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Centrowitz wins 2nd Wanamaker Mile title at Millrose Games, holding off Willis by .11 seconds

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NEW YORK — Matthew Centrowitz had been nagged by his near-miss in trying to defend his Wanamaker Mile title for the last couple of years.

The American regained the trophy Saturday in the signature event of the indoor meet, finishing in 3 minutes, 51.35 seconds to hold off Nick Willis by .11.

Centrowitz, now 25, won the Wanamaker in 2012 then was a close second the following year. His father, two-time Olympian Matt Centrowitz, is a native New Yorker, and the son always has a big cheering section at the Armory.

"To this date, that still holds a sour taste in my mouth," said Centrowitz, the silver medalist in the 1,500 meters at the 2013 world championships. "This is a second home to me. Millrose, I take (it as) a big deal."

Forty-year-old Bernard Lagat, who has won a record eight Wanamaker titles, entered the race for the first time since 2011, as he has focused on longer distances. He was fourth Saturday, shattering the masters indoor world record with his time of 3:54.91.

The previous mark of 3:58.15 was set by Ireland's Eamonn Coghlan, who also held the record for most Wanamaker Mile titles until Lagat overtook him. Coghlan was on hand to congratulate him Saturday.

"I had a blast," Lagat said.

PHOTO: Matthew Centrowitz, right, races down the final stretch ahead of Nick Willis in the men's Wanamaker Mile during the Millrose Games, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, in New York. Centrowitz won the race with a time of 3:51.35. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Matthew Centrowitz, right, races down the final stretch ahead of Nick Willis in the men's Wanamaker Mile during the Millrose Games, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, in New York. Centrowitz won the race with a time of 3:51.35. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Phyllis Francis, a 22-year-old from Queens, had quite a pro debut, overtaking Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards Ross to win the 400.

"I'm at a loss for words," Francis said.

She grew up idolizing Richards Ross, a fact that draws a chuckle from the soon-to-be-30-year-old at how ancient it makes her feel. But it also makes Richards Ross feel fortunate that she's still competing at a high level. Her training was going so well that she decided not to mess with it by resting for Millrose, and the fatigue of that hard work showed in the final meters Saturday.

Shannon Rowbury won the women's Wanamaker, building a big lead that was more than enough once she stumbled toward the finish line in exhaustion. Defending champ Mary Cain, the 18-year-old phenom from nearby Bronxville, New York, was eighth.

Aleec Harris won the 60-meter hurdles in 7.50 seconds, beating two Olympics medalists by .01. Jason Richardson took silver in the 110 hurdles at the 2012 London Games, where Ashton Eaton was the decathlon champion.

Befitting his status as the world's greatest athlete, Eaton had one of the most impressive feats of the 108th Millrose Games at the end of his race: He leapt over the 8-foot padded wall that stops the runners' momentum after the finish in the confined space of the indoor facility. Eaton was also third in the long jump Saturday.

Kenya's Sally Kipyego, the Olympic silver medalist in the 10,000, won the 3,000.

Lopez Lomong, who beat Centrowitz in the Wanamaker in 2013, showed his versatility by winning the 5,000.

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