Rivalries Punctuate Millrose Games
Feb. 04, 1999
NEW YORK (AP) _ The Wanamaker Mile, usually the flagship event of the Millrose Games, might be overshadowed by Suzy Hamilton and Regina Jacobs in the women's mile Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Even meet director Howard Schmertz thinks the rematch of last year's 1-2 finishers could be the premier event.
Hamilton and Jacobs, also ranked 1-2 in the United States, are bitter rivals and their simmering feud is gaining momentum. That's why the women's race could take attention away from the men's mile, which has produced such great champions as Eamonn Coghlan, Glenn Cunningham, Marcus O'Sullivan, Kip Keino, Paavo Nurmi, Noureddine Morceli, Gil Dodds, Filbert Bayi, Ron Delany, Steve Scott and Marty Liquori.
``I think it's good for the sport when they have matchups like this,'' Hamilton said. ``Everyone knows that Regina and I don't like each other that much and we're not that friendly. Personality-wise, we are totally different.''
Jacobs is the 1997 world indoor 1,500-meter champion, the 1997 world outdoor 1,500 silver medalist and the winner of two medals at last year's World Cup, helping the U.S. women win the title for the first time. She agrees her battles with Hamilton is beneficial for track and field.
``It is an interesting rivalry because a lot of people get involved in it and enjoy watching us go at it and race against one another,'' she said. ``She has great speed. I have great speed and that always makes it interesting.
``Our competitiveness is what makes a great race. I want to beat her and she wants to beat me. It's not like we're friends, kiss, kiss, let's go out ...
``I think the pairing is important and people enjoy seeing people battle it out. People are coming to see the rivalries. They pick a side and it makes for an exciting evening. The rivalry is great for the sport and I wish it had happened sooner.''
The Hamilton-Jacobs matchup is among several highlights of the 92nd Millrose Games.
There will be Maurice Greene and Jon Drummond in the men's 60, Inger Miller and Chryste Gaines in the women's 60, Mark Crear and Reggie Torian in the men's 60 hurdles, Johnny Gray and Rich Kenah in the men's 800, Jeff Hartwig and Lawrence Johnson in the men's pole vault, Mark Everett and Tyree Washington in the men's 500, Melissa Morrison and Angie Vaughn in the women's 60 hurdles, and Joetta Clark and Meredith Valmon in the women's 800.
Oh yes, the Wanamaker Mile will feature a matchup among two Americans _ 1999 U.S. leader Richie Boulet and 1998 NCAA champion Seneca Lassiter of Arkansas _ and two foreigners _ William Tanui, the 1992 Olympic 800 champion from Kenya, and two-time Millrose winner Niall Bruton of Ireland.
None of those other matchups, however, is as keen as the one between Hamilton and Jacobs.
Hamilton won last year's race in 4 minutes, 30.91 seconds, with Jacobs the runner-up in 4:33.26.
Jacobs, 35, never has won at the Chase Millrose Games, also having finished second to Mary Slaney in 1997.
``Howard (Schmertz) is going to keep inviting me back until I get it right,'' she said, laughing.
This might be the year she ends the drought.
She had an outstanding season in 1998. In addition to her two medals at the World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa _ a silver in the 5,000 meters, a bronze in the 3,000 _ she set the American record for the 5,000 (14:52.59 at Brunswick, Maine) and won the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York.
And she began her indoor season this year by winning a mile in 4:33 over the slow boarded track at San Diego.
The 11-laps-to-the-mile Garden track also is notoriously slow, but not as slow as San Diego's, which had not been used in about 15 years.
Hamilton is making her 1999 debut, but also is coming off a big 1998 season. In her best performance, she became the second American, after Slaney, to go under four minutes for 1,500 meters.
Both Hamilton and Jacobs plan on chasing Slaney's outdoor 1,500 record of 3:57.12 this summer.
``I'm only about 1 1/2 seconds from the record,'' Hamilton said.
``She went under four minutes before I did,'' Jacobs said of Hamilton, ``but I'm not going to let her break the record before me.''
Spoken like a true rival.
The two also will compete Sunday at Boston in the New Balance Invitational: Jacobs, in the 3,000, where she will be chasing Lynn Jennings' American record of 8:40.45, and Hamilton in the 800.
Friday night's meeting probably will be the only one between Hamilton and Jacobs indoors, leaving the rivalry to simmer until the outdoor season.