Lagat’s Wanamaker Mile record tops off Millrose Games

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    NEW YORK – Bernard Lagat shattering one of the Millrose Games’ most hallowed records provided a thrilling highlight of a historic running of the 98th Millrose Games Friday night at Madison Square Garden. A men’s shot put that had combined excitement of an NBA game mixed with the showmanship and entertainment value of a WWE heavyweight title added more big marks and flair.

    Wana-making history

    A raucous crowd of 13,519, which sounded even bigger than its substantial size, roared as they realized shortly after the start of the Wanamaker Mile, that two-time Olympic medalist Lagat could break at least one record. Lagat followed pacemaker and fellow Kenyan Elkanah Angwenyi through 400 meters in 55.8 seconds, immediately separating himself from a field in which Alan Webb was running in third.

    Lagat came through halfway in under 1:55 and three-quarters of a mile in 2:52.8. With a lap to go, the Garden crowd was defeaning as they smelled a record. Lagat finished in 3:52.87 to break the Millrose Games record of 3:53.00, set in 1981 by “Chairman of the Boards” Eamonn Coughlin as well as Noureddine Morceli’s Madison Square Garden best of 3:52.99 from 1992. It was Lagat’s third career Wanamaker title and earned him the Fred Schmertz Trophy as the outstanding performer of the meet.

    Webb, who ran much of the race in second once Angwenyi, could not sustain the torrid pace and finished third in 4:00.91, behind Laban Rotich of Kenya in second at 4:00.33.

    Throwers take center stage

    The top four shot putters in the world – Christian Cantwell, Adam Nelson, John Godina and Reese Hoffa – literally took center stage at the Garden as they engaged in an intense four rounds of throwing. The 2004 world indoor silver medalist, Hoffa emerged as a somewhat surprise winner, popping off an indoor personal-best throw of 21.62m/70-11.25 in the fourth and final round. John Godina, who had led the competition since the first round, was second with 21.17m/69-5.5; Visa Championship points leader Adam Nelson was third at 21.00m/68-10.75; and Christian Cantwell was fourth with 20.37m/66-10.0.

    Sprinting report

    Allen Johnson won his fourth career Millrose 60m hurdles title, overcoming a rough early part of his race to win in 7.53 seconds. The four-time world outdoor champion and 1996 Olympic gold medalist held off 21-year-old French record holder Ladji Doucoure, who was second in 7.55.

    Linda Ferga-Khodadin of France defeated a fine field in the women’s 60-meter hurdles, running 8.01 seconds to edge Visa Champion points leader Danielle Carruthers and Vonette Dixon of Jamaica, both of whom finished in 8.02.

    The 60-meter sprints featured a pair of first-time winners as Leonard Scott won the men’s race in 6.59 seconds to post his first professional victory, and Angela Daigle moved up from her runner-up finish in 2003 to win in 7.22 seconds.

    Vaulting excellence

    2003 Millrose champion Derek Miles returned to the winner’s podium in the men’s pole vault as the only man to clear 5.70m/18-8.25 on the night. Olympic silver medalist and 2004 Millrose champ Toby Stevenson was second with 5.60m/18-4.5, and Millrose and American record holder Jeff Hartwig was third at the same height.

    Stacy Dragila was a winner for the seventh time in her career, clearing 4.48m/14-8.25. Tracy O’Hara was second at 4.28m/14-0.5. National high school record holder Mary Saxer of Lancaster (N.Y.) High School was sixth with a clearance of 3.98/13-0.75.

    Middle-distance mayhem

    Hazel Clark won her third straight Millrose title in the women’s 800, running 2:06.00 to edge out Alice Schmidt in second (2:06.40). It was the 11th title for the Clark family in the history of the race at the Millrose Games.

    Berhanu Alemu emerged victorious in a men’s 800 meters that included a dramatic fall in the final lap. Khadevis Robinson fell while Alemu accelerated to first in 1:53.44. David Krummenacker was second in 1:53.51.

    Chris Barnicle of Newton (Mass.) North High School was a big winner in the high school boys’ mile in 4:17.01, while national cross country champion Aislinn Ryan scored her second national-caliber victory in the girls’ high school mile in as many weeks, winning her first Millrose outing in 4:52.29.

    More winners

    Other winners included 2003 USA Outdoor 400m hurdles champion Bershawn Jackson in the Mel Sheppard 600-yard run (1:10.90); world indoor silver medalist Carmen Douma-Hussar of Canada in the Fred Lebow women’s mile (4:32.47); and Olympic relay gold medalist Dee Dee Trotter, who scored an easy win in the women’s 400 (53.94).

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