Willis, Lagat Headline Paavo Nurmi 2K

Nick Willis, left, and Bernard Lagat, right, will do battle over 2000m at the Millrose Games. Photo: PhotoRun.net

The special event will honor the late Finnish distance running legend as part of the Millrose Games.

(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission. 

NEW YORK — Organizers of the NYRR Millrose Games announced here on Wednesday that Olympic silver medalists Bernard Lagat (Nike) and Nick Willis (adidas) will headline the Paavo Nurmi 2000-meters, a special event honoring the late distance running legend from Finland. The meet, in its 107th year, is scheduled for Saturday, February 15, at The New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory.

“I’m looking forward to coming back again to the Millrose Games in February,” said Lagat, an eight-time winner of the famed Wanamaker Mile, in a statement. “[The] 2000m is a new distance for me indoors, and that’s exciting.”

Lagat, 39, of Tucson, Ariz., has raced at the NYRR Millrose Games in twelve of the last thirteen years, including an active streak of nine years. The four-time Olympian, who competed first for Kenya and then for the United States, has seen great success in the two years since the event moved from Madison Square Garden to The Armory: In 2012, the Washington State alum set a then American indoor record for 5000m (13:07.15), while in 2013 he won the two mile in a still-standing national record of 8:09.49.

“I’ve had two great runs at The Armory the last two years and hope for another one this year,” said Lagat.

Willis, 30, from Lower Hutt, New Zealand, returns to New York City after winning a pair of races in the Big Apple last year. The former NCAA star for the University of Michigan took both the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile and the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5-K, setting an event record of 13:46 in the latter.

Joining Lagat and Willis on the starting line will be USA steeplechase record holder Evan Jager and Canadian Olympian Cam Levins. American Junior record holder for the mile, German Fernandez, will also be in the field.

Though the race will feature some of distance running’s top names, it will also be a celebration of Nurmi, who set a 2000-meter world record at The Armory in 1925. Having won gold medals at the 1920, 1924, and 1928 Olympics, Nurmi earned the famed nickname ‘Flying Finn.’

Finland will be well represented at the 107th NYRR Millrose Games. Niclas Sandells, one of the nation’s top distance runners, will compete in the 2000m, while Nurmi’s grandson Mika Nurmi will be the race’s official starter.

“Our family is delighted with the Paavo Nurmi 2000-meters at the Millrose Games and I am very much looking forward to being the race starter in the arena where my grandfather set the world record,” said Mika Nurmi in a statement.

Also attending the meet will be Mr. Ikka Kanerva, a member of Finland’s Parliament.

“Everywhere you turn there is great history at The Armory,” said Dr. Norbert Sander, executive director of the Armory Foundation. “Breaking the American record in the 2000m (4:58.6, Steve Scott, 1981) here at the 2014 NYRR Millrose Games will rewrite the history books and find a place alongside the epic run of Paavo Nurmi in 1925.”

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