Posted by: Joe English | February 2, 2009

Tack and Field: Lagat & Goucher win Milrose Mile; Hooker sets record in Pole Vault

usatf_logoNEW YORK – On the track and in the field, Bernard Lagat and Steven Hooker kept 11,543 fans on their feet Friday night at the 102nd Millrose Games. A longtime Madison Square Garden favorite, Lagat tied Eamonn Coghlan’s record with his seventh Wanamaker mile victory, while Hooker posted the best indoor pole vault in the world since 2002, breaking several records in the process.

Lagat wins seventh Wanamaker title
In tying Coghlan’s seven victories, Lagat became the “Co-Chairman of the Boards,” but it wasn’t without a fight in the evening’s climactic event. With a pacesetter towing Lagat through a 56.9 quarter mile and 1:57.8 half-mile, the pace slowed to 3:00.2 at three-quarters, with Lagat leading Olympic bronze medalist Nick Willis by a stride.

Owning six Wanamaker titles, a pair of 2007 world championships and two Olympic medals, Lagat knew to expect a move by Willis. That move came with 1 ½ laps to go on the 145-meter track, when Willis burst past Lagat on the backstretch. Lagat appeared momentarily stunned but quickly responded and got on the New Zealander’s shoulder.

Just after the bell lap, Lagat began his move, and he passed Willis on the backstretch. He won in 3:58.44, with Willis second in 3:59.48 and Pablo Solares third in 4:00.85. His historic performance earned Lagat the Team USA Athlete of the Meet award, presented by Visa.

“The race was good,” Lagat said afterward. “I was prepared coming in. I had been training very well. I feel fast, I feel fresh. It’s good to come back and win. Ending up the season not winning a lot last year because of the injury I had, to start the year with the win, this is not another race for me. This race means a lot. I have a lot of respect for Eamonn Coghlan. Today, winning seven like him means a lot to me. He is a man who was rooting for me today. He wanted me to win today, so that means a lot. He told me he had no doubt that I was going to win. Today when he was coming into the track, he said ‘I will be at the finish line to give Lagat the trophy.”

Goucher makes it 2-0 in the mile
In yet another amazing New York City performance, 2007 World Outdoor 10,000m bronze medalist Kara Goucher crushed the field in the NYRR women’s mile. A freshly minted marathoner after placing third at the 2008 New York City marathon, Goucher took the lead Friday night at the half mile, then made it a one-woman race. She crossed the line in 4:33.19 for her second straight Millrose win, well ahead of Marina Muncan of Serbia in 4:37.77 and Mestawot Tadesse of Ethiopia in 4:38.30.

Goucher said aferward: “The mile tells me I’m not doing too much [in my marathon training]. Alberto [Salazar, her coach] says doing the shorter races is a good indicator. When you’re training for a marathon, you may feel a little burnt. In an 80-mile week, which is what I’ll end up at this week, I can still run a 4:33 mile. Apparently, he’s not pushing me hard enough. I’m running 18 miles on Sunday.

Hooker’s heights
In his first competition since winning the Olympic gold medal in August, Steven Hooker stunned even himself with a near-world-record performance in the Fred Schmertz men’s pole vault. The charismatic Aussie won the competition with a first-attempt clearance at 5.70m/18-8.25, then made 5.88m/19-3.5 on his third attempt to break Jeff Hartwig’s Millrose record of 5.87m/19-3 and break his own Australian indoor record of 5.81m/19-0.75.

He wasn’t done, next clearing 6.01m/19-8.5 on his first attempt to set Australian, Millrose Games and Madison Square Garden records. It eclipsed his own outdoor personal best mark of 6.00m/19-8.25, was the highest indoor vault ever on U.S. soil and made him the #4 vaulter in history. He moved the bar to 6.16m/20-2.5 to take aim at Sergey Bubka’s world record of 6.15m/20-2, set in 1993. After two decent attempts, he gave the bar a good look on his third try, serving notice that Bubka may have to keep his eye on this latest challenger. More than a foot behind him, Hooker left Olympic fourth-place finisher Derek Miles (5.70m/18-8.25) and Giovanni Lanaro of Mexico (5.60m/18-4).

