By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (04-Feb) — Impressive 600-meter times from Ajee’ Wilson and Sammy Watson highlighted a quality afternoon of track action at the third Armory Track Invitational in Upper Manhattan. The meet serves as a high quality warm-up for next Saturday’s NYRR Millrose Games.

Immediately running away from the field, the 22 year-old Wilson improved on her own world-leading and career best mark of 1:25.23 set at the New Balance Games here two weeks ago.  Unpressed, she ran 1:24.28, the fourth-fastest time in history and the second-fastest by an American behind only Alysia Montaño’s national record of 1:23.59 set on this same Armory oval in 2013.

“He told me to try to come through the four (hundred meters) in 54 or 55,” Wilson said of her coach, Derek Thompson.  “And he told me to make sure I finished.  Get out in 27 and just try to keep that momentum the last 200.”

Indeed, Wilson hit those splits, running the 200-meter mark in 26.7 and the 400 in 55.3.  She closed in an impressive 29.2 seconds.

“It felt really good, really comfortable as I got closer to the line,” Wilson continued, removing her white and red adidas spikes.  “I heard the times going off so I put a little extra burst into it to get under (one) 25.”

Behind her, 17 year-old Sammy Watson of Rush-Henrietta High School in Henrietta, N.Y, finished third in a new USA high school record of 1:27.13, breaking her own mark of 1:28.67 set at a high school meet on January 21.  Watson said that having Wilson, and another pro Cecilia Barowski, to key off of was a huge help.

“Today, I was just trying to get the experience of running with the pros again, and getting comfortable with, like, not always being in the lead and starting off in the lead,” said a composed Watson, wearing Nike’s black and white pro uniform.  “It’s crazy,” she added.  “I think that’s over a second PR.  I’m really happy.”

In the men’s mile, Scotland’s Andy Butchart ran a world-leading time of 3:54.23, becoming the #2 Scotsman of all-time for the indoor mile, behind only 2015 European Indoor Championships 1500m bronze medalist Chris O’Hare.  Following the pace set by the designated rabbit, Graham Crawford, through halfway (about 1:57), Butchart ran the second half of the race alone, stretching his lead over Ford Palmer with every stride.  He was particularly pleased with his time given that he has only done one speed workout so far this year, and that was at high altitude in Flagstaff, Ariz.

“It was fun,” Butchart told reporters.  “I enjoyed it.  Like, I’m not a miler; that’s for sure.  The last lap I was dying.”

The women’s mile went to Charlene Lipsey in a personal best 4:30.13, surging past Canada’s Kate Van Buskirk with about 120 meters to go.  That reversed the order of finish from the New Balance Games here two weeks ago where Van Buskirk ran an early world leader of 4:30.14 ahead of Lipsey’s 4:31.35.  Today, Van Buskirk faded in the second half, clocking 4:32.16.

“I’m a kicker, so last lap I kicked but she was away already,” Lipsey said of her race here two weeks ago.  “Today, was more about just taking my time, run as relaxed as possible, and just get within striking distance.”

Palmer, who represents the Hoka One One New York-New Jersey Track Club, held on for second in 3:58.78, with Chris Hatler of the University of Pennsylvania finishing third in 4:00.50.

The 3000-meter races here also produced quality times.  In the men’s contest, former University of Colorado All-American Morgan Pearson scored a convincing victory in a personal best 7:49.46.  When pacemaker Graham Crawford dropped out at 1600m, Pearson ran the rest of the race alone, trying to hold a steady 31 seconds per lap pace.

“It was awesome, it was fun,” said Pearson who claimed he was not focused on his time today.  “I just wanted to win.  That was my goal: just win, run hard and have fun.  That’s all I’ve been trying to do.”

The race for the other spots on the podium got unusually physical.  Drew Hunter and Daniel Winn traded elbows and shoves as they battled for second place.  Eventually, they were upstaged by Australia’s Morgan McDonald who passed both of them on the last lap to take second in 7:51.19, a personal best.  Hunter ended up third in 7:51.90, and Winn was fourth in 7:52.27, both personal bests.

The women’s 3000m offered less drama.  Running in only her second 3000m race, veteran miler Heather Kampf followed pacemaker Ashley Higginson through halfway in 4:28.4 with Emily Lipari in tow.  After Higginson dropped out at 2000m, Kampf quickly left Lipari behind, going on to win in a career best and meet record 8:51.27.  Lipari kicked hard on the final lap to break nine minutes for the first time in 8:57.24.

“Oh, nice!” Kampf exclaimed after a reporter told her she had run the final 200-meter circuit in 31.3 seconds. “After Ashley dropped out I wasn’t really positive about how to maintain that pace, and I always think you have to pretend you’re speeding up in order to maintain.  I think I sped up even more than that, so that’s good.”

The elite section of the meet closed with an entertaining 4x800m relay for men which saw the District Track Club upset Main Street Elite, 7:22.92 to 7:23.15.  District TC had a one-second lead after the third leg, when Edose Ibadin handed the baton to Sam Penzenstadler, but the Main Street team had Olympian Robby Andrews on the anchor leg.  Andrews quickly moved up to Penzenstadler’s shoulder, waiting to strike.  Penzenstadler, who competed for Loyola (Illinois) during his NCAA career, was trying not to get too anxious about Andrews.

“I didn’t want to think about that too much,” a smiling Penzenstadler told Race Results Weekly.  “I wanted to go out hard… and run my own race.”

Andrews made his bid for victory coming out of the final bend, moving outside of Penzenstadler with a powerful move.  The two men sprinted furiously, and Penzenstadler out-legged Andrews on the final leg, 1:48.9 to 1:49.9.

“He’s known for his kick, but I have a kick most of my races,” said Penzenstadler.  “I was just like, as long as I can string it out the last 200 meters I just got to see if my kick would do it, and it did today.”