At the Washington Heights armory -- by definition, a storehouse of arms but these days where some of the world's best legs fire up -- Westchester County teen star Mary Cain led the charge of producing hot times and heated battles in the 107th Millrose Games Saturday.
Cain, the 17-year-old high school senior who already has turned professional, motored to a clear 4:27.73 victory in the women's mile, about a half-second quicker than she ran in finishing second in her Millrose debut a year ago.
"I was so happy," Cain said. "Getting the flowers was the best part. One thing I struggle with is competing, being in a pack, running with a lot of bodies. I'm 17 and still not really kind of used to it, so the goal today was to compete and race smart."
She avoided the pack by sitting behind experienced veteran Emma Coburn through three quarters of the race. (The rabbit, Heather Kampf, essentially outran her job by sailing 10 yards ahead of the field.) Once Cain took the lead, neither she nor the sellout crowd of 5,000 had any doubts she would hold on.
In the process, Cain bolstered her reputation as the sport's new U.S. darling, streaking away from Morgan Uceny, currently ranked No. 1 in the world in the event, who finished seventh in 4:32.23; experienced pros Treniere Moser (second, 4:28.86); Sarah Brown (fourth, 4:30.13); Emma Coburn (fifth, 4:32.01); and this year's other high school sensation, Alexa Efraimson of Washington State (sixth, 4:32.15).
Also in the field was former Roslyn High standout Emily Lipari, the Villanova University senior who finished eighth in 4:35.24.
Cain pretty much stole the show in spite of a generous serving of elite races, including venerable Millrose favorite Bernard Lagat, the four-time Olympian and eight-time Wanamaker Mile champ who was going for his third consecutive Millrose Games record in the rarely run 2,000 meters.
Lagat made it look easy, with a 4:54.74 victory, then said he would leave it to David Monti, the man who assembles the Millrose field of elite runners, what next event record Lagat could target.
"We're out of them," Monti said. "We had put in the 2,000 at Bernard's suggestion. I told him the record was really old and he said, 'Let's go for it.' ''
Trinidad & Tobago's Olympic relay bronze medalist Lalonde Gordon, who now lives in Queens and is a regular at the Armory for workouts and competitions, won the 300 meters in 32.47. The event's world record-holder, Wallace Spearmon, withdrew, either because of travel problems or illness, according to two meet officials.
In the men's Wanamaker Mile, Californian Will Leer, the reigning national indoor champion, edged Lawi Lalang of Kenya and the University of Arizona, 3:52.47 to 3:52.88. Matthew Centrowitz, the 2012 Wanamaker winner, had withdrawn with an upper-respiratory infection.
American record holder Alan Webb, who 13 years ago ran the first sub-4:00 indoor mile by a high schooler at the Armory and who broke Jim Ryun's 36-year-old high school record later in 2001, finished 11th (4:06.11) yesterday in what he said was his final race.
Seaman wins women's race. Canadian Olympian Rachel Seaman, wife of North Babylon native Tim Seaman, won the women's mile walk in 6:17.29, with Nesconset's Maria Michta, the 2012 Olympian, second in 6:19.00. Both women are coached by two-time Olympian Tim Seaman, who was disqualified while in third place going into the final turn of the men's mile walk for a technical violation.