USA Indoor Season Expands With New Garden Meet

Bernard Lagat will continue to run in Madison Square Garden. Photo: Jane Monti

Wanamaker Mile champ Bernard Lagat will be competing.

Written by: David Monti
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Bernard Lagat will continue to run in Madison Square Garden. Photo: Jane Monti

NEW YORK — The 2012 United States indoor track season expanded with the announcement of a new meeting to be held here on January 28.  USA Track and Field (USATF) announced today that the first edition of the U.S. Open would be held in Madison Square Garden, and that double-Olympic medalist Bernard Lagat had committed to the meet.

The meet, which USATF said would include professional and high school events, keeps elite track and field in the Garden after the controversial decision by the Armory Foundation earlier this year to move the Millrose Games out of that venue and into the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory about seven miles north of the Garden in Washington Heights.  The Millrose Games, which will be held on February 11 for the 105th time, is not part of USATF’s three-meet Visa Championship Series, while the U.S. Open, New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston (Feb. 4), and USA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque (Feb. 25-26) are.

Lagat, 36, won the Wanamaker Mile when the Millrose Games were at Madison Square Garden a record eight times.  The USATF press release sent today carefully avoids any mention of either the Wanamaker Mile or the Millrose Games, but credits Lagat as having “won eight 1-mile races in the Garden.”

“Madison Square Garden feels like home to me, and I am so happy to be coming back in 2012,” Lagat said through a statement.

In holding the U.S. Open, USATF will face the same problems they did when they funded the Millrose Games at the Garden: a quirky 145.5m banked track which makes running fast times all but impossible, trying to fill over 16,000 seats, and finding sponsorship to offset some of the estimated “$1 million a year” the New York Times said it costs to stage the meet at the Garden.

Nonetheless, USATF interim CEO Mike McNees sounded upbeat about the new meet.

“This will be a tightly scheduled meet featuring the ‘best of the best’ from past Garden meets while providing a fitting kick-off to the 2012 Olympic year,” he said through the release.  “We are excited about our partnership with The Garden and are especially glad that everyone from kids to families to VIPs will be able to access the meet.”

Ray Flynn, who directs the Millrose Games, said he was glad to see the USA indoor season grow, although it is still just a fraction of the size it was when Flynn competed as a miler in the 1980′s.  At that time, Flynn said, athletes would compete multiple times in the same week.

“We welcome having another meet in New York,” Flynn said in a brief telephone interview.  “It is exciting to expand the indoor season.  It could only help prepare the athletes for better performances at the Millrose Games.”

USATF said that the U.S. Open would be televised from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on ESPN.

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