best place in the world to train") and Palo Alto. She also said she's pulling for Ryan to shave his beard because it must be slowing him down. I'm pretty sure she just thought it was ugly (Ryan did shave his mountain-man beard before running Houston Half the next morning).

DK: Exciting also to hear that Sara has been working on her hurdling in preparation for some steeples this year.

EM: Gotta get those ankles and lower legs strong enough for coming out of the water pits and jumping all race. And run a lot of miles, or whatever the God/Paula Radcliffe plan says. That's the best advice I got.


Top Quotes - Eaton = Animal, And Elite Love For
DK:  Lets give a quick top-quote interlude: I'll go first ... Eaton, multi-event indoor world record holder beats both the Olympic champ and the World Champ in a three event Millrose multi special.

EM: I asked him what he is learning in some of his early competitions with Bryan Clay and Trey Hardee. He said with a smart smile, "I learned they could be beat."

DK: We also asked him if his 60 hurdles time was a record. He said, "Yeah, it's some kind of multi-event record." His performance in the hurdles was amazing (7.64) and makes him the 3rd-fastest man in the world in that event this year. For perspective, last year, world champ Ryan Brathwaite ran the pro 60h in 7.61 at MSG.

EM: Switching gears, I talked with Peter van der Westhuizen after the mile. He had a disaster 4:15. I learned a lot about him (he trains in Omaha after attending Nebraska after growing up in Johannesburg, RSA and has been coached by his father his whole life) but the most important thing is that he immediately said he's a big fan of and that he's spreading it to all the other young runners in South Africa. His quote was: "My wife gets mad at me for being on the site too much." He also talked about the amazing amount of talent in South Africa. His Dad is coaching a young South African who has never trained in anything but a worn-out pair of shoes. Well, he's gone out and run 1:47 and so they got him his first new pair of running spikes.

What else do you got?

DK: After the mile, I was able to sit down with David Torrence, who finished 3rd in the Wanamaker Mile (4:00.13) and was sitting on the Lagat/Mekonnen lead train late in the race. I must admit that I was expecting him to be excited after running so close to Mekonnen and Lagat. Instead, he was somewhat disappointed. As he took off his spikes in the Milllrose catacombs, he said, "I was in the mix, but I had no response (when the move came)."

His goals for the year are as expected, "To make the team." The Worlds team, that is. "To make the team, it will take a 3:33 or better."

"Make the team these days and you are in the talks for top five at Worlds. I am a little under the radar screen, there are many at the top these days - it sucks being a 3:34 guy being somewhat unnoticed, but it says a lot about U.S. distance running these days."

Before we departed, I threw up a softball for David: "Do you have a quote for the letsrun faithful?"

He paused from putting on his warm-ups. "Keep talkin' shit. Lots of pros don't like it, but I find it fuels my fire."


Setting The Record Straight: Millrose Not As Chill As We Thought, Also Ajee Wilson Disappoints In Girls Mile
EM: Despite the elite love for LetsRun, I have to say that we did get kicked out of the athlete area for the first time in my long career in covering Millrose.

DK: I can't really blame them, I probably would have kicked us out of there too. Plus, they apologized afterwards for over-reacting.

EM: Yeah, I had a great time and we got to talk to everyone we needed to. I can't believe I didn't find out where the after-party was. That was a major shortcoming on our part.

DK: Why didn't we talk to any of the HS girls after their mile that you pumped up in your preview? It was a great race.

EM: I kind of slipped up on that one. You know, if you're covering a football game, you talk to the athletes after the game. You don't have to leave the game to talk to the athletes. I don't think people understand just how hard my job is. The big surprise in the mile wasn't the top 3 (I picked them in the preview). The surprise was 2:00 800 runner Ajee Wilson getting dropped by CT's star Lindsay Crevoiserat and both of them getting outkicked by the more patient Samantha Nadel.

DK: You predicted a possible sub-4:40. How'd that work out for you?

EM: Well, they went out in 66 and then ran a couple 76s before closing fast. Wilson didn't have the gears I was expecting. If you can run 2:00 you can break 4:40, but she's not ready for the mile yet, I guess. One of these top-3 girls is going to run a huge time this winter.

Girls Mile Results

1 Samantha Nadel North Shore 4:50.58            
 2 Lindsay Crevoiserat Glastonbury 4:51.10            
 3 Ajee Wilson Neptune 4:52.45            
 4 Haley Pierce Tatnall 4:53.27            
 5 Rachel Paul Sachem East 4:59.23            
 6 Angel Piccirillo Home Center 4:59.38            
 7 Brianna Nerud North Shore 5:01.48            
 8 Mary Kate Anselmini Ward Melville 5:01.70            
 9 Madeline Dulac McDonogh 5:06.84            
 10 Molly McNamara Red Bank Catholic 5:09.92


The Presentation - Millrose Could Be On The Way Up
EM: Lets talk about the Millrose circus. Was the product entetaining for the live audience? Was the product entertaining for the TV audience?

DK: Well, first off, I think we have to give them lot of credit for simply trying different things. They are trying. And I can only encourage them to keep on trying. And here is the grand vision: Millrose can be the Penn Relays of the winter. And they get this. But how can they really make it happen?

EM: Penn Relays wouldn't be nearly as exciting without the Jamaican fans. And the Jamaican fans are there to cheer on not just the Jamaican pros but also the Jamaican HSers. They have got to bring in the Jamaican teams for an indoor sprint relays fest, DMRs. If you bring the Jamaicans, you bring the festival-like atmosphere that is present at Penn Relays. I don't think any track meet in NYC can pull American fans right now, unless you have mid-event gambling, cage-fighting or an Arcade Fire concert after the meet.

In terms of the TV audience, I think the addition of the British announcer Tim Hutchings made every single track fan happy. Just read the unbelievably positive LetsRun thread about the announcing. To me, the announcing of US track meets has always been, by far, the biggest problem, so the addition of Hutchings magically solves a lot of presentation problems.
Three Cheers: Tim Hutchings On Millrose Broadcast

DK: I agree with the Jamaican idea. I think they had an amazing kids sprint race and wish they could have had a few more. It is amazing watching kids race. I would have liked to see a few 70+ races. Sports are entertainment. Bring the Ruckus.

EM: I didn't get the chance to meet Mary Wittenberg at the meet, but she was there and as I said in my preview to the meet, some of the new things they're doing like having a live band, bringing in Eaton/Clay/Hardee, etc., are "Wittenberg-esque" in terms of actually demonstrating a talent for putting on an appealing show.

DK: But clearly the meet peaked with the Wanamaker. The lights were dimmed during introductions and this built suspense for the viewer. The meet organizer is the like the screenwriter for a movie. A successful meet is a well-choreographed event. How is the lighting, the music, the announcer? All must be considered and at times during the meet these elements felt chaotic, but the Wanamaker is simply dialed in ... so I hope they can build off of this.

EM: The production quality of Millrose still gets a C- from me, at best. The only thing they do really well is the Wanamaker Mile, but that comes, what, 4-5 hours into the meet? But track is tough, because at one time you have the pole vault, shot put and distance relays going on at the same time. Early in the meet, they had a live band play; I thought that was a cool idea.

DK: I apprecaite the idea behind the band, but to me it sort of felt like I was at a wedding. That part was strange.

EM: We need some good old-fashioned live betting. Especially in the races with the 8-year-olds.

DK: Yes. That would be epic.





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