Lagat Believes He Can Medal at Worlds, Centro’s Valentine’s Advice and Record Chases Galore: Six Takeaways from the Millrose Press Conference
February 15, 2015
The stars of track and field are in the Big Apple for Saturday’s NYRR Millrose Games (tickets still available) and LRC was on hand to talk to Bernard Lagat, Shannon Rowbury, Mary Cain, Matt Centrowitz, and Cam Levins.
February 12, 2015
NEW YORK — Many of the big names that will take to the track two days from now for the 108th Millrose Games were at the Park Central Hotel Thursday morning to discuss Saturday’s races and a slew of records that could tumble on the banked Armory track. LetsRun’s Robert Johnson and Jonathan Gault were in attendance and they give you the scoop on everything that went down below.
1) Shannon Rowbury believes the American record is there for the taking
The American women’s indoor mile record (4:20.5 by convicted doper Mary Slaney) will have stood for 33 years come next Thursday, it may have a new owner this time next week if everything goes according to plan for Shannon Rowbury. We mentioned in our meet preview that Rowbury’s 4:22.66 from a flat track two weeks ago converts to a 4:20.09 on a banked track (using the NCAA conversion) and that time would obviously be good enough to break the old American record (as well as Doina Melinte’s meet record of 4:21.45, which, it should be noted, was run on an 11-laps-to-the-mile track in Madison Square Garden).
“I definitely feel [the American record] is within my capability,” said Rowbury, noting that the rabbit is scheduled to run 2:10 or just below for the first half of the race.
Rowbury’s confidence stems not only from her world-leading 4:22 but also from her recent workouts, which have been going very well.
“It’s surprising to me to feel like I’m in even better shape that over the summer when I was PR’ing in pretty much every event, which was such a great feeling after a few years of struggling to make my mark,” Rowbury said.
Rowbury ran pbs at 1500 (3:59), 3000 (8:29) and 5000 (14:48) last summer, so by the transitive property, it’s safe to assume Rowbury believes she’s in the best shape of her life right now.
Rowbury said that one of the reasons for that is that under coach Alberto Salazar she’s now hitting two hard workouts a week and taking the rest of the week to really focus on recovery, as opposed to more faster running and more frequent, shorter workouts under old coach John Cook. Additionally, Rowbury said that she feels she’s benefited tremendously from having training partners like Treniere Moser, Jordan Hasay and Mary Cain, as well as a dedicated support staff for injuries and supplemental work, things she didn’t have access to in her old training base of San Francisco.
2) Mary Cain is focused on the world junior record of 4:24.10.
Press conferences can be telling.
Given the form Shannon Rowbury is in, she’s the overwhelming favorite in the women’s mile. Mary Cain implicitly admitted that as when Cain spoke, she focused on the world junior record of 4:24.10 – that she missed by .01 last year in Boston – not winning.
“As I said last week, I could get fourth and run a really great race. I’m feeling a lot stronger than I did last year in terms of fitness and I know last year I came really close to the world junior record.”
It’s interesting that Cain says she’s stronger than last year as so far based on times, her 2015 marks have been inferior to her 2014 marks. Last week in Boston, her 1k time was nearly 2.5 seconds slower than her 2014 time, but it should be pointed out, the winning time was much slower as well.
Cain realizes that this mile will be a great gauge of her true current fitness as the pace is going to be hot and she’s race-ready.
“It will be good to see what type of shape we’re in,” said Cain.
3) Cam Levins is hoping to negative-split the fastest time in Canadian history
Cam Levins is already the Canadian indoor 5000 record holder at 13:19.16. His outdoor best is 13:15.19. The Canadian outdoor record is 13:13.96 by Jeff Schiebler.
Levins believes all of those marks are in reach but if he gets them, he’s going to do it after a negative split as the rabbit is supposed to go through 3000 in 8:00, which is 13:20 pace.
During the main press conference, Levins said he was “hopeful” of the Canadian record but when we talked to him one-on-one, it was clear he knows he’s capable of something much faster than 13:19.
4) 40-year-old Bernard Lagat still believes he can medal at the World Championships this summer
During the press conference, Lagat sounded more like a man who has accepted he probably won’t win Saturday’s Wanamaker Mile than a man who has won the event a record eight times. He said that, at 40, he feels no pressure in races anymore and that he’s just out there to have fun. He joked that he hoped he had earned enough respect for the other runners to simply let him win.
“I’m sure Matt [Centrowitz] is going to have a lot of respect for the old man,” Lagat said. “He’s not going to really dust me that bad. I’m going to make a deal also with Nick [Willis], Will Leer and my training partner Lawi Lalang to kind of give me some respect. I’ve earned it. Just let me go and win the event.”
But Lagat’s next three sentences revealed much more about his current state of mind.
“They (Centrowitz, Willis, Leer and Lalang) are the ones that challenged me [in the past]. I don’t think it is the other way now. I don’t think I challenge them anymore, but they are the ones I always think about.”
In a mile, at age 40, Lagat is probably in over his head. But Lagat remains a formidable force in the 3k and 5k; after all, he beat Leer in the 3k in Boston last week. When we caught up with him on camera (interview below), Lagat said that if he can get into the kind of shape he was in late last year (when he ran 13:06 in Berlin on August 31) that he believes he can still win a medal in Beijing as that will mean he will have the fitness to hang around in a championship race. If his 2015 outdoor season is more similar to his races at Pre (14th, 13:31) and Glasgow (12th, 13:27) last year, Lagat will be less optimistic.
Finally, Lagat said that he received a direct message on Twitter from fellow Millrose legend Eamonn Coghlan, whose 3:58.15 masters world record Lagat will be trying to break on Saturday. After watching Lagat’s 7:48 in Boston, Coghlan told Lagat congratulations on the mile record (even though Lagat hasn’t broken it yet) and that he’s glad Lagat will be the one to do it. Coghlan predicted a 3:54 for Lagat.
Centrowitz added that he told Lagat earlier that even if Centro wins the race in 3:50, Lagat will get way more press if he manages to run 3:55. Lagat’s response? “I should” (as in, Lagat deserves to get more press for running 3:55 for the mile at age 40), as everyone laughed.
(Editor’s note: Tone can sometimes be lost in print. For the record, this story was told in a very jovial, not arrogant way. Centrowitz and Lagat were both laughing).
5) Free Valentine’s Day Advice From Matthew Centrowitz
American miler Matthew Centrowitz got the biggest laughs at the pre-meet press conference once again, just as he did two weeks ago.
Today, decathlon star Ashton Eaton was asked if he had anything planned for Valentine’s Day for his wife Brianne, who was sitting next to him.
Eaton said that a few days ago he went to Brianne and told her he was struggling with Valentine’s Day ideas and asked her to come up with a plan. She told him not to worry about it so Eaton told the press he was therefore all set for Saturday and maybe he’d just try to get her two wins as a present (he’s in the LJ and 60m hurdles).
Centrowitz then took the mike and looked at Eaton and said, “If any girl tells you, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ worry about it. I’d make sure you have something lined up besides two wins.”
Everyone in the room laughed.
A member of the media followed up and asked if Centrowitz’s girlfriend was with him in New York. Centrowitz, whose relationship status has been debated on the LRC forums, got another laugh by asking that the questions be focused on running.
6) Assorted tidbits
- Here are the splits the rabbits will be looking to hit in the distance races:
Men’s 1k: 1:20 through 600
Men’s mile: 56-high; 1:54; 2:52 through 800
Men’s 3k: 4:08 through 1600 (7:45 pace)
Men’s 5k: 8:00 through 3k (13:20 pace)
Women’s 800: no rabbit, though Marilyn Okoro is expected to lead.
Women’s mile: 65, 2:10 through 800
Women’s 3k: 71-second pace (8:50 pace)
- The Wanamaker Mile could see the 100th sub-4 performance in the history of the Armory (currently, there have been 94). NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg mentioned that Oregon’s Edward Cheserek, who has never broken 4:00 in an open race, could be the man to do it, to which Ashton Eaton immediately responded with a “Go Ducks!”
- After looking at the entry list, we determined that the men’s Wanamaker Mile was so good that it deserved its own preview and the meet organizers shared our belief that the 2015 edition could be a truly special race. Armory Foundation president Norb Sander said that overall he felt the meet was the strongest and deepest it’s been in the past 20 years and that the mile is one of the strongest and deepest mile races ever indoors. Meet director Ray Flynn echoed his claim, calling this year’s Wanamaker field “probably the best” in the event’s history.
- David Oliver must really not like practice. The 2013 World champion, who trains with fellow world champs Jason Richardson and LaShawn Merritt, repeatedly mentioned how he enjoys any chance to get out and race. “I love competition. It beats the hell out of going to practice all the time,” Oliver said.
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