By Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
NEW YORK (16-Feb) — In a span of nearly 85 minutes here at Millrose Games, a total of seven records were broken in the distance disciplines, making for one of the most memorable renditions of the meet in its 106-year history. Five of seven evening races measuring 600 meters and up saw either an American, junior, collegiate, or meet record go, causing the capacity crowd to stand on their feet for a majority of the evening session.
“The fans were amazing. Tonight was a special night,” said four-time Olympian Bernard Lagat, champion of the Men’s Two-Mile Record Challenge. Aiming to break the USA national mark of 8:09.72, Lagat would need every last second to surpass Galen Rupp as America’s fastest two-miler, a title he held previously.
Through the mile in roughly 4:06, Lagat knew he needed to negative split the rest of the way if he wanted to hold every American record from 1500m to 5000m. Ever so slightly pushing on the accelerator, Lagat found himself alone in front with the Oregon Track Club Elite’s Evan Jager and Andrew Bumbalough, as well as Canadian Cam Levins, in tow.
“When it showed me with four laps to go, I still thought I had enough left,” said Lagat. “But I was behind [record pace] for a long time.”
Only with a quarter mile remaining did Lagat create a buffer ahead of the trio. With the bell signaling one lap left, Lagat used the kick that earned him two Olympic medals to unleash a 28.82 circuit, just getting him under Rupp’s mark. The 38-year-old had timed 8:09.49, a mere .23 ahead of Rupp’s best.
“A record is a record,” said Lagat, accompanied by his smiling son Miika. “I’ve always said the record is a measure. And the fast times are a measure of how excellent you’ve been.”
The records in the two mile discipline didn’t end with Lagat, though. Just as the champion was drifting into lane two and breaking the tape, a bound and determined Edward Cheserek was taking off on his last lap. The Kenyan from St. Benedict’s Prep in nearby Newark, N.J., was gunning for Gerry Lindgren’s 49-year-old prep mark of 8:40.0.
Sprinting his fastest lap of the race –a 30.76– Cheserek would also enter the record books with a finishing time of 8:39.15. Hands above his head, Cheserek immediately went to Lagat after crossing, running a victory lap soon thereafter.
“I’m happy to get the record. I knew I had to get ready. My coaches told me if you run smart, you may get it,” said the senior, who told Jim Lambert of the New Jersey Star-Ledger that he is planning to attend the University of Oregon next year.
A pair of American bests were also broken at the 600m distance, as Olympian Alysia Montaño and former University of Iowa standout Erik Sowinski won the Howard Schmertz Women’s and the Mel Sheppard Men’s races, respectively.
Montaño, who had been practicing here at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory all week, saw her hard work pay off. Making her presence known leading through 400m in 54.38, she reminded herself to kick like it was the final stretch of an 800m, her usual distance.
Finishing in 1:23.59, Montaño had crushed the long standing American best of 1:26.56. It was the Russian Olga Kotlyarova’s world record mark of 1:23.59 which she came closest to.
“In [me and my coach’s] visualizations, he’s like go out there and obliterate the American record, and threaten the world record,” said Montaño. “It’s pretty funny ’cause that’s exactly how it played out.”
The surprise new national record holder of the day was Sowinski, who was a late edition to the field after Belgium’s Kevin Borlée scratched earlier in the week with back trouble. Moving up from third to first in the final lap, the 23-year-old stunned everybody by defeating Olympic finalists Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds. Finishing in 1:15.61, he shaved 9/100ths of a second off Solomon’s American best set earlier this season in Glasgow.
“A truly heartfelt thank you for all the congratulations everyone. The support I have always had from family and friends really means a lot,” he said through his Twitter feed.
The loudest roar of the day came after Bronxville, N.Y.’s Mary Cain placed second in the NYRR Women’s Wanamaker Mile to Canadian Sheila Reid, 4:27.02 to 4:28.25. Cain, who is only 16-years-old, ran towards the front of the pack in the early stages of the race before dropping back to eighth at the one kilometer mark. When some may have thought the high schooler’s chances at breaking her own national prep record of 4:32.78 where in jeopardy, the bubbly Cain turned on the accelerators just as she did earlier this year at the New Balance Games and the New Balance Grand Prix in Boston.
Taking the bell trailing only Reid, Cain unleashed a 30.1-second lap, more than two seconds faster than any of the previous seven she had run. Hitting 4:11.72 en route at 1500m (USA high school and junior records), the smiling sensation crossed the finish line in 4:28.25, with a new high school and junior mile record to her name. Though the win had gone to Reid, the Villanova alum recognized that Cain’s feat was in some ways more impressive than her own national record.
“She is a phenomenal athlete,” said Reid, who represented Canada at the London Olympics. “Great race for her. I guess I got the victory and she got probably, relatively a bigger victory than I did. I think if you compare it, her mile is a lot more impressive than mine was today.”
Cain, speaking to a crowd of reporters that was considerably larger than the group talking to Reid, was very happy with her finish.
“The last 150 [meters] the crowd was really going for me and I was like ‘this is a dream come true,'” she said. “Last year I ran the high school mile here and I came in fourth, so I’m moving up!”
Cain continued: “Once I got to second I told myself I was not going to lose my place here.”
In the final event of the evening, the NYRR Men’s Wanamaker Mile, Lopez Lomong set a meet and facility record of 3:51.21, defeating IAAF World Championship bronze medalist Matthew Centrowitz and Irish Olympian Ciaran O’Lionaird. Lomong had a slight lead on Centrowitz coming through the final bend and was able to hold him off on the homestretch.
“I am so excited to kick off my opening mile with a new PR of 3:51.21 breaking my old record by nearly 2 seconds,” Lomong wrote on his blog immediately following the race. “I am truly humbled to be #3 all time American record for indoor 1 mile and #8 all time in the world for this discipline.”
Following in fourth was Briton Chris O’Hare, who broke the collegiate mile record. The University of Tulsa student-athlete from Edinburgh, Scotland, clocked 3:52.98, bettering Miles Batty’s NCAA record of 3:54.54, set here just over a year ago.
“[3:52] Sounds pretty awesome,” said O’Hare. “I thought I was out of it after the first 400m, I was like they are pretty far ahead of me.”
The 22-year-old’s mark brought tears to his father Terry’s eyes, who was watching from The Armory’s upper level. Clad in a kilt, Terry had flown from Edinburgh to see his son compete in his second Wanamaker Mile.
“I just was blown away with the race, it was absolutely fantastic. He’s a real tough wee guy,” he said, his eyes watering. “I don’t know how he comps with the nerves because mine are absolutely shot.”
In the only other non-relay distance events of the evening session, Ben Malone captured the New Balance High School Boy’s Mile while Sabrina Southerland took the Girl’s win in 4:51.91.