Millrose Games celebrates its 100th anniversary as the track’s most prestigious indoor event

I guess you’d have to be a runner to appreciate the Millrose Games, which held its 100th race over the weekend at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

The Millrose Games cannot be said to be the most prestigious indoor competition in the world; in fact, it is the most prestigious indoor track and field competition by invitation in the world. As a runner in high school and college, you dream of running on the boards at the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden in the same way that a soccer player dreams of playing in the Super Bowl.

Athletics have been through tough times in the United States of late and that is why the 100th Millrose race is so significant. Only the 2007 Millrose Games, as Dick Patrick wrote in USA Today on Thursday (2-1-07), “has survived the demise of a once vibrant indoor circuit that the United States monopolized.”

Patrick is right.

Not only did Camelot lose its luster with the tragic loss of President John F. Kennedy, the Millrose Games lost some of its flourish, but may still flourish due to the famous Wanamaker Mile competition and enough world-class athletes to deserve 2 hours. of live coverage on ESPN2 on Friday and 1 hour on ABC on Saturday.

I was glued to the television in both presentations.

Many runners who would watch the Millrose Games on the subway would not if it weren’t for sportswriters like Dick Patrick. His pre-event coverage on USA Today was interesting, informative, and rich.

The Millrose Games were started in 1908 by John Wanamaker of the Wanamaker department store chain and first gained prominence in the 1920s. Herb Schmertz, who worked for the Wanamaker department store in New York, became the manager of Millrose Meet in 1934 and ran the Millrose games for 40 years, until 1974, when his son Howard, a New York City attorney, took office in 1975 and continued. until 2003.

The Schmertz family ran the Millrose Games for 69 years and Howard Schmertz continued as meeting director emeritus for the 100th edition of the Millrose Games. The new competition director is Mark Wetmore from Global Athletics Management.

John Wanamaker of Wanamaker Department Store was a giant in American retail. He opened Philadelphia’s first department store in 1861 and would eventually have 15 more stores in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Wanamaker is credited with being the father of modern advertising in America. He was the first to copyright his ads, the first to guarantee his products and offer exchanges and refunds, he created the price tag as we know it today, and he was the first to locate a restaurant within his department store.

Wanamaker was 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 for the transport of cash and documents (1880), and the first store with an elevator (1884).

It’s no wonder John Wanamaker sponsored a major sporting event and gave birth to the Millrose Games. As sponsorship, major competitions and attendance began to decline in the 1990s, Europe became a much more important indoor player; however, the Millrose Games continued thanks to the Schmertz family.

The Millrose Games have been through three Madison Square Gardens, two World Wars and one Great Depression and still survived to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

This year’s centennial competition saw Gail Devers, 40, who is already the competitor and American record holder in hurdles, win the event in 7.86 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year and almost a second better. than the listed world record. for master athletes (40+) at 8.71.

Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva set a Millrose Games record by competing for the first time on American soil. Isinbayeva holds 17 times the world record; He continually breaks his own world record and tried it on his last attempt at Millrose, but failed.

At the famous Wanamaker Mile Saturday, four-time winner Bernard Lagat faced Craig “Buster” Mottram, the 6-foot-3 Commonwealth Games champion, and Alan Webb, the new “homegrown” miler from the United States. United. Lagat, a runner from Kenya, has apparently become a US citizen.

Lagat’s legacy is already assured, as he is a two-time 1,500-meter Olympic medalist. Webb became the first American high school student to break 4 minutes per mile indoors (3: 59.86), and at the outdoor Prefontaine Classic in Eugene (OR) he ran 3: 53.43 to break the national high school of 36 years of Jim Ryan. record. In 2004, Webb won the Olympic 1,500-meter events and ran an outdoor mile in 3: 48.92 last year.

The Wanamaker Mile is different and difficult because Madison Square Garden has a 160-yard banked board track compared to normal 200-meter indoor tracks. Because it is shorter, the turns are more difficult and are 11 laps instead of 8 laps.

In this year’s race, Alan Webb led pacemaker Moise Joseph’s 1: 54.99 half-mile, then defending champion Bernard Lagat took over until Australian Buster Mottram had 4 laps to go. .

Mottram knew that Lagat considered it vital to lead with two laps to go to win, so Mottram applied himself and was still leading on the last lap. Lagat then shifted to another gear and won with better finishing speed in 3: 54.26. Mottram was second in an Australian record of 3: 54.81, and Webb was a disappointing fourth.

I really felt sorry for Alan Webb. He was so excited to do better against Lagat. When interviewing Lagat before the race, the announcer reminded Webb that Lagat outdid him multiple times and asked how Webb would beat him this time. My heart sank.

I’ve run too many races and I understand how the announcer could have sealed Webb’s fate right there. I don’t think Webb was prepared to answer such a question right before the competition, and he was unable to mentally adjust before competing.

Webb’s response to the announcer was that he “needed to be tougher” when a better response would have been “needed to be smarter,” especially if Webb had run a more tactical race and knew that his leg speed was as good as his. Lagat in the finish.

If not, there’s no way he could have won without pressing harder first in hopes of wearing Lagat down. Lagat is a Kenyan, not a turtle. It can fly as well as run. Webb’s best mile covered before was a triumphant 3: 55.18 a week ago in Boston.

Remember, Lagat won in 3: 54.81, just 37 hundredths of a second faster. I suppose Webb is physically ready, but he has some work to do emotionally and mentally to beat Lagat, whose tough winning experience and confidence showed better.

They run the Wanamaker Mile for the same reason they play the Super Bowl. You can talk all you want about who will win or why, but the winning team will have to prove any statement on game day.

Dick Patrick finished his pre-encounter story with this prominent inset:

Howard Schmertz was 7 years old when he saw his first Millrose Games in 1933, accompanying his father, he met director Herb Schmertz.

Howard Schmertz, who succeeded his father as director in 1975, has since missed only two Millrose encounters when he was fighting in WWII. (Here’s Howard) Schmertz’s Millrose Best Moments:

10) Bernard Lagat wins the 2005 Wanamaker Mile with a Madison Square Garden record 3: 52.87.

9) Suleiman Nyambui wins the 5,000 meter race (1981) after a duel with Alberto Salazar, after a victory in the New York Marathon. Nyambui sets a world record 13: 20.4.

8) Irishman Eamonn Coghlan wins a Wanamaker 7th Mile record in 1987, dueling Marcus O’Sullivan (another great Irish rider).

7) In the 1984 long jump, second place Carl Lewis takes control first and sets a world record of 28 feet, 10¼ inches.

6) Marine Corporal John Uelses, using a newly designed fiberglass pole, becomes the first to clear 16 feet in the pole vault.

5) In 1974 Tony Waldrop records the first mile in less than 4 minutes in the history of Millrose.

4) Mary Decker wins the 1,500 meter 80 yard race in 1980 and sets a world record of 4: 00.8.

3) In 1955, the Danish Gunnar Nielsen regained his world record for miles from Wes Santee in 4: 03.6. Meanwhile, Fred Dwyer, forced off the track on the final lap, and Santee practically battling for the home straight in Nielsen’s wake.

2) In 1942, Cornelius Warmerdam, borrowing a bamboo pole, became the first to clear 15 feet into the vault. He broke the Millrose mark of 14-3, held by Sueo Ohe, killed several weeks earlier in the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.

1) In 1959, 17-year-old John Thomas became the first to clear 7 feet indoors in the high jump, dueling Charlie Dumas, the first to clear 7 feet outdoors.

Hats off to Dick Patrick for bringing us great memories. And congratulations to the Millrose Games, which are still the best indoor games in the world.

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

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