Sights and sounds from the Armory Invitational, by Jeff Benjamin


Jeff Benjamin is a long time writer for our pubs and sites for the past twenty-six years. Jeff is young, I am the one who is old.

This was a lovely piece that Jeff did on the superb mile run at the Armory by Drew Hunter on February 6.

As we build up to the Millrose Invitational this weekend, I thought this one would get you, dear readers, excited for more indoor track!

Hunter_DrewFans-Armory16.JPGDrew Hunter, after his High School Record, photo by

Sights and Sounds from the Armory Invitational (Feb 5-6)

By Jeff Benjamin

It may have been short, but it sure was sweet!

This pretty much sums up the efforts and results which took place February 6 during the Elite Athlete component of the 2-day Armory Invitational held at this venerated venue here in the Washington Heights section of NYC. In just under 2 hours, track fans were given a chance to see the top flight competitors do their thing, and they didn't walk (or run!) away disappointed. From Norb Sander down to Ray Flynn, the events which took place kind of looked like a dress rehearsal for the upcoming Millrose Games in two weeks. Like any precursor, the players, both veteran and newcomer, had an opportunity to get the kinks out or make a statement to show who could be a major player in 2 weeks or even potentially in Rio!

With pacesetter Michael Jordan leading the way, it was the men's 3000 which opened the elite events today. Setting a strong pace that started to make the field think strategic, it was the decisive move by Lemoy Campbell with 2 laps to go that broke everyone, as he cruised home with a 5-second cushion (7:55.01). For a second during the race, one would have thought they were in a time warp as Irishman John Coghlan crossed the line in 8th place. Coghlan, the son of the illustrious "Chairman of the Boards" Eammon Coghlan, said, "I felt flat, but I know it's early in the season so we'll see what happens."

While Campbell made a statement with his performance, Robby Andrews matched him in just as strong a statement himself, as the 2015 World Champs 1500 finalist ran with poise and precision in the 800 meters, striking at just the right time defeating Collins Kibet and Dylan Capwell who were both timed in 1:48.45. Andrews who won in a controlled time of 1:48.43 no doubt will be a factor in two weeks as he will line up in the Wanamaker Mike. In another sign of deja vu, finishing in 6th place was Princeton track runner Luke Brahm, the son of 1988 Olympic 5000 runner Terry Brahm. Luke, who trains with Andrews under Coach Jason Vigilante, finished in a time of 1:50.71.

The women's Mile was up next, as Erin Donahue almost pulled out a win but lost to Gabriela Stafford (4:29.07). " I basically got caught up," said Donahue. "I ran into the unknown and wanted to be there with about 300 to go." Veteran Ashley Higginson, who finished 4th (4:30.16) after making some early moves, was not too disappointed either although she said that, "I felt like I was the sacrificial lamb out there". Yet, like many of those disappointed with their performances, they all held on to belief that the real performances will shine through when the time comes.

The same can be said of miler Morgan Uceny who dropped down today to compete in the 800, where she finished 4th (2:04.77) to Ajee Wilson (2:02.15) "This event is a lot different," said Uceny. "But basically in my training I'll have to get in more speed work and quality soon."

The women's 3000 was paced by Heather Wilson, who then dropped out and let the leaders duke it out. Surprisingly not in the mix were both Jordan Hassay, who has had her share of nagging injuries and Nicole Tully, as they finished behind victor Marielle Hall (8:54.70), Sheila Reid (8:56.50) and Heather Kampf (8:58.34). Once again, it's early in the game.

While some of these veterans basked in their great performances, others were disappointed. The disappointed looked toward the future. The men's Mile featured the turns and twists that are part of our sport. Ironically, as one watched as the veterans competed and then those same veteran milers would line up it would be perhaps the youngest competitor in this sea of experience that would outshine them all while not even winning the race!

While the crowd cheered loudly as the top milers competed, one can see that while British star Chris O'Hare cranked out a fast last 400 to win the race (3:54.59) it was the runners behind him in which major attention was being given to by the fans. Hovering in a group of four, was high schooler Drew Hunter, who had already announced his quest to become the 2nd prep runner to break 4 minutes for the Indoor mile distance. "I've been feeling sick and sore the past couple of days" said Hunter. Last night I only slept 2 hours."

With 4 laps to go, the Virginian high schooler stayed strong. "It was a tiring last 2 laps, said Hunter. "But the crowd here, along with the history and the tradition really kept me going."

An interesting point of note-Hunter' s father was the coach of Alan Webb when he was a High School freshman. It was the encouragement of Webb to Hunter to break his prep record and join him in that exclusive High School sub-4 club which was also motivational to Hunter. "Knowing that Alan wanted me to get the record made me really go for it."

Go for it he did, as Hunter broke through the group of runners with him, finishing 7th in the Elite field but breaking Webb's record with a time of 3:58.25!!

As the wild crowd encouraged the University of Oregon-bound Hunter around his victory lap, O'Hare, who said, "I wanted to really work on my last 400 speed today and felt good," offered his hearty congratulations to the new HS record holder.

"I knew I had to stay with those guys and I then knew I had to go," said the beaming Hunter after the race, as he was surrounded by his equally beaming parents. When asked how fast he thought he could go before graduation, Hunter said," I don't know how fast I can go, but I know that tonight I'll sleep like a baby!"

One hopes that Hunter, along with the rest of the athletes, sleep well. Regardless of their performances today, in two weeks the Millrose Games will be taking place in this same venue before a national television audience. Once again being that this is the Olympic year, the athletes' performances will really be under the microscope. Former 10K running star and Nike Oregon Project Assistant Coach Peter Julian probably echoed every fans belief when he said that in a few weeks, "Everyone will be here!"

No doubt.

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