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Baddeley Wins New Balance Games Elite Mile

Brit leads five men under the 4:00 mark.

Brit leads five men under the 4:00 mark.

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

NEW YORK — Showing solid early season form, Britain’s Andy Baddeley won the elite mile at today’s 17th New Balance Games at the Armory here in Upper Manhattan, leading five men under the four-minute mark.

Baddeley, 29, who was the fastest miler of the 2008 outdoor season when he clocked a personal best 3:49.38 at the Bislett Games in Oslo, stayed near the front of the 14-man pack as pacemaker Brian Gagnon took the field through the first quarter in 59.4 seconds, and the half in 1:57.8. Baddeley waited until the penultimate lap to move to the lead, then took the bell with compatriot James Brewer in hot pursuit. Baddeley wasn’t worried.

“I knew I had another few gears,” Baddeley told Race Results Weekly after the race. “I knew (I would win) if I held him off on the back straight with 100 to go.”

Brewer was unable to close on Baddeley, and the 2009 Fifth Avenue Mile champion maintained his lead through the tape to win in an early world leader of 3:57.22. Brewer clocked 3:57.92 in second, while former University of Wisconsin athlete Craig Miller took third in 3:58.65.

“Hey, I love New York. I’ve had a lot of success here,” said Baddeley, who in addition to his Fifth Avenue Mile victory won the mile at this meeting in 2010 and was third in the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games the same year.

Kenyan high schooler Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark ran in the elite race and finished seventh in 4:02.21. He had hoped to challenge Alan Webb’s high school record of 3:59.86 set on the same Armory track in the 2001 edition of this meet.

The women’s mile was a bump-and-grind affair because there was no designated pacemaker. A closely-bunched pack of 14 women went through half way in a dawdling 2:27.4, three seconds slower than the high school girls’ mile which preceded theirs. Serbia’s Marina Muncan and Ireland’s Stephanie O’Reilly were the nominal leaders, but nobody had truly taken control of the race.

That all changed in the final three laps when Canada’s Hilary Stellingwerff went to the lead and picked up the pace. She was chased closely by former University of California Riverside athlete Brenda Martinez who used Stellingwerff’s surge to set herself up for a powerful final sprint.

“I felt good with, like, 400 to go,” Martinez said after the race. “It’s tough to say that I wanted to use her, but I needed my confidence back and I know I’m in great shape.”

Martinez waited for the final turn to swing wide around Stellingwerff, then surged to the tape in 4:39.37. Stellingwerff held on for second (4:39.82) and Liz Maloy got third (4:40.32).

“It’s really nice to get a win,” the smiling Martinez said.

In the elite women’s 800m, the 2010 NCAA champion Phoebe Wright led from gun to tape, but was pressured throughout the race by Latavia Thomas. Wright successfully defended her 2011 New Balance Games title in 2:02.32, to Thomas’s 2:02.71.

“Yeah, it feels good,” said Wright, who will return to the Armory to run the same distance at the Millrose Games on February 11. “This track is lightning fast.”

Tevan Everett won the men’s 800m in 1:47.70, despite easing up a little before the finish line. Former University of Connecticut runner Mike Rutt got second in 1:47.98, just ahead of Uganda’s Julius Mutekanga (1:48.00).

There was also spirited action in the varsity miles where the top-2 finishers would earn guaranteed spots in the Millrose Games high school miles. In the girl’s race, Laura Leff of West Genesee High School in Upstate New York came from ten meters back with a lap to go to defeat Megan Moye of Midlothian, Va., 4:48.96 to 4:49.36. Leff was surprised that she caught Moye.

“No, no way,” Leff said when asked if she thought she would win. “I was just thinking, ‘hold your spot’ so I could go to Millrose.”

Leff, Moye and third place Sophie Chase of Burke, Va. (4:55.79), all ran personal best times.

In the boys varsity mile, Zavon Watkins of Liverpool, N.Y., earned a second consecutive berth in the Millrose Games high school mile where he finished a disappointing seventh last year. In today’s race he clocked 4:14.52 over Rhode Island’s Mike Marsella (4:15.27) who, like Watkins, will also go to Millrose.

“It was amazing, you know?” Watkins said. “Coming into the race I just wanted to get first or second just to qualify. The big thing in my mind was to make it back to Millrose and do something great, because last year I ended up falling, tripping, and was never able to compete in the race.”

Finally, in the rarely-contested 500-meters, Strymar Livingston of Christopher Columbus High School here ran a national high school record of 1:01.68, shattering Mike Greene’s record of 1:02.40 set back in 1984 in Boston.