Two-time Olympic medalist Bernard Lagat and reigning World Champion Jenny Simpson are both returning to defend their titles in the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile Presented by Nissan, it was announced today by New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg.
The 32nd edition of the race, on Saturday, September 22, is expected to feature more than a dozen Olympians. In 1981, Sydney Maree and Leann Warren won the inaugural event; since then, winners have included Steve Scott, John Walker, Peter Elliott, Nick Willis, Mary Slaney, PattiSue Plumer, and Paula Radcliffe.
Lagat, 37, who won the Fifth Avenue Mile last year in his fourth try, will be challenged by two other top Americans: Leo Manzano, 28, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist at 1500 meters, and Matthew Centrowitz, 23, the 2011 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist at 1500 meters who finished fourth in the 2012 Olympics.
“I know there will be some guys in good form who will look to deny me that shot at winning it again, but I’m in good shape,” said Lagat, who won Olympic bronze and silver medals at 1500 meters while competing for his native Kenya before becoming a U.S. citizen and becoming a double World Champion, at 1500 meter and 5000 meters, at the 2007 IAAF World Championships. “Certainly I intend to defend my title.”
Lagat just missed another Olympic medal last month when he finished fourth in the 5000 meters in London.
Headlining the women’s race along with Simpson will be Great Britain’s Hannah England, the 2011 IAAF World Championships silver medalist at 1500 meters behind Simpson, and Shannon Rowbury, a two-time Olympian at 1500 meters whose sixth-place finish in London was the highest ever by a U.S. woman. Rowbury, the 2009 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist at 1500 meters, won the Fifth Avenue Mile in 2009 and 2010.
After her stunning victory at 1500 meters in the 2011 IAAF World Championships, Simpson made her second U.S. Olympic team this summer. In 2008, she broke the U.S. record in the steeplechase when she finished ninth in Beijing, then in 2009 broke it again when she placed fifth at the World Championships in 9:12.50, but Simpson is coming off disappointment in London, where she failed to make the Olympic final.
“I can’t wait for another opportunity to race in New York City,” she said. “It’s a unique experience racing alongside such a great community of runners. Defending my Fifth Avenue title would be the best way to finish my 2012 season.”
Among the other top athletes expected on the men’s side are two rising international stars: Cam Levins, 23, the 2012 NCAA champion at 10,000 meters who competed for Canada at both 5000 meters and 10,000 meters in London; and 22-year-old Ryan Gregson, a 2012 Australian Olympian who has already broken the national record at 1500 meters.
On the women’s side, Gabriele Anderson, 26, who took fourth in the 1500 meters at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, and Sarah Bowman, 26, the 2009 NCAA indoor champion at the mile, are two other interesting names in the field.
“This is a crazy great Fifth Avenue Mile field,” said Wittenberg. “Capping an Olympic year of highs and lows for many of the world’s best milers, Fifth Ave provides the drama of the last curtain call.”
“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