Reese Hoffa winning the shot put at the 2006 Millrose Games (Kirby Lee) © Copyright
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Lagat, Hoffa and Walker top the bill at 101st Millrose Games - PREVIEW

World Champions Bernard Lagat, Reese Hoffa and Brad Walker will be among the featured performers in the 101st Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden on Friday (1 Feb).

Lagat, who became the first man to win the 1500m and the 5000m in the same World Championships in Osaka in August, will be looking for a sixth Wanamaker Mile title to kick off the Millrose Game’s second century.

Hoffa and Walker are the reigning World Indoor and outdoor champions in their respective events, the Shot Put and Pole Vault.

The start list for the third event on the five-meet USA Track & Field Visa Championships Series also includes 2004 Olympic champion Joanna Hayes, 2005 World Shot Put champion and reigning World Indoor Champion Leonard Scott.

Lagat chasing Coghlan on all-time Wanamaker list

With a Wanamaker Mile victory on Friday, Lagat would move within a win of tying “Chairman of the Boards” Eamonn Coghlan’s all-time record of seven. Lagat, who ran 3:52.87 in 2005 to break the Irishman’s 24-year-old meet record of 3:53.0, is tied for third for the most Wanamaker titles.

The race will be a rematch between Lagat and Craig Mottram of Australia, who last year battled through the final lap on the tightly banked 160-yard oval with Lagat emerging a 3:54.26 to 3:54.85 winner over the 2005 World Championships 5000m bronze medallist.

Lagat and Mottram are coming off wins last weekend. Lagat won the 1500m in 3:45.89 in Glasgow, while Mottram posted a dominating victory in the 3000m in a world season leading and U.S. all-comers record 7:34.50 in Boston

The Wanamaker field also includes Nick Willis of New Zealand, Tim Bayley of Great Britain and USA’s Galen Rupp, the collegiate record holder in the 10,000m who is taking a season off from the University of Oregon to concentrate on preparation for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.

The women’s Mile will mark the Millrose debut of Kara Goucher, who placed third in the 10,000m in the Osaka World Championships to become the first American female medalist in the event. It is the first indoor race for Goucher since having surgery on the cartilage in her knee to relieve swelling which began restricting her range of movement.

Russia’s Lilya Shobukhova is the 2006 World Indoor 3000m silver medallist, Jen Rhines, Sara Hall, the wife of Olympic Trials champion Ryan Hall, Miesha Marzell and Marina Muncan are other entrants.

Hoffa seeking to avenge loss to Cantwell    

In the Shot Put, Hoffa will be looking to bounce back from defeat to Christian Cantwell in the 2007 Millrose Games and more recently, last week’s meet in Boston.

In last year’s Millrose Games, Cantwell put 21.88m to defeat Hoffa, the 2005 and 2006 Millrose Games champion, with both surpassing Hoffa’s previous Madison Square Garden record. Cantwell’s effort held up for the longest indoor mark in the world in 2007. More closer to home, Cantwell last week delivered another blow to Hoffa beating him 20.97 to 20.70.

Hoffa and Cantwell will be challenged with 2005 World champion Adam Nelson and Dan Taylor in the six-man field.

Hayes and Felicien in women’s 60m Hurdles

The women’s 60m Hurdles will pit 2004 Olympic 100m Hurdles champion Joanna Hayes with 2003 World outdoor 100m Hurdles and 2006 World Indoor 60m Hurdles champion Perdita Felicien of Canada.

Priscilla Lopes of Canada and Damu Cherry, the top two finishers in Fresno on 21 January are also on the start list. Jamaican Andrea Bliss, who has relocated to Southern California to train with Larry Wade’s Double Pillar Athletics club and Dawn Harper, round out the field.

The men’s 60m Hurdles will have the top three finishers from the Boston Indoor Games with Antwon Hicks, Joel Brown and Aries Merritt. Hicks was named the USATF Athlete of the Meet in Boston after out leaning Brown, 7.59 to 7.61.

Walker, Stuczynski headline men’s and women’s Pole Vault

Brad Walker won the 2007 Millrose Pole Vault and went on to win the World title in Osaka. Walker will face a Millrose field that includes Derek Miles, who won the Reno Pole Vault Summit title four weeks ago while Walker watched as spectator. Also there in the fight will be Toby Stevenson, Tommy Skipper, Russ Buller and Jacob Pauli.

The women’s Pole Vault will be headlined by current and former American outdoor record holders Jenn Stuczynski and Stacy Dragila.

In 2007, Stuczynski cleared 4.88m to become the first American woman to clear 16-feet and break the 11-year old standard of 4.83m set by 2000 Olympic champion and seven-time Millrose winner Dragila.

Stuczynski and Dragila will be joined by Reno Pole Vault Summit winner Jillian Schwartz, April Steiner and Lacy Jansen.

In the women’s High Jump, Amy Acuff, 32, will continue her bid for her fourth U.S. Olympic team. Acuff was named the Athlete of the Meet in Fresno after clearing 1.95m in her season debut. Also in the High Jump are Sharon Day and Gwen Wentland, who finished second in the 2007 USATF Outdoor and Indoor Championships, respectively.

Jeter and Barber duel in women’s 60m

In the women’s 60m, Carmelita Jeter and Miki Barber are after their second Visa Championship Series triumph on the season. Jeter, the Osaka World Championships bronze medallist and World Athletics Final winner, won the 55m in the tour’s opening leg in Fresno. Barber won the 60m in Boston.

Angela Daigle-Bowen, who finished a close second to Jeter in Fresno, is the defending Millrose champion and won the 60m in two of the last three years in the Big Apple.

In the men’s 60m, Leonard Scott, the 2006 World Indoor champion, faces Boston winner DaBryan Blanton and Leroy Dixon, who anchored the U.S. to victory in the 4 x 400m Relay in Osaka. Dwight Phillips, the 2004 Olympic Long Jump champion, and Trindon Holliday complete the field.

Eclectic blend in men’s and women’s 600 yards

There will be an eclectic mixture of competitors in the men’s and women’s 600 yards.

Bershawn Jackson, the 2005 World Championships champion in the 400m Hurdles, will race 2007 USATF 800m champion Khadevis Robinson in the men’s 600 yards. Robinson won the 600 yards with Jackson in third in Fresno and was victorious in the 800m in Boston last weekend. Jamaicans Michael Blackwood and Danny McFarlane complete the field.

In the women’s 600 yards, Mary Wineberg, the 2007 Millrose and USATF Outdoor 400m champion, will race against 2005 World Championships silver medalist Lashinda Demus who is returning to competition after missing the 2007 season after giving birth to twin sons last June.

Neisha Bernard-Thomas is an 800m specialist and Angel Perkins is a quarter-miler from Baylor who ran in the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials as a high school sophomore at age 15.

Facts and Figures

The Millrose Games began in 1908 at a local armory along with the Millrose Athletic Association that was formed as a recreational club by the employees of the John Wanamaker Department Store. "Millrose" was the name of the country home of Rodman Wanamaker.

The event was moved to Madison Square Garden in 1914 and is the longest continuing sporting event at the venue. There have been 122 Millrose Games winners who have won Olympic gold medals.

Among the benchmarks in the meet’s storied history are the first indoor 15-foot Pole Vault by Cornelius Warmerdam in 1942 and 16-foot clearance by John Uelses in 1962. John Thomas became the first to clear seven feet indoors in the High Jump in 1959.
Mary Slaney and Carl Lewis set World Records at Millrose. Slaney clocked 4:00.80 in the 1500m in 1980 and in 1984, Carl Lewis sailed to 8.79m to shatter his own global standard on his final attempt in the competition.

Kirby Lee for the IAAF