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Lagat wins mile race at Millrose Games for 7th time

Bernard Lagat waited for Friday night ever since he ran through the tape to claim the prestigious Wanamaker Mile at last year's Millrose Games.

The Kenyan-born American jokingly said then that he was ready to announce he'd be competing in the 102nd edition of the Millrose Games, which would be his opportunity to put his name among some of the most prolific winners in the history of the event that's held annually at Madison Square Garden.

So, he was more than ready to see his name in lights atop everyone else's on Garden Vision again, and he certainly ran like it from the moment the starter began the marquee event.

Lagat ran with a purpose and picked up his seventh straight Wanamaker Mile win, overtaking New Zealand's Nick Willis on the final lap to capture the race in 3 minutes, 58.44 seconds, tying Irishman Eamonn Coghlan's mark of seven consecutive victories in the Games' big event.

The anticipation of whether Lagat could do it capped off an exciting 33-event night of action that saw Australian pole vaulter and Olympic gold medalist Steven Hooker turn in an amazing record-setting performance.

Hooker cleared a personal-best 19 feet, 8 1/2 inches and established a few records in the process. He topped the American indoor record of 19-6 1/2 set by Lawrence Johnson in 2001 and also easily blew past Jeff Hartwig's Millrose Games high-water mark of 19-3.

"It was a little unexpected," said Hooker, who now also holds the Australian world indoor record. "I've had a really interrupted preparation. I've had one complete pole vault before I came here. About four weeks ago I broke a pole while I was jumping and it hit my knee, and I haven't vaulted since then. To come out here and jump a personal best is a bit of a surprise."

Hooker had three cracks at the Sergey Bubka's 1993 indoor world record of 20-2, placing the bar at 20-2 1/2. However, he hit the bar each time in what was uncharted territory for the Australian, who found himself marveling that he even got a crack at Bubka's record.

"He is the benchmark in pole vault," Hooker said. "That's the first time I ever put the bar up to his world record. I think that's a good experience, particularly in the first meet of the year. Hopefully I'll get a couple more shots in coming weeks. I'd like to think that I've got more in me."

Kara Goucher proved that she has plenty left. Born in Queens, the 30-year-old Portland resident blew away the field in the women's mile to win the event for the second straight year. Goucher tried a different approach than she normally does after consulting with her coach, who suggested she go for the lead at the half-mile mark and slow it down while waiting for someone to catch up.

Nobody came close to challenging her, though, and now Goucher is undefeated in two races at the Garden after finishing in 4:33.19, more than four seconds ahead of Serbia's Marina Muncan.

"The pace was out pretty quick," Goucher said, "and if I hadn't faded the last couple of laps, it might have been faster. My stride is a shuffle, so my coach told me, 'When you want to move fast, don't stride out. Try to make it quick.'"

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