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Lagat, Simpson Win 5th Avenue Mile

First U.S. double win since 2000; more than 4,700 finishers at 31st edition

By Jim Gerweck, Running USA wire

 

NEW YORK – (September 24, 2011) – For almost every athlete participating in the Fifth Avenue Mile, the race serves as a celebratory conclusion to a long competitive season. For Bernard Lagat,
this 31st edition also allowed the two-time Olympic medalist
and world champion to finally check off a stubbornly resistant
item on his racing bucket list.

 

“It’s been so important
to me to win this race,” Lagat said after finally turning the
trick in his fourth time on Saturday. “I thought it must feel
really good to win here, and now that I have, I have to come
back to try to do it again.”

 

Lagat, 36, used his patented, and today, unmatchable, finishing sprint to pull away from defending champ Amine Laalou
of Morocco over the last 100 meters to notch a decisive
1.2-second win, crossing the line in 3:50.5, equaling the 10th
fastest time ever recorded in this road race. Three-time USA
road mile champion David Torrence was third in 3:52.4.
Of the 18 Open male finishers, 15 broke four minutes in spite
of humid conditions that had been predicted to be much wetter.

 

“I looked at a film of 2008,” he said, referring to his debut here when he finished second to Nick Willis
by a tenth of a second. “I realized that when I got to 800 and
saw the finish line in the distance I took off too early.

 

“I did the same thing
last year,” when he was once again runner-up. “So today, I
said, ‘Just run easy after 800, if someone wants to take the
lead, let them, just be in contact at 1500 and then go’.”

 

The strategy worked to
perfection, and Lagat, a Tucson resident, let others handle the
pace before finally adding the elusive Fifth Avenue title to
his numerous other honors, including eight wins in the Wanamaker
Mile, on the tiny indoor track at Madison Square Garden, 30 blocks
south of today’s finish line. That streak earned Lagat
co-ownership of Eamonn Coghlan‘s “Chairman of the
Boards” nom-de-guerre; after this weekend, he can start to
think about adding “Chairman of Roads” as well.

 

America’s latest middle distance world champion Jenny Simpson
used an almost identical strategy to sprint to victory in the
women’s heat, which preceded the men by 15 minutes. Unlike Lagat,
Simpson proved successful in her first run down the 20 blocks of
Manhattan’s most famous thoroughfare, and her 4:22.3 time
bettered her track PR for the distance by more than three
seconds, just ahead of 2011 World Championships silver
medalists Sally Kipyego of Kenya (10,000m) and Britain’s Hannah England (1500m), who both clocked 4:22.6.

 

“It’s been a long
season,” said Simpson, 25, who began racing during the winter
indoor campaign. “All year long we keyed on the World
Championships, so this was just a fun way to end. I knew it was
going to be really challenging. I’ve been closing really fast
in my races, so I was confident in my kick.”

 

Simpson, a 2008 Olympian
in the steeplechase, didn’t move to the front until the pack
hit the ¾ mark, then turned on the jets, covering the last 200
in the mid-27 second range to decisively nail down the win and
the $5000 champion’s check.

 

The win held extra
meaning for Simpson since her younger sister, Emily, now
serving in the Army, was there to witness it. “I think it’s the
first time I’ve seen her in over a year,” Simpson said. “A lot
has happened in that time, so to win with her here, in New
York, was really special.”

 

It was the first double American victory here since Jason Lunn and Kim McGreevy
topped the podium in 2000. The event also included heats for
runners of all ages and abilities and had more than 4,700
finishers.

 

31st Fifth Avenue Mile
New York, NY, Saturday, September 24, 2011

 

MEN
1) Bernard Lagat (USA / AZ), 3:50.5, $5000
2) Amine Laalou (MAR), 3:51.7, $3500
3) David Torrence (USA / CA), 3:52.4, $2500
4) Jeff See (USA / OH), 3:52.9, $1500
5) Craig Miller (USA / WI), 3:54.4, $1000
6) Jon Rankin (CAY), 3:54.7, $750
7) Garrett Heath (USA / CA), 3:55.3, $500
8) Jeff Riseley (AUS), 3:56.6, $250
9) Haron Lagat (KEN), 3:57.0
10) Anthony Famiglietti (USA / NC), 3:57.1

 

WOMEN
1) Jenny Simpson (USA / CO), 4:22.3, $5000
2) Sally Kipyego (KEN), 4:22.6, $3500
3) Hannah England (GBR), 4:22.6, $2500
4) Ingvill Makestad Bovim (NOR), 4:24.6, $1500
5) Susan Kuijken (NED), 4:25.5, $1000
6) Morgan Uceny (USA / CA), 4:26.2, $750
7) Shannon Rowbury (USA / CA), 04:27.0, $500
8) Sara Hall (USA / CA), 4:29.1, $250
9) Brenda Martinez (USA / CO), 4:29.6
10) Barbara Parker (GBR) 4:31.7

 

Complete results, photos and more at: www.nyrr.org

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