By Erin Seglem
Bernard Lagat and Galen Rupp toed the starting line last Saturday evening, each aiming to defeat the other. They odd thing is, they both won.
At the 105th Millrose Games in New York City this past week, Lagat stood on the starting line, his bald head already gleaming with sweat. More than 1,300 miles south and west, as the starter’s pistol went up, Oregon alum Rupp leaned forward, ready to race.
With the crack of the gun, the field took off. Lagat quickly fell into third place, the rest of the field on his heels. The leaders were two pacers, set to take Lagat and his training partner, University of Arizona sophomore Lawi Lalang, through the first half of the race at a blistering pace. Lagat’s goal? To take down Nike teammate Rupp’s American record in the indoor 5,000 meter run.
At the USA Track and Field Classic earlier in the month, Rupp was running alone. Still recovering from a bad head cold, the 25-year-old distance runner had only the shouts of his coach, former Olympian Alberto Salazar, to help push the pace. He quickly left the rest of the competition behind. Rupp hit the first mile in 4:07. However, this was too slow to reach his goal of smashing Lagat’s American record in the indoor two mile. Yet, pounding through the second mile, Rupp finished in 8:09.72. It was a negative split: he ran 4:02 for his second mile. Rupp finished less than half a second under Lagat’s old record, 8:10.07.
In New York, after the first mile, the field had broken up. The pacers dropped off the track, leaving Lagat to lead Lalang and another University of Arizona runner, Stephen Sambu, through the final section of the race. The trio was far ahead of the rest of the field, including New Jersey high school phenom Ed Cheserek. Though Sambu was tough, he dropped off the leaders with a little less than half a mile to go. Lalang, however, saw it through to the finish: he stayed within a meter of his training partner and coach through the fast final lap. The pair finished a second apart and both runners topped Rupp’s 5k record. Lagat brought the record down from 13:11.44 to 13:07.15, averaging 4:12 per mile.
Lalang broke the national collegiate record—also set by Rupp—by ten seconds, running 13:08.28. Edward Cheserek, who finished nearly a minute behind the leaders, set the national high school record with a time of 13:57.04.
However, the Millrose Games didn’t just draw top 5,000 meter runners. Jenny Simpson, reigning world champion in the 1,500 meter, took the women’s mile in 4:07.27, closely followed by Olympian Shannon Rowbury (4:07.66). In the tightly packed 800 meter run, after two false starts, Morgan Uceny took the win, clocking in at 2:03.35. That race also featured high school senior Ajee Wilson, who finished fourth with a time of 2:04.13, less than a second behind Uceny.
On the men’s side, there were solid performances in the mile. Matthew Centrowitz, bronze medalist at the 2011 World Championships, broke the Armory’s record by winning the race in 3:54.98. Miles Batty, who took second, set the college record for the venue, coming through the finish at 3:54.54. With all of these major records broken, this year’s Millrose Games was definitely an event to remember.