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Millrose Games Celebrates 100th Birthday as Track’s Most Prestigious Indoor Event
I guess you’d have to be a runner to appreciate the Millrose Games, which celebrated its 100th run over the weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The Millrose Games is not arguably the most prestigious indoor track meet in the world, it is in fact THE most prestigious invitational track and field meet in the world. As a runner in high school and college, you dream of running the boards at the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden the same way a football player dreams of playing in the Super Bowl.
Track and field has fallen on hard times in the United States recently which is why the 100th running of the Millrose is so important. Only the 2007 Millrose Games, as Dick Patrick wrote in USA Today on Thursday (2-1-07), “survived when a once-vibrant indoor circuit was awakened and the U.S. monopolized.”
Patrick is right.
Not only has Camelot lost its confidence with the tragic loss of President John F. Kennedy, the Millrose Games have lost some of their bloom but are still able to grow because of the famous Wanamaker Mile competition and plenty of world class athletes for 2 hours. of live coverage by ESPN2 on Friday and 1 hour before ABC on Saturday.
I was hooked to the TV for both shows.
Many runners watching the Millrose Games on the tube wouldn’t do that if it weren’t for sportswriters like Dick Patrick. His pre-meeting coverage of the event in USA Today was interesting, informative and rich.
Millrose Games was started in 1908 by John Wanamaker of the Wanamaker chain of department stores and first gained prominence in the 1920s. Herb Schmertz, who worked at the Wanamaker department store in New York, became the director of Millrose in 1934 and ran the Millrose games for 40 years, until 1974, when his son Howard, a lawyer in New York City, over in 1975 and continued. until 2003.
The Schmertz family ran the Millrose Games for 69 years and Howard Schmertz continued as the meeting director emeritus for the 100th running of the Millrose Games. The new meeting director is Mark Wetmore of Global Athletics Management.
John Wanamaker of Wanamaker department stores was a giant in American retail. He opened his first department store in Philadelphia in 1861 and would eventually have 15 other stores in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.
Wanamaker is credited as the father of modern advertising in America. He was the first to copyright his ads, the first to guarantee his product and offer exchanges and refunds, he created the price tag as we know it today, and he was the first to found a restaurant inside his department store.
Wanamaker was way ahead of its time as the first department store with electric lighting (1878), the first store with a telephone (1879), the first store to install pneumatic tubes to carry money and documents (1880) and the first store with an elevator (1880). 1884).
It is no surprise that John Wanamaker would sponsor a major sporting event and give birth to the Millrose Games. As major funding, meetings and attendance began to decline in the 1990s, Europe became a much more important domestic player; however, the Millrose Games continued thanks to the Schmertz family.
The Millrose Games has been through three Madison Square Gardens, two world wars and one Great Depression and is still alive to celebrate its 100th birthday.
At this year’s centennial meet, 40-year-old Gail Devers, already a meet and American record holder in the hurdles, won the event in 7.86 seconds – the fastest time in the world this year and almost a second better than the recorded world record. for masters (40+) athletes at 8.71.
Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva set a Millrose Games record as she competed for the first time on US soil. Isinbayeva is the 17-time world record holder; she always breaks her own world record and she tried on her last attempt at Millrose but missed.
In Saturday’s famous Wanamaker Mile, four-time winner Bernard Lagat faced Craig “Buster” Mottram, the 6-foot-3 Commonwealth Games champion, and Alan Webb, a new miler ” home grown” America. Lagat, a Kenyan runner, has apparently become an American citizen.
Lagat’s legacy is already proven as he is a two-time Olympic 1,500 meter champion. Webb became the first American high schooler ever to break 4 minutes for the indoor mile (3:59.86), and at the Prefontaine Classic outdoors in Eugene (OR) he ran 3:53.43 to break Jim Ryan’s 36-year national high school streak. table. In 2004, Webb won the 1,500-meter Olympic Trials, and ran the outdoor mile in 3:48.92 last year.
