From David Monti
© 2006 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved RaceResultsWeekly.com
NEW YORK (02-Feb) -- Bernard Lagat got his fifth Wanamaker Mile victory at the 100th Millrose Games here tonight, but it took a supreme effort by the two-time Olympic medalist over the last 150 meters to defeat Australian Craig Mottram who gave Lagat his most serious challenge at this meet since he was beaten to second place by Laban Rotich in 2002.
"Absolutely," Lagat responded when asked if this was his toughest victory at the Millrose Games, the longest running indoor track meet in the United States. "This time it was really hard."
Led through six of 11 laps by the pacemaker, Moise Joseph of Haiti, the field went through half-way in 1:55-flat. For the first five laps, it was Alan Webb who ran directly behind Joseph, but when the pacemaker stepped off the track, Lagat was on the front with Mottram and Webb right behind. With three laps to go, Webb had been dropped leaving Lagat, the Wanamaker Mile record-holder, and Mottram to battle for the win.
"This is not going to be easy," Lagat remembered saying to himself.
With four laps to go, Mottram pushed to the front and began to ratchet up the pace. Lagat stayed in his draft, and did not try to pass until the bell.
"I was a bit surprised that it took that long for him to get up on me," said Mottram after the race.
Lagat moved into lane two and tried to set himself up for a pass on the backstraight. He drew even with the taller Australian, who was running flat out, then surged ahead on turn three to seal the victory. He broke the tape in 3:54.26 --his second-fastest mile at the Millrose Games in six appearances-- with Mottram just 55/100ths behind.
"One thing," Lagat said, "Mottram is not intimidated by anyone." He added: "This guy is really amazing."
"That's why he's the best in the world," Mottram said of Lagat. "He's just got another gear."
Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, coming off of her 5000m world indoor record in Boston last Saturday, ran away with the 3000m --the longest event ever held at the Millrose Games for women-- in 8:46.58, establishing a meet record. However, she did not run the fastest 3000m ever in New York City. That distinction still belongs to Lynn Jennings who ran 8:40.45 at the USA Championships in 1990. Sara Hall ran bravely behind Dibaba most of the way before fading to finish second in 9:01.22 and collapsing at the line. Jen Rhines, who trains with Hall, finished third in 9:02.91..
Christin Wurth-Thomas used her closing speed to win the women's 800m, a race where she was running last most of the way. Marion Burnett of Guyana led for nearly all of the five and one-half laps, until Frances Santin took the lead with one lap to go. Wurth-Thomas, the former Arkansas Razorback, said she was "a little nervous" about even competing in this event.
"Last week I asked my coach if we were ready," she recalled. "He said, 'nope, but we're going to go for it.'"
Wurth-Thomas shot past Santin on the backstraight to win easily in 2:06.97.
"It's a great confidence booster," said Wurth-Thomas who will run the mile at the USA Indoor Championships at the end of the month.
Danielle Tauro of Southern Regional High School in New Jersey already had plenty of confidence going into tonight's meet. Off of a slow pace, she easily defended her title in the Girl's High School Mile and became only the third prep woman, after Sally Glynn and Nicole Blood, to win back-to-back Millrose miles. She won by more than a second over Cory McGee of Pass Christian, Miss., in 4:52.81.
"It felt great," said Tauro who will attend the University of Michigan next fall. "What better way to start my senior year."
The Boy's High School Mile was a knock-down, drag out affair with three athletes still in contention with one lap to go. Steve Murdock of Shenendehowa (N.Y.) High School led for the first ten laps, but slipped into second behind Kyle Soloff of Morris Hills (N.J.) at the bell. Jason Weller of Boyertown Area High School (Pa.) was right behind, and blew by his two rivals in the last 100m to win easily in 4:15.81.
Elsewhere, 40 year-old Gail Devers won the women's 60m hurdles in 7.86 seconds, a world masters record; Christian Cantwell edged Reese Hoffa in the men's shot put with a 21.88m toss; and Yelena Isinbeyeva of Russia won the women's pole vault in a meet record 4.82m.
NOTE: Complete meet results are at FlashResults.com.
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