Bernard Lagat breaks US 2000m record at the 2014 Millrose Games (© Kirby Lee)
Bernard Lagat provided the highlight of the 107th NYRR Millrose Games, the oldest invitational athletics meeting in the USA, when he set a US 2000m indoor record of 4:54.74 at the Armory in New York on Saturday (15).
The popular and evergreen Lagat, now 39, has turned setting national indoor records at the Millrose Games into a tradition.
In 2012, when the meet was still held at the Madison Square Garden, Lagat set a 5000m record 13:07.15. Last year at The Armory he improved the two miles record to 8:09.49.
This year, he chose a new target, the long-standing US 2000m record of 4:58.6, set by Steve Scott back in 1981.
In a race named after the legendary Flying Finn Paavo Nurmi, who set a 2000m world best at The Armory on his famous 1925 tour of the USA, Lagat followed pacemaker Pat McGregor right from the start.
McGregor left the race at 1200m and Lagat still had the chasers on his shoulder. At the bell, Canada’s Cam Levins tried to make a decisive move, but the former world champion demonstrated his tactical prowess by slightly shifting to his right, and switched gears for a final kick.
Lagat finished first, improving the record by almost four seconds after crossing the line in 4:54.74 to move up to fifth on the world indoor all-time list for the event.
“I’m thankful to Pat for the even pace. I knew what splits we should have been hitting, and he was right at it. Even pace is the key when it comes to breaking records,” said Lagat.
“I’m planning to keep on racing at the best of my abilities, so we just have to pick a distance for another record in 2015,” he joked.
The top five all finished inside the previous North American indoor record as second place was taken by Levins in a Canadian record of 4:55.35 while US international David Torrence finished third in 4:56.99.
Leer jets home for mile win
Will Leer stormed through in the last 100m of the famous Wanamaker Mile to win in 3:52.47, the best time in the world in 2014. Lagat’s training partner, University of Arizona student Lawi Lalang, came through for second place in 3:52.88 to reduce the US collegiate best by 0.1 with New Zealand’s 2008 Olympic 1500m silver medallist Nick Willis third in 3:53.02.
This year’s Wanamaker Mile was the last track race in the career of Alan Webb, after he announced his retirement last month. The US record-holder in the mile, and eighth-fastest man ever over the classic distance, placed 11th in 4:06.11.
Three weeks ago, the prodigious 17-year-old Mary Cain won the mile in Boston in 4:24.11, missing Kalkidan Gezahegne’s world indoor junior record by just 0.01. This time though, on her second shot at the record, she was just a little more adrift of the Ethiopian runner’s time.
Cain, a native New Yorker who trains at The Armory, decided not to go with an excessively fast pace from the start but she was in control all the way and came home first, clocking 4:27.73.
Trenier Moser joined her during the victory lap, after crossing the finish line second in 4:28.86.
Ajee Wilson, the world junior champion and still only 19, won the 800m in an indoor personal best of 2:01.81 while France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse won the 1000m in a world-leading 2:17.63, with the US pair of Erik Sowinski second in 2:18.63 and world silver medallist Nick Symmonds third in 2:18.87.
Kim Conley stretched her season’s winning streak to three races when she won the 3000m in a personal best of 8:48.35.
“My goal for this winter was to work on my speed, so that it would pay off outdoors," said Conley. "I wanted to win all my races at different distances and set personal bests in each of them."
Miller's time no small beer
The women’s 300m race was won by Shaunae Miller from The Bahamas in 36.10, not only a national record but also a world-leading time and a world indoor age-19 best. It also puts her sixth on the world indoor all-time list for the non-championship distance.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Olympic medallist Lalonde Gordon, who currently lives and trains in New York, improved his own 300m meeting and national record by 0.01 with a run of 32.47.
Janay DeLoach Soukup won a silver medal at the last World Indoor Championships in the long jump but this winter she has widened her gaze and in New York she won the 60m hurdles and equaled the world lead with a personal best of 7.91.
Two-time Olympic silver medallist Terrence Trammell won the men’s 60m hurdles in a season’s best of 7.57.
USA’s Marvin Bracy didn’t let two false starts in the 60m intimidate him, and won with a PB of 6.50. The victory in the women’s race went to Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahyee with a personal best of 7.13.
French long jumper Eloyse Lesueur leapt 6.86m with her sixth and final attempt to move up to third on the 2014 indoor list.
In the men’s high jump, Canada’s Mike Mason cleared the bar at 2.30m for the win, setting an indoor personal best, while the USA’s Mark Hollis was the best in the pole vault with 5.60m.
After celebrating six years since their first date on St Valentine’s day, Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton turned their attention to the track and both the top combined-eventers competed in two events.
Ashton, who will defend his heptathlon title at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in the Polish city of Sopot next month, set an absolute personal best in the pole vault with 5.35m. In the 60m hurdles, he clocked 7.67. His wife and Moscow 2013 silver medallist, Brianne, set indoor personal bests in both 60m hurdles in 8.17 and the long jump with 6.18m.
Sweden’s Andreas Gustafson clocked 5:34.45 in the mile race walk, missing Tim Lewis's 26-year-old world best of 5:33.53 by less than a second. Ireland’s world 50km race walk champion Robert Heffernan dropped down distance dramatically and finished second in 5:39.75.
Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF