Former Washington State Cougar Bernard Lagat kept 11,543 fans on their feet Friday night at the 102nd Millrose Games.
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.
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 1/2 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.
Afterwards, Lagat told USATF, "The race was good. 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.'
Commenting on Willis' move, he said, "I didn't want to go all out. I knew it (Willis' move) was going to happen, it was just a matter of if it would be with 3 laps to go or 2 laps to go. My coach (James Li) and I had discussed to take advantage of the last backstretch. I took advantage of that to come back and win. It is tough to pass on the turn. It is really wide."
Portland's Kara Goucher, who won the mile and 3000 two weeks ago at the UW Indoor Preview meet, defended her Millrose mile title, winning in 4:33.19.
NOTE: USA Track & Field’s Jill Geer contributed to this report.
Friday, January 30, 2009
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