It was a great day for U.S. milers at Saturday’s Great North CityGames, with Garrett Heath and Morgan Uceny putting in strong finishes to win their respective races in the Bupa Great North 1 Mile.
Heath’s winning time of 4:01.56 was announced as a meet record, with Uceny breaking the tape in 4:33.97. Both instantly became athletes to watch in next Sunday’s Fifth Avenue Mile Presented by Nissan.
Also putting in a strong performance was American Leo Manzano, who finished a close second to Heath in 4:01.79. He, too, is headed to New York City.
Heath’s surprise victory, over a field that included 2008 Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Champion Asbel Kiprop, came despite getting stuck near the back of the 11-man pack when Kiprop and Bethwel Birgen took the race out hard. The two Kenyans ran shoulder-to-shoulder in the early going, with Manzano right behind. But with about 400 meters remaining, Heath had worked himself up into second place behind Kiprop, and with 250 meters to go took a lead that he would not relinquish.
“I was running out of gas, but I think they were running out of gas, too,” said Heath, 27, in a telephone interview. “That last straightaway was pretty long.”
Heath, the 2013 U.S. Road Mile Champion, said that he’s coming into the Fifth Avenue Mile feeling stronger than he has in the past. He has competed here for the past three years, with his best finish a seventh place in 2011.
“Hopefully that means I’ve got a good chance to put myself into it,” he said. “Maybe I can use that great crowd to bring me home.”
Uceny, 28, has run the Fifth Avenue Mile twice, finishing sixth in both 2010 and 2011. But this year, the American who was ranked #1 in the world for 2011 appears to be just rounding into form after recovering from injuries she sustained in the 2012 Olympic Games final.
After running outside to the right for much of the race behind leaders Charlene Thomas of Great Britain and Hellen Obiri of Kenya, the 2013 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist at 1500 meters, Uceny surged with about 150 meters to go to pull away from the field for the win in 4:33.97. Finishing second was Laura Weightman, in 4:34.63, with Hannah England in third, 4:35.12. Both were running before a home crowd in the British road mile, run largely along the Tyne River in Newcastle/Gateshead. England, the 2011 World Championships silver medalist and fourth-place finisher this year, will also be traveling to New York.
“It’s really nice getting a win in a good field after I've had such a frustrating track season.” Uceny wrote in an e-mail. “I’ll do my best to repeat [this win] at Fifth Avenue and end my season on a high note.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg