Potentiality and Fulfillment at the 2016 Millrose Games, by Jeff Benjamin


The 2016 Millrose Games was the finest that I have seen in the Armory. It is also a story about a meet reborn. Many of us, including me, wanted to keep an event in Madison Square Gardens, but it was not to be.

Take Dr. Norb Sanders, Ray Flynn and Brad Yewer, among others, mix in the support of the NYRR's Mike Capiraso and Peter Ciaccia, and you have the vision, the workers and the money to support to make the Millrose what is should be, a celebration of all things indoor!

Here is Jeff Benjamin's fine piece on the Millrose!

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Potentiality and Fulfillment are interesting terms. In one way they can reflect totally different outcomes, thereby contrasting each other. On the other hand, both terms can be congruent with each other (Boy, would my 11th grade Geometry teacher be proud of me for that one!), with the former leading into the latter.

These concepts were thoroughly on display at this year's 109th edition of the Millrose Games. With the NYC Armory now hosting the Games since it was moved out of Madison Square Garden 5 years ago, some might say there's a different "flavor" to the current editions compared to those of the past. The Potentiality of a slam bang meet here at 168th street in the tradition of the old wood tracks at the Garden, some might say, falls short. But don't tell that to the sold-out crowd of 5,000 present for the meet, as they would say they were most probably satisfied and, dare say, fulfilled.

The concepts of these two possible interlocking concepts were on display throughout the elite competitions. Beginning with Duane Solomon's 800 victory (where he held off Penn States' Brannon Kidder, finishing in 1:47.52, with Kidder right behind in 1:47.59) fulfillment had to be the proper word. Coached by American 800 legend Johnny Gray, Solomon said, "I had it together today. I've been working on staying strong right to the end, and I didn't break down. I'm proud I was able to close well." As for the potential of the US Olympic Trials 800, Solomon said, " I think we can have 3 guys in it who can run 1:43!"

Originally set to pace the Men's 3000, Johnny Gregorek went into the Men's Invitational Mile. The Columbia star who was out in Oregon, came back to the New Jersey area this past fall and spent 2 months in Florida. A member of Coach Frank Gagliano's New Jersey - New York Track Club, Gregorek (Whose father John SR., an Olympian who was a 3:51 miler) said of his training that, "Gag's Coaching has been working out great!

Indeed it was as Gregorek, in total control after a rabbit-paced 1:59.4 800 split, sprinted off the final turn to win in 3:56.57 in a real effort of negative split running. But also finishing in negative spliy effort in 4th place was High School Sensation Drew Hunter who broke his 2-week old Prep Indoor Mike Record once again, clocking 3:57.81. Talk about motivation? "All the fans here at the Millrose Games love track. I don't want to run slow here," said a thrilled Hunter. Without a doubt fulfilled, both milers know there's still lots of potential to show in the future.

Showing their fulfillment with their performances were Hurdles Champions Janay DeLoach (7.85) and Jamaican Omar McLeod (7.46) Yet happy with the potential of his performance was Decathlete Champion Ashton Eaton as he crossed the finish line quite happy with his time of 7.53. Later on in the Long Jump, Eaton would go 23' 5 1/2".

The Women's 60 meters Champion Allyson Felix, potentiality and fulfillment did mix, as the Sprint legend put in a split second late surge to win in 7.15. "Coach (Kersee) wanted me to get a competitive 60 in," said Felix, who will attempt the potentially historic 200 and 400 in Rio. For Felix, whose indoor competition are few and far between, winning at Millrose was quite rewarding. "I've always liked indoors," said Felix. "I wanted to break up the racing a little bit this season. I definitely have to work on my start." As for the throngs of young fans waiting to see her, she said,"I felt really welcomed by the fans here," and she in turn welcomed them, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

The men's 60 meters saw the professional debut of Canadian Andre DeGrasse and potential is written all over him. Winning his race in a time of 6.61, one wonders what he can do against Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin, and the cast of the World's fastest man. Not satisfied, last year's World Champs 100 Bronze medalist said, "I was definitely not happy with my start tonight, but I'll work on it." Asked if he's ready for the pressure that comes with winning at this level, DeGrasse seemed ready to take it on. "There's always going to be pressure and it's important to adjust to it," he said,

The mega-distance races here did not disappoint, as Molly Huddle Tried to hang on in the women's 5K, losing the 25-lap race to Betsy Saina by the oh-so-close times of 14:57.18 to 14:57.31. "It was quite exciting," said Saina, stating the obvious. For Huddle it was all about the overall goal of the Indoor Worlds and the Olympics. "I've been doing a lot of strength and I'll always be doing my best," she said. The men's 3000 was no less dramatic as Ryan Hill (7:38.82) nipped Hassan Mead (7:38.85) to notch the win. "It's good to get out there," quipped Hall as he led possibly one of the deepest ever 3000 race fields as 12 runners all ran under 7:48!

Natasha Hastings showed that she is truly a mainstay here at Norb Sanders Armory by totally dominating the 400, finishing in a time of 51.66. " I pretty much grew up here so I'm happy to win here, said Hastings. "I'm still working on my technique."

With Pacemaker Melissa Salerno leading the way with 64.9 400 and a 2:12.9 800, Shannon Rowbury was trying to get into Mary Decker Slaney American Record Orbit but, racing by herself with 2nd place finisher Kerri Gallagher (4:26.18) vainly trying to pursue, the Nike Oregon Project star came to the finish in a strong 4:24.39. "I was pushing by myself and the crowd was great," said Rowbury. "My Coaches (Alberto Salazar and Pete Julian) are always telling me to relish the moment and I did. This was a good toughening experience for me."

Ajee' Wilson kept the fast times coming by overtaking Brenda Martinez in the women's 800, clicking the fastest time in the world this year of 2:00.09 to Martinez' 2:00.14.

Then the armory became quiet as an American Color Guard came in. If Meet Director Ray Flynn had hoped to prove to the traditionalist fans that, although in a different venue and format, the Millrose Games still carried clout, these upcoming moments proved it. With a brilliant rendition of our National Anthem sung by 11 year old Gwynne Capiraso, (daughter of Mike Capiraso, NYRR co-President)
one could literally close their eyes and envision the Millrose Games being here in the Armory, as the tradition and feeling for the venerated meet echoed throughout the facility after the Anthem was sung, thereby giving it a fulfilling feeling.

Matt Centrowitz finally put the nail into the feeling of the meet not being a Millrose edition as he and a loaded mile field followed pacemaker Kyle Merber ( no slouch himself, as Merber has run a 3:54 mile!) through splits of 57 and 1:57, electrifying the fans as the field seemed to run as one. At 3/4, New Zealander Nick Willis went for the lead but at the ringing of the bell lap Centrowitz blasted a 26.5 last 200 in running one of the fastest indoor miles in history, clocking 3:50.63, leading Willis (3:51.06), Englishman Chris O'Hare (3:52.91), local favorite Robby Andrews (Huge PR of 3:53.16!) and 5 others under 4 minutes. "I wasn't feeling that great today," said Centrowitz. "But I went to race because you can't reschedule something like an Olympic final or Millrose. You just have to go." And go he did. "I did run the penultimate lap in lane 2 a bit but I felt good. This showed today that I am really fit."

Fit is what can best be described for this year's Edition. No more hopeful potential for Millrose- it's traditions and reputation have been fulfilled!

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