Millrose Games Running Stronger Than Ever in 109th Edition, by Elliot Denman


Nick and Matt.jpgThe Matt and Nick show, photo by Jeff Benjamin

My first MIllrose Games was in 1986. It was louder than I had heard it would be when, the "Ladies and Gentleman, the Wanamaker Mile" was introduced. I was working at Runners World and had just moved from San Jose, CA to Breiningsville, PA to work for Rodale Press, the new owners of Runners World.

Taking the Beiber bus from Allentown, PA to New York, watching the meet and running a race in Central Park was a runner's dream for me. The meet was fantastic and lived up to all of my expectations.

Move ahead to 2016. The meet has moved to the Armory, and the excitement of the Wanamaker mile, as Matt Centrowitz used a 26.5 last 200 meters to hold off the hard charging Nick Willis, and sent the five thousand plus fans home satiated, but also looking forward to the 110th version!

Here is Elliott Denman's reminder to the young of heart that they have 109 years of athletic history in this meet. Most of the greats have run at the Millrose..Elliott names a few...

The year was 1908.
Teddy Roosevelt resided in the White House, with Charles W. Fairbanks his vice president.
Henry Ford introduced the Model-T, price $850. Orville Wright stretched all flight length records, with a 57-minute, 31-second excursion over Fort Myer, Virginia. Explorer Ernest Shackleton set sail from New Zealand to Antarctica. Robert Baden-Powell's "Scouting for Boys" was published in London.
King Carlos of Portugal was assassinated in Lisbon.
In Persia, the first major commercial oil discovery in the Middle East is made.
The Hoover Co. acquires manufacturing rights to the first upright portable vacuum cleaner. Bulgaria declares its independence from the Ottoman Empire. The Chicago Cubs defeat the Detroit Tigers to win baseball's World Series.
And the Millrose Games is launched in New York City.
Out of the Millrose Athletic Association, founded, according to its charter, to benefit the "physical well-being, welfare and health of the John Wanamaker Store 'family' of employees," the Millrose Games emerged.
A primary Millrose objective was "foster and improve amateur athletics in accordance with the standards and under the rules of the Amateur Athletic Union and to encourage participation therein."
Another was to "encourage improvement and promotion of amateur sports, among theathletic clubs, colleges, schools, recreation centers, welfare organizations, engaged in sport solely for the pleasure and physical, mental or social benefits they derive therefrom, and to whom sport is nothing more than an avocation."
The earliest Millrose Games meets were staged in Manhattan and Brooklyn armories. The meet moved to the second Madison Square Garden (at East 26th Street and Madison Avenue) in 1914, then to the
third Garden (Eighth Avenue at 49th/50th Streets), finally to the "new Garden" (Seventh and Eighth Avenues, between 31st and 33rd Streets) in 1968.
And all those Garden meets - staged there through 2012 - were the toasts of the town.
Invariably, those Millrose spectaculars - mastermined by Fred Schmertz, and then sonHoward Schmertz - were 18,000-fan sellouts.
Millrose Games reserved tickets were a red-hot item (sometimes even contested-for in estate battles) and the greats of track and field history made it a point to be there. An exclamation point, actually.
That array of track and field celebrities ranged from Alvah Meyer to Ray Conger to to Joie Ray to Howard Drew to Loren Murchison to Earl Thomson to Paavo Nurmi to Charley Hoff to Alan Helffrich to....
And, Stella Walsh to George Spitz to Gene Venzke to Glenn Cunningham to Chuck Hornbostel to Bill Bonthron to Jesse Owens to Jimmy Herbert to Chuck Fenske to Lou Zamperini to Leslie MacMitchell to John Borican to Barney Ewell to Fred Wolcott to...
Johnny Woodruff to Cornelius Warmerdam to Greg Rice to Gil Dodds to Buddy Young toEddie Conwell to Johnny Fulton to Jimmy Rafferty to Elmore Harris to Andy Stanfrield...

Don Gehrmann to Fred Wilt to Bob Richards to Charley Moore to Curtis Stone to

Horace Ashenfelter to Fred Dwyer to Mal Whitfield to Harrison Dillard to Tom Courtney to Charley Jenkins to Dave Sime to Lee Calhoun to....
Arnie Sowell to Ron Delany to Reggie Pearman to Tom Murphy to Wilma Rudolph toValeriy Brumel to Igor Ter-Ovanesyan to John Thomas to Tom O'Hara to Bob Schul toSam Perry to John Pennel to Ralph Boston to Kip Keino to Billy Mills to Tom Farrell to Bob Seagren to Dave Patrick to Marty Liquori to....
Mary Decker to Diane Dixon to Joetta Clark to Jearl Miles-Clark to Gwen Torrence toCheryl Toussaint to Tisha Waller to Donald Paige to Billy Olson to Doug Padilla to Greg Foster to Renaldo Nehemiah to Carl Lewis to Dwight Stones to Eamonn Coghlan to Marcus O'Sullivan to Stacy Dragila to Bernard Lagat...
Well, to the true who's who(and who's ever been) of "The Flagship Sport of the Olympic Games."
(And, for the Johnny/Jane-come latelies out there, for whom these names ring no bells, just do some googling.)

Which is a reminder of the famed Fred Schmertz quote that "I consider the Olympic Games my tryouts for the Millrose Games."

With MSG rental costs soaring, and both attendance figures and media attention in decline - in the face of pro sports' increasing command of worldwide focus - the Millrose Games moved 135 Manhattan blocks north to the New Balance Armory Track and Field Center in February 2012. In a sense, this was a "homecoming" - the original Millrose Games having been an Armory event, too.
When the move North was announced, many cynics called it a backward step in the sport's evolution.
But not the athletes - who love it and have gone on dazzling, record-breaking tears on the Armory's lightning-fast 200-meter track -often and rightfully called the quickest indoor racing facility in the universe.
And not the fans of 2016, either-who have found the A Train a half-hour convenience from midtown and have again sold out the Armory to its 5,000-seat capacity for Saturday's 109th edition of the Millrose Games. (OK, 5,000 isn't 18,000 in pure numbers; but those 5,000 will be counted on to match any of the old Garden crowds on the decibel meters.)
So now, the big question:
Who will step forward at the 109th Millrose Games to etch his/her place among the sport's all-time royalty?
The roster of leading candidates, assembled by Millrose Games director Ray Flynn, and committee, is spectacular and lengthy.
It runs from Nick Willis to Matthew Centrowitz to Robby Andrews to Chris O'Hare to Leo Manzano to Drew Hunter to Andre DeGrasse to Marquise Goodwin to Allyson Felix to Jenna Prandini to...
Ashton Eaton to (his wife) Brianne Theisen-Eaton to Jason Richardson to Brianna Rollins to Lolo Jones to Jasmin Stowers to Molly Huddle to Abbey D'Agostino to Edward Cheserek to Ryan Hill to Evan Jager to Erik Kynard to Mike Mason to Jesse Williams to...
Demi Payne to Sandi Morris to Ajee' Wilson to Lynsey Sharp to Lalonde Gordon to Brycen Spratling to Will Claye to Marquis Dendy to Nicole Tully to Shannon Rowbury to...well, a whole lot more.
This, of course, is both a World Indoor Championships (March 17-20 in Portland) and Olympic (August in Rio DeJaneiro) year.
Which will give very Millrose winner an important leg up on the competition.
As Armory Foundation Dr. Norbert Sander tells the world: "If you win here,
at the Millrose Games, it stays with you forever."

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