There were a couple of plot twists to Saturday's Wanamaker Mile races at the 110th annual New York Road Runners Millrose Games.
In the women's race on the indoor track at the Armory in New York City, two-time defending champion Shannon Rowbury ran her best time in the event -- yet finished third. About a half hour later, Eric Jenkins showed a strong kick over the final 100 meters to beat Olympic 800-meter bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and seven others who broke four minutes.
Rowbury put herself in position for a third straight victory, running in third for most of the first half of the race. She then moved up to second but was unable to stay with 800-meter Olympian Kate Grace (4:22.93) or winner Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, who ran a meet-record 4:19.89. Rowbury, who had been optimistic about running well in the week before the event, finished in 4:23.05, faster than her 2015 and 2016 winning times of 4:24.32 and 4:24.39 respectively.
In the men's race, Jenkins proved his versatility once again by winning in 3:53.23, surging past Kyle Merber -- who faded to third, finishing in 3:54.67 -- and second-place finisher Murphy (3:54.31).
Jenkins has been at his best at longer distances but won in his Wanamaker Mile debut. He finished fourth in the 5,000 meters at last year's Olympic Trials, missing a berth on the U.S. team for Rio by .06 of a second, and set a personal best in the 3,000 meters at last year's NYRR Millrose Games (third in 7:39.43). He's ranked in the world's top 60 in both the 5,000 and 10,000. But in the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York in September, Jenkins also came on strong at the end to win in 3:49.4.
His approach Saturday was to go out strong, stay up front with the rabbit and be in good position late. When Merber challenged with about a lap to go, Jenkins said he was pleased at how well he was able to respond, driving to the finish.
He said the race felt like it fit him because it wasn't so much a tactical race as one that required strength. To be good in the 5,000, he says, "You have to be a good mile runner." To Jenkins, winning the Wanamaker is "really big."
"I obviously had grown up watching the race and the names of the people who've won this race are legends of the sport," said Jenkins on Monday. "So when I was holding the trophy and looking at all the names, you realize you're putting your name [on it]. You're adding to such a deep list."
The NYRR Millrose Games also featured American indoor records in two events, the women's 800 meters and the women's 500 meters.
In winning her fourth straight 800-meter race, U.S. runner Ajee' Wilson ran 1:58.27 to break the mark of 1:58.71 set by Nicole Teter in 2002. Second-place finisher Charlene Lipsey also broke Teter's mark (1:58.64).
In the 500 meters, Courtney Okolo -- who was part of the American 4x400 relay team that won Olympic gold at Rio -- won in 1:07.34. The previous U.S. best was 1:08.70 set by Shane Cox in 2010.