Defending champions Bernard Lagat and Jenny Simpson return.
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NEW YORK — American and British athletes have recorded a combined 35 victories at the Fifth Avenue Mile since the event was founded here by the New York Road Runners in 1981. That strong American-British tradition will continue at this year’s race on Saturday, September 22, based on the athlete lineup the Road Runners released today.
On the U.S. side, defending champions Bernard Lagat and Jenny Simpson have committed to the race, along with Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano, and his Olympic 1500-meter teammates Matthew Centrowitz and Shannon Rowbury. Both Lagat and Simpson prevailed in last year’s race in exciting sprint finishes in front of large crowds who lined what is normally one of Manhattan’s busiest streets.
“It was great to win the Fifth Avenue Mile last year,” said Lagat, 37, of Tucson, Ariz., through a statement. “I’d been trying for a few years. I finally won, and now it’s fun coming back as a defending champion.”
Simpson, 26, the reigning world 1,500m champion from Monument, Colo., offered a similar assessment. “I can’t wait for another opportunity to race in New York City. 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.”
Manzano, 28, of Marble Falls, Texas, and Centrowitz, 23 of Portland, Ore., should give Lagat his biggest challenge. They finished second and fourth, respectively, in the 1,500m at the London Olympics. Manzano, whose 1,500m medal in the London Games was the first in that event by an American in 44 years, missed last year’s Fifth Avenue race with an injury, but finished fifth in the 2010 edition of the race. Centrowitz, who won the NYRR Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games here at the Armory back in February, will be making his Fifth Avenue debut.
Rowbury, who turns 28 on September 19, won Fifth Avenue twice, in 2009 and 2010. She was the IAAF World Championships bronze medalist at 1500m in 2009, and her sixth place finish at last month’s London Olympics was the highest ever by an American woman in an Olympic 1,500m final.
Four women from the United Kingdom –all of them 2012 Olympians– will lead the British charge for victory, led by 2011 IAAF World Championships silver medalist Hannah England. England, 25, has improved her performance at Fifth Avenue every year she has competed, finishing fifth in 2009, fourth in 2010, and third last year.
England will be joined on the British squad by Olympic steeplechasers Barbara Parker and Eilish McColgan (daughter of 1991 ING New York City Marathon champion Liz McColgan), and distance runner Julia Bleasdale who finished eighth in the Olympic Games in both the 5000m and 10,000m. Both McColgan and Bleasdale will be making their New York City debuts; Parker finished tenth on Fifth Avenue last year.
In all, the invited field of about 35 athletes boasts 14 Olympians from four different nations, including two medalists (Lagat and Manzano); there are also five World Championships medalists (Centrowitz, England, Lagat, Rowbury, and Simpson).
“This is a crazy great Fifth Avenue Mile field,” observed Mary Wittenberg, the New York Road Runners’ president and CEO in a prepared statement. “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. We are especially thrilled to welcome Olympians galore including our defending champions Bernard Lagat and Jenny Simpson, Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano, and fourth-place finisher Matthew Centrowitz. We are also honored to have two-time Fifth Avenue Mile champion Shannon Rowbury back in the race again.”
The Fifth Avenue Mile is nearly an all-day event. The first heat, for wheelchair and handcycle athletes, kicks off at 8:45 a.m., followed by open and age-group heats, specialty heats, then the NYRR Road Mile Championships for both men and women. The professional heats take place at 12:45 p.m. (Women) and 1:00 p.m. (Men), followed by a special children’s heat at 1:15 p.m. to cap off the action. The event is free to spectators, many of whom arrive early to the 60th Street finish line to get a good viewing position.