NYRR Millrose Games Reminds Us what sport is all about: it is the competition! by Larry Eder

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Reposted on January 09, 2017

Originally published February 20, 2016

The second meet of my indoor journey in 2017 will be the Millrose Games! Here is my column on 2016 Millrose Games, which was a fantastic meet! Watch for our upcoming columns on the 2017 version and our live coverage on @runblogrun!

It is 7:51 PM Eastern time, as I am sitting down to write my missive on the 2016 NYRR Millrose Games. Shannon Rowbury is just finishing her cooldown, after a fine 4:24.35 mile tonight.

The truth is, after tweeting and instagraming for hours, it takes me a bit to bring my brain into a place where I can provide a near Luddite moment in the McLuhanesque world (come on guys, you have not read The Gutenberg Galaxy?).

But, as usual, I have digressed.

Nick and Matt.jpg

The 2016 NYRR Millrose Games is version 109.

And it lived up to the hype. In a season with a World Indoors, and Olympics, the 2016 NYRR Millrose Games reminds us what our sport SHOULD always be about: the fine competition! Put the best fields together, sprinkle in some rivalries and you have some great races.

Ray Flynn, the former Irish record holder at the mile and 5000 meters, was smiling and relaxed afterwards. "Wasn't that fantastic?" Ray said to me after the meet. And, I had to agree with him.

The meet had so much to write about tonight:

Andre De Grasse's fine professional debut, winning the 60 meters in 6.61, with Su Bingtian, in 6.62, one of the Chinese 4x100m that took the silver in Beijing last summer.

Allyson Felix, who returned to the Millrose for the first time in a decade, runs 7.15 to win the 60 meters. This writer asked Coach Kersee what he had done with her start, because Allyson was spot on. Her final twenty meters was what separated her from Tianna Bartoletta (7.20) and Jenn Prandini (722) and Angela Tenorio, Ecuador's superstar, who ran 7.23.

A major pole vault battle, with Katerina Stefanidi, who set a NR in the pole vault, 4.90m (16-00.75), with Demi Payne getting a second PB in a few weeks, with her 4.90m as well!

Janay DeLoach won the 60 meter hurdles in 7.85, with Brianna Rollins in second in 7.89, and Brianne Theisen-Eaton in fifth in 8.19. LoLo Jones was late pullout, on her twitter she spoke about injury due to binge watching Netflix. Not sure on that one...

Men's 60 meter hurdles was a fine battle between Omar McLeod in 7.46 with Ashton Eaton, in second in 7.53.

The women's 5000 meters was a fine race for the fans. Molly Huddle took it out hard, hitting 2:58 for the 1000 meters, 5:58 for 2000 meters and 9 minutes flat for 3000 meters. Molly Huddle actually took the lead from pacemakers at 7:15 from the race and never let up, until the last 200 meters.

Behind Molly Huddle was Betsy Saina, Emily Infeld, Marielle Hall, Shelby Houlihan, Abbey D'Agostino and Laura Thweatt.

Molly Huddle thrives in this high stress universe. Pushing the pace in the middle of the race, Huddle took the field through 12:03 at 4000 meters. The AR chase was gone, and this was about who was going to win the race.

On Molly's back was Betsy Saina and Emily Infeld, who were running hard and looking down at the track. Huddle pushed, and with 800 meters to go, it was Molly, Betsy and Emily.

What would happen.

Over the last 1000 meters, Molly Huddle wound it up, running 2:54 for the last kilometer and held off Betsy Saina's first attempt with 300 meters to go. Betsy charged to lead with 200 meters to go, as Emily dropped back a few seconds and Saina and Huddle went for the win. As they came off the final turn, Molly pulled a "Huddle" that last drive that has won her a 5000m title and a few others as well. Huddle and Saina were lapping a few folks and the added traffic made it that much harder for the two to separate.

Huddle pulled up close, but Betsy Saina won, 14:57.18 to 14:58.31. Emily Infeld in 15:00.91. Marielle Hall and Shelby Houlihan at 15:06.05 and 15:06.22.

A very fine 3000 meters for the men, with Ryan Hill, the 2015 US 5000 meter champ, using that ferocious kick to win in a world leading 7:38.82 over Hassan Mead (7:38.85), Eric Jenkins (7:39.43) and Evan Jager, 7:40.10. After the race, I heard Evan note that he was just spent in the race, but they all ran like champs. Also, nice run by former Badger Mo Ahmed, who ran 7:40