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Ajee’ Wilson brought the crowd to its feet at the 110th NYRR Millrose Games, shattering the American indoor 800-meter record in 1:58.27. Wilson and teammate Charlene Lipsey, coached by U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Derek Thompson, led a one-two sweep in one of several terrific races at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory in Upper Manhattan.
“Before we came out here today, my coach knew we were going to go 1:58,” Wilson said, speaking about herself and Lipsey, who became the second-fastest American ever indoors at 1:58.64.
Heading into every race, Thompson is known to give Wilson very specific directions. It has worked in the past, leading Wilson to national titles and global medals. This season, he’s told her to simply run by feel.
With training partner Kimarra McDonald doing the pacing, Wilson and Lipsey both shot to the front and tucked in behind their friend. Just like in practice, the trio rounded the Armory oval and hit 400 meters in 57.15 seconds.
“The last 400m, when she peeled off, I just wanted to keep the momentum going and keep the pace going,” Wilson said. “We knew we could have went 1:58. My coach told us we were in shape to do it so it was something that we were going for.” Wilson emphasized the word “we,” if she was going to succeed, Lipsey would to.
In the final lap Wilson noticed Lipsey was right off her shoulder and closing in. Going to the well, Wilson dug deep and shot to the tape in 1:58.27. When the time popped up on the board, she noticed Lipsey’s mark of 1:58.64. Together, both had dipped under Nicole Teter’s 14-year-old American record of 1:58.71 (set here at The Armory in a national championships race without the benefit of pacemakers).
“I think that was more for my teammate than it was for me,” Wilson said, speaking of her celebration with Lipsey. The pair began training before this season. “That’s a huge PR for her. I’m just beyond excited. It was a big jump for her. She’s come out and trained with us, and it’s definitely been the biggest blessing to my career, to my training. We have a great friendship and I’m super happy for the both of us.”
Also breaking a record was high schooler Sammy Watson. The Henrietta, N.Y., native finished sixth in 2:01.78, shaving .02 from Mary Decker Slaney’s 2:01.8 national high school record.
“My goal was to try to be competitive,” Watson said. “I was just trying to calm my nerves and get the experience of running with the professionals.” She’d only learned that she broke the record when speaking with members of the media.
“I knew if I could go under 1:30 [for 600m] then I could get close to two minutes, very close,” she added.