Where Records Die
Ray Flynn's Irish eyes were smiling.
For at least 8 or 9 or 10 obvious reasons.
With a single event to go in the 106th edition of the Millrose Games Saturday night, the Millrose meet director — still the fastest-ever Irish miler — had already seen wholesale revisions of the Millrose, Armory and American record books.
"The meet has absolutely exceeded my expectations," said Flynn, the man responsible for organizing the fields that were so destructive of the meet's and the sport's all-time charts.
"We've had so many fantastic performances," he said. "They've come one after another."
Soon after Tottenville High School student Marissa Pontecorvo had delivered a rousing rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" that was itself world-class quality, a bunch more were added to the record list.
When Lopez Lomong (3:51.21) outdueled USA Olympic teammate Matthew Centrowitz (3:51.34) with Ciaran O'Lionaird (3:52.10) and Chris O'Hare (3:52.98) hard on their heels and four more runners under the four-minute mark, the spree was at last compete.
Those first three, Lomong, Centrowitz and O'Lionaird had bettered the Millrose meet best-ever — Bernard Lagat's 3:52.87 at Madison Square Garden in 2005, and fourth-placer O'Hare had run the fastest ever indoor mile by a collegian as well as the fastest 1500 (3:37.25).
"Centro" had violated one of the cardinal principles of indoor one-mile running — the one enunciated by Eamonn Coghlan, "The Chairman of the Boards" and Flynn's great Irish contemporary some three decades back — "one move and one move only."
The 2012 Olympic 1500-meter fourth-placer and son of Matt Centrowitz, the former American 5000-meter record-holder and two-time Olympian, had contributed to his own defeat by a few strategic moves too many.
"That's indoor track," he philosophized. "Things happen all so quickly. You've got to make quick decisions."
Thus, the big win went to the superior strategy of Lomong.
After rabbit Brian Gagnon towed the 13-man field through an opening 1:54.25 800 meters, the real racing was on.
"Centro" took over and led through the 1200 post in 2:55.73, but Lomong was lurking right on his shoulder. Lomong hurtled past in the seventh lap and this time "Centro" ran out of responses. He closely back gradually on the final 200-meter circuit but could never recoup the lost territory.
The fastest mile of his life wasn't fast enough. Of course, it was Lomong's fastest, too.
"I just kept my composure," said Lomong. "I know how important it is to win at the Millrose Games. There is so much history here. I guess I'm part of that now."
As Ray Flynn's script played out, the fastest-ever Wanamaker Mile was the perfect icing on the Millrose cake.
Earlier contributors to the record splurge included the magnificent Bernard Lagat, Edward Cheserek, Alysia Montano, Ajee' Wilson, Mary Cain and Erik Sowinski.
Two-time Olympic 1500-meter medalist Lagat, an eight-time winner of the Wanamaker Mile, opted for the two-mile distance this time and this turned into a brilliant maneuver, too.
The 38-year-old marvel negative-split 4:07-ish and 4:02-ish miles and dazzled home in 8:09.49 to take Galen Rupp's name off the top of the AR two-mile charts.
Lagat's 8:09.49 triumph not only beat his own Armory record of 8:10.07 set in 2011, but led a startling five more under the previous meet standard — Miruts Yifter's 8:28.00 dating back to 1974.
Also under Yifter's venerable figures — and setting PR after PR of their own — were Andrew Bumbalough (8:13.02), Cam Levins (8:14.69), Evan Jager (8:14.95), Will Leer (8:21.53) and Leonard Korir (8:22.44).
Just eighth in the race but dazzling, too, was St. Benedict's Prep senior Edward Cheserek — who afterward announced he was heading to the University of Oregon — with a national scholastic record of 8:39.15, breaking a legendary mark of 8:40.0 set by Gerry Lindgren back in 1964.
Lagat — who ran in new Nike "cheetah" spikes — offered his most sincere congratulations to Cheserek, 20 years his junior, and then explained his own race — . "with two laps to go, I knew I'd come back within range, and went for it."
When he got it, he also had the complete sweep of America's "big five" of indoor distance records — at 1500 meters, one mile, 3000 meters, 5000 meters, and now the two-mile. Galen Rupp had scratched out of the Birmingham, England, meet held earlier in the day, so here was no chance the Oregonian could regain the lost ground.
Montano's 1:23.59 600 meters was the quickest ever by an American, and the Howard Schmertz three-lap event became a double-header when 18-year-old Ajee' Wilson of Neptune, N.J., followed her over the line in 1:26.45, a world junior record.
A professional athlete less than a year out of Neptune High, Wilson already owns gold medals from the World Youth Championships (2011) and World Junior Championships (2012.) Her principal 2013 target remains a place on the Moscow-bound USA team for this summer's World Championships.
Wanamaker Women's Mile champion Sheila Reid's 4:27.02 was an Armory record but not a Millrose record — that one still belongs to Romanian great Doina Melinte, who ran 4:21.45 at the Garden in 1988.
The real noise, though, was happening behind her with Bronxviller Mary Cain clocking in at 4:28.25, a truly sensational national high school record.
"Yes, Mary is very, very impressive," said Reid, the former Villanovan and 2012 Canadian Olympian who still trains under Wildcat coach Marcus O'Sullivan. "To think she's only a junior in high school, that's just amazing. There is no telling how much faster she'll get, either."
Through most of its years at the Garden, the classic men's Mel Sheppard 600 race was run at yards, not meters.
University of Iowa grad Sowinski was added to Sheppard 600 (meters now) just three days ago when Kevin Borlee of Belgium tweeted that he wasn't coming.
Well, the Iowa City resident, just back from some great racing of his own in Europe, delivered one more big shocker with a 26.86 final lap that brought him home a clear winner in the American-record time of 1:15.61.
This 600 was set up as a two-man rematch between Olympic stars Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds, but that script never evolved as Symmonds, battling an illness, dropped back early and wound up fourth in 1:16.89. But Solomon couldn't handle Sowinski's devastating finish, either, and settled for second in 1:16.04.
And the record-breaking spree still wasn't over.
Long Island Olympian and C.W. Post College alumna Maria Michta lowered the Millrose women's mile racewalk record to 6:40.6. The Susan Rudin men's mile racewalk wasn't a record-breaker — but still mighty exciting as Shore AC's Jonathan Hallman floored a 42.57 final lap to win in a PR-6:07.62 — all this after an 850-mile drive north with his dad from South Carolina. And they headed south soon after it was over.
Penn State, with Casimir Loxsom anchoring, lowered the Armory and Millrose men's 4x800 relay record to 7:21.37, running away from Duke (7:26.88) and St. Francis College of Brooklyn (7:38.97).
Sabrina Southerland — a senior at Benjamin Cardozo High — became the first PSAL runner to win the Girls' High School Mile since Shola Lynch's second victory for Hunter College in 1986.
Veteran New York Times sports writer Bill Miller has been attending the Millrose Games since the mid-1930s, when he was a freshman at New York's La Salle Academy. So he obviously spoke from experience when he said, "this was definitely one of the best Millrose Games ever; it surely ranks right up there."
Not long after Lomong's big mile win, the Armory scoreboard flashed this message — "Thank you for being part of the magic — see you February 15, 2014."
Preview stories below:
The Anomaly of Bernard Lagat Flotrack
Gardner, Hasay Set GoDucks.com
Mary Cain & The Mile Madness New York Times
Montano Hates Indoor Runner's World
A Look At Collegians USTFCCCA
Symmonds Open Season Runner's World
Lagat On Good Day Fox New York
Team USA Highlights Deep Fields USA Track & Field
It Pays To Be Short Wall Street Journal
Indoor's Most Iconic Meet Spikes Magazine
Looking At The Elites Flotrack
A Look At Teen Phenoms Runner's World
Five Good Reasons to Watch Bleacher Report
Coburn, Morris Arrive CU Buffs
Looking At The High School Miles MileSplit
Three-Lap Races To Be Hot Race Results Weekly
Gallagher To Face Pros Newsday
Run Junkie Talks Millrose Flotrack
Leff Returns To The Armory Running Times
Centro Wants Wanamaker Record Runner's World
Guide To The Wanamaker Miles Bring Back The Mile
CPTC Comes Strong Central Park Track Club
Cas Loxsom Opens Up RunnerSpace
Lagat Wants A Fast 2-Mile Competitor
Jersey Prep Legends Coming News Transcript
Nittany Lions Eye 4x8 Record Go PSU Sports
Three Track 'Cats Heading To NYC Arizona Wildcats
Kate Grace Excited Competitor
Ready For The Spotlight Philly Burbs
Ivy League Readies For Millrose Heps Track
Dr. Sander Talks Millrose WABC TV
Reese To Visit P.S. 123 Wednesday Track & Field News
Lomong's Season Has Begun LopezLomong.com
Ajee Wilson's Transition RunnerSpace
Hasay Gives Advice To Mary Cain Runner's World
Vaulting With Suhr Boston Globe