FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas, Feb 10 - Bernard Lagat is on a roll, one that many athletics pundits predict could put him atop the indoor world record list by the time Friday’s Tyson Invitational indoor meeting is over.
The 30-year-old Kenyan, silver medallist in the 1,500m at the Athens Olympics last year and bronze medallist at Sydney in 2000, won the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games last Friday in 3min 52.87sec, a performance that had many in the crowd of 13,519 screaming encouragement.
It was a get-even race as well as a track record race.
The 3:52.87 set both a Millrose Games record - erasing Eamonn Coghlan’s 3:53.0 in 1981 - and a Madison Square Garden record - topping Noureddine Morcelli’s 3:52.99 in 1991.
And Lagat convincingly beat countryman Laban Rotich in the process. Rotich had beaten Lagat at the Boston Indoor Games the previous week.
Lagat, a graduate of Washington State University who lives and trains in Tucson, Arizona, is obviously primed for much better things, and opportunity will knock at the Tyson meeting at the University of Arkansas on Friday.
Oh, Lagat is definitely capable of breaking the world record, and I expect he will,'' University of Arkansas coach John McDonnell said. McDonnell has coached his Razorback teams to a record 39 US collegiate championships, and those teams have included an array of sub-four-minute milers. The world indoor mile mark stands at 3:48.45, set by Morocco's double-gold Athens superstar Hicham El-Guerrouj at Ghent, Belgium, February 12, 1997. Coghlan's 3:49.87 indoors at New Jersey's Continental Arena in 1983 remains the fastest mile ever run in North America, indoors or outdoors. The situation will be perfect for a record,’’ said McDonnell of Friday’s meeting. They'll have two pace-setters to set it up, and we'll have a strong field (led by Rotich) to challenge Lagat. But it’s the track, most of all,’’ he said. I really think ours is one of the fastest in the world.'' The 200-metres oval at Arkansas' Randal Tyson Track Centre was originally built for the World Indoor Championships held in Toronto in 1993. After two years of disuse in the Canadian city, the track was purchased by the university, shipped south, totally refurbished, resurfaced and set up as the centrepiece of the new Randal Tyson Track Centre, which was built at a cost of 6.5 million dollars. It’s banked a little bit more (at 60 degrees) than some other tracks,’’ said McDonnell. ``That really helps coming off the turns. It gives runners more forward momentum.’’
Bottom line: it’s a whole lot faster than the Madison Square Garden 11-laps-to-the-mile (146-metres) oval.
In addition to Rotich, Lagat’s challengers will include another Kenyan, Paul Korir, Canadians Nate Brannen, Ryan Haden and Kevin Sullivan, and Americans Seneca Lassiter and Bobby Curtis.
The mile isn’t the only Tyson Invitational event with world-class talent and record-breaking potential.
The men’s long jump features Americans John Moffitt, Melvin Lister, Miguel Pate, Walter Davis and Savante Stringfellow, all veterans of the international circuit and 8.25-metre-plus performers.
The men’s 3,000m lists Ireland’s Alistair Cragg, who upset Ethiopian world record-holder Kenenisa Bekele at Boston, and Mark Carroll, Australia’s Mark Fountain, Kenya’s Robert Cheseret, Paul Bitok and Simon Ngata; New Zealand’s Adrian Blincoe, Ethiopia’s Markos Geneti, and Canada’s Graham Hood.
Lined up for the women’s 55m hurdles are Canada’s Perdita Felicien, the 2003 world outdoor champion, and Priscilla Lopes, Jamaica’s Michelle Freeman, Haiti’s Nadine Faustin, and top Americans Daniella Carruthers, Melissa Morrison, Anjanette Kirkland and Ashlee Williams.