The Wanamaker Mile is different and difficult because it has a 160-yard banked boardwalk at Madison Square Garden compared to standard indoor tracks of 200 meters. Because it is shorter, the turns are more difficult and it is 11 laps instead of 8 laps.
In this year’s race, Alan Webb led behind Pacemaker Moise Joseph’s half mile 1:54.99, then Bernard Lagat, the defending champion, took over until Australian Buster Mottram jumped into the lead with 4 laps to go.
Mottram knew that Lagat thought it was vital to lead by two laps to win, so Mottram poured on him and was still going into the last lap. Lagat then went into another gear and won with a better finishing speed in 3:54.26. Mottram was second in an Australian record 3:54.81, while Webb was a disappointing fourth.
I really felt for Alan Webb. He was so willing to do better against Lagat. When Lagat was interviewed before the race, the announcer reminded Webb that Lagat had beaten him several times and asked how Webb beat him this time. My heart sank.
I have run too many races and I understand how the announcer might have sealed Webb’s position there. I don’t think Webb was prepared to answer such a question right before the competition, and that he couldn’t change his mind before he competed.
Webb’s response to the announcer was that he needed to “be tougher” when a better answer would have been “he needs to be smarter,” especially if Webb had run a more tactical race knowing that his leg speed as well as Lagat at the time. end
If not, there is no way he could have won without pushing harder earlier in the hope of wearing Lagat out. Lagat is a Kenyan, not a turtle. He can fly as well as run. Webb’s previous indoor mile best was a successful 3:55.18 a short week ago in Boston.
Remember, Lagat won in 3:54.81, just 37 hundredths of a second faster. My opinion is that Webb is ready physically, but he has some work to do emotionally and mentally to beat Lagat, who had a tough experience, success and better confidence.
They run the Wanamaker Mile for the same reason they run the Super Bowl. You can talk about who will win or why, but the winning team will have to prove any statements on the day of the game.
Dick Patrick ended his pre-meeting story with this wonderful sidebar:
Howard Schmertz was 7 years old when he saw his first Millrose Games in 1933, with his father, meeting director Herb Schmertz.
Howard Schmertz, who succeeded his father as director in 1975, has since missed just two Millrose encounters while fighting in the Second World War. (Here’s Howard) Schmertz’s top Millrose moments:
10) Bernard Lagat won the 2005 Wanamaker Mile in a Madison Square Garden record 3:52.87.
9) Suleiman Nyambui wins the 1981 5,000 (meter race) after a fight with Alberto Salazar, coming off a New York Marathon victory. Nyambui sets a world record of 13:20.4.
8) Ireland’s Eamonn Coghlan won a record seventh Wanamaker Mile in 1987, surpassing Marcus O’Sullivan (another great Irish runner).
7) In the long jump in 1984, runner-up Carl Lewis takes over first and sets a world record of 28 feet, 10¼ inches.
6) Marine Corporal John Uelses, using a newly designed fiber pole, is the first to clear 16 feet in the pole vault.
5) In 1974 Tony Waldrop records the first sub-4 minute mile in Millrose history.
4) Mary Decker wins the 1,500 (meter) race by 80 yards in 1980 and sets a world record of 4:00.8.
3) In 1955 Gunnar Nielsen from Denmark regains his mile world record from Wes Santee in 4:03.6. At the same time, Fred Dwyer, pulled off the track on the last lap, and Santee almost wrestled down the home straight after Nielsen.
2) In 1942, Cornelius Warmerdam, borrowing a bamboo pole, was the first to clear 15 feet in the vault. He broke Millrose’s mark of 14-3, which was held by Sueo Ohe, who had been killed several weeks earlier in the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.
1) In 1959 John Thomas, 17, was the first man to clear 7 feet indoors in the high jump, surpassing Charlie Dumas, the first man to clear 7 feet outdoors.
Hats off to Dick Patrick for bringing back some good memories. And hats off to the Millrose Games, still the best indoor games in the world.
Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley
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