Jenn Stuczynski threatened record books in the Gill women’s vault, but not before she got a scare from a legend. In a small field, American indoor record holder and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Stacy Dragila matched Stuczynski’s heights as both women cleared 4.61m/15-1.5. It was Dragila’s best jump since she broke the American records indoors (4.81m/15-9.25) and outdoors in 2004 (4.83m/15-10). Yet only Stuczynski cleared 4.71m/15-5, which she accomplished on her first vault, before taking a shot at the American record at 4.82m/15-9.75. A huge clearance on her third attempt ended with her hitting the bar on the way down, keeping Dragila’s name in tact on the AR lists.

In the circle
The Visa men’s shot put produced yet another close competition as three of the world’s best traded tosses. Heading into the fourth and final round of competition, 2007 world champion Reese Hoffa and Olympic silver medalist Christian Cantwell both had best throws of 20.48m/67-2.25. In the final round, Cantwell improved to 20.53m/67-4.25, only to be outdone by Nelson, who took his second consecutive Millrose victory with a final throw of 20.79m/68-2.5.

In the straightaway
In a rematch of the women’s 100m hurdles silver and bronze medalists from Beijing, Sally McClellan of Australia and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Canada turned in a thrilling race in the women’s 60m hurdles. The Olympic silver medalists, McClellan got out well and was in the lead until the final stride of the race, when Lopes-Schliep nudged ahead to successfully defend her Millrose title in a world-leading time of 7.95 seconds. McClellan was second in 7.96 and Tiffany Ofili of the United States was third in 8.02.

The men’s 60m hurdles was much less dramatic, with two-time Olympic silver medalist Terrence Trammell dominating in 7.45 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year and just .02 off Allen Johnson’s Millrose Games records. In a race contested after a pair of false starts, Antwon Hicks was second in 7.64, with Hector Cotto third in 7.72.

The 60m dashes produced two first-time winners in their first outings. In his Millrose Games debut, and after enduring three false starts, 2008 U.S. indoor champion Michael Rodgers denied Trammell a double victory, winning the Visa men’s 60m in a world-leading, personal-best time of 6.51. Trammell was second in 6.54, and two-time Olympic 200m medalist Shawn Crawford was third in 6.62. In the women’s race, first-year pro Bianca Knight won her first Millrose title in 7.23, with Olympic Trials 100m champion Muna Lee second in 7.28 and Mechelle Lewis third in 7.29.

Seaman wins another one
The New York Athletic Club’s very own Tim Seaman won his fifth career title in the Susan M. Rudin men’s 1 mile race walk, finishing in 6:02.58 to defeat his training partner, Andreas Gustafsson of Sweden (6:04.54), with Mike Tarantino in third (6:08.58). With the race serving as a national championship event, Seaman tallied the 34th national title of his career.

Teresa Vaill won her second consecutive national title in the women’s 1 mile race walk, finishing as the first American in the race, finishing in 6:51.33. Rachel Lavallee of Canada won the overall race in a Millrose Games record 6:47.45, with Vaill second and Solomiya Login third in 7:09.21.

High school miler magic
Jillian Smith of Southern Regional High School won her second straight title in the adidas girls’ mile run. After sitting fourth for the first stages of the race behind Melanie Thompson of Voorhees HS, she took over the race and threatened the meet record before finishing in a swift 4:51.88. Cory McGee of Pass Christian was second in 4:54.59, and Emily Lipari of Roslyn was third in 4:57.70.

In the boys’ mile, 2008 Millrose runner-up Robby Andrews of Manalapan used a fantastic final lap to win in 4:17.42 over Bret Johnson of Ocean City (4:19.61) and Mark Feigan of East Greenwich (4:20.43).

Other elite event winners included Amy Acuff taking her fifth Millrose title in the John Thomas women’s high jump with a clearance of 1.92m/6-3.5; Monica Hargrove out-leaning Aliann Pompey of Guyana in the women’s 600m, 1:19.50 to 1:19.51; Renny Quow of Trinidad winning the Mel Sheppard men’s 600 in 1:11.32; Amber Campbell taking the women’s weight throw (23.33m /76-6.5) and Jake Freeman winning the men’s weight throw (23.77m/78-0).

Source: USATF
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