The 106th version of the Millrose Games ended in the best possible fashion: a down to the finish battle between Lopez Lomong and Matthew Centrowitz, with the second and third fastest American indoor miles ever. Only the iconic Steve Scott has run faster indoors.
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
NEW YORK – If it seemed the 106th edition of the Millrose Games had 106 great story lines, that wouldn’t be far from the truth.
The Bernard Lagat Story: At 38, the two-time Olympic 1500-meter medalist (when he ran for Kenya) and eight-time men’s Wanamaker Mile champion, switches up to the two-mile, delivers a rousing 8:09.49 triumph, and takes down Galen Rupp’s American record in the process. And with the big win, he claims ownership of the “big five” of American indoor records, 1500 meters, one mile, 3000 meters, 5000 meters and now, two miles.
The Edward Cheserek Story: The St. Benedict’s Prep senior is 20 years Lagat’s junior and shares his Kenyan heritage. As the elder statesman was making his own statement, Cheserek was making his own, running to a U.S. national scholastic record of 8:39.15 in eighth place. The next big Cheserek decision awaits: off to college, but where?
Pacific Northwest? East Coast USA? The Philly suburbs? Anywhere in between?
The Sheila Reid Story: At Villanova, she led the Wildcats to the top of the NCAA cross country heap and the Canadian Olympian is still at ‘Nova, training under coach Marcus O’Sullivan. With her 4:27.02 Armory record women’s Wanamaker Mile win, she’s clearly on top of her game.
Mary Cain, Blazing the mile,
photo by Ross Detman, NB Armory T&F
The Mary Cain Story: Blazing to a 4:28.25 national high school record in second place, the Bronxville High School junior and Alberto Salazar star pupil put every other North American woman middle-distancer on alert: Whatever her age, whatever her scholastic status, whatever, wherever, she’s ready to duke it out with one and all. With Cain in the game, seniority flies out the window.
Lopez-Centro duke it out, and they had company,
photo by John Nepolitan, for NB Armory T&F Center,
The Lopez Lomong-Matthew Centrowitz story: What a men’s Wanamaker Mile sizzler they gave the sellout crowd of 5000-plus. The fastest of both their lives and fastest-ever at the Armory, Lomong got to the wire in 3:51.21, Centrowitz in 3:51.34. Erased from the Millrose books: Lagat’s 3:52.87 meet record at Madison Square Garden in 2005. The pride of “Centro-Nation” now jets off to Thursday night’s one-K race in Stockholm.
The Alysia Montano Story: Born in Queens, she returned to her Big Apple roots to lower the women’s American 600-meter record to 1:23.59.
The Ajee’ Wilson Story: The Neptune, NJ sensation’s career is taking a huge jump – all the way over the collegiate track and field whirl to go pro at age 18. Sure, she’ll go to college – but on her own terms, to Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, NJ at the moment, and then to Philadelphia’s Temple University in the fall. In the meantime, the portfolio of honors she carries gets heavier and heavier. The latest – the world junior 600 record of 1:26.45 she notched chasing Montano to the wire.
The Jeff Porter Story: Six-seven years ago, Joe and Jeff, the Porter twins of Franklin Township, NJ, headed in divergent directions, Rutgers grad Joe to the NFL and a worthy-but-never-superstar career with several clubs; Michigan grad/NCAA hurdles champion Jeff to the world of biggest-time track. Well, Joe has retired from the NFL but Jeff’s career keeps gaining luster. His desperation dive at last June’s Olympic Trials got him home third in a best-ever 13.08 for the 110 highs and a USA berth to London. Millrose fans saw that he’s still a great finisher, edging Andrew Riley by the narrowest of margins in the 60 highs, 7.59 to 7.60. Porter’s conclusion” “I just need to work on my start.”
OK, that was great stuff, all of it, along with the heaps of stories written by those up and down the line in the non-stop action, on all levels, from 3:30 to 10 pm.
But, IMHO, the best Millrose story of all was Erik Sowinski’s.
First the history lesson: with his 4:03.4 win at the 1908 London Olympic Games, Mel Sheppard became the second American to capture the Olympic 1500-meter title. (James Lightbody had won in 1904 and 1906.)
Well, lo and behold, the late, great Sheppard is still the most recent American winner of the Olympic 1500. Silver-medal finishes by Abel Kiviat (1912), Glenn Cunningham (1936), Bob McMillen 1952) and Jim Ryun (1968) are the best that USA entries have managed in all the years since.
The Millrose Games recognized all that – years-years-ago – and established the Mel Sheppard 600 as perhaps the meet’s second most prestigious event behind the Wanamaker Mile.
An array of the sport’s most noble footracers took Mel Sheppard 600 titles over the years, first at yards at Madison Square Garden, now at meters at the Armory.
University of Iowa graduate Sowinski added his name to that lustrous list with an out-of-the-blue Saturday night triumph in the American-record time of 1:15.61.
This was race set up as the great rematch of Olympic aces Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds. Sowinski wasn’t written into the script until three days earlier – when a lane opened with the withdrawal of Belgium’s Kevin Borlee.
But what a script re-write Mr. Sowinski produced, flooring it for a 26.86 third lap to bring it home and pull a stunner of all all Millrose stunners.
Up in the Armory seats, six members of the Erik Sowinski Fan Club – who’d flown in from Iowa City just for this one – screamed approval of the rousing win.
“We absolutely knew Erik was going to win it,” said Number One cheerleader Bryan Johnson. “We absolutely had faith it was going to happen. We had no doubts whatsoever.
“Erik had run some great races over in Europe. He was absolutely ready. We knew it, even if nobody else did.,”
“Whoooo-whoooo-whoooo” yelled the other Sowinski fans. They held aloft a a 3 x 2-foot Erik Sowinski-head sign, newly-created at a Manhattan Staples store.
The waved it in all possible directions, with the energy worthy of a candidate who’d just won a presidential nomination.
“Oh-my-my-my God,: Erik’s done it,” they screamed some more, after he’d crossed the line.
“This was definitely worth the trip from Iowa,” they all agreed. “Definitely-definitely-definitely.”
“Erik’s our man, We came here prepared to make some noise. Now everybody else here knows why.”
Erik Sowinski for president? Why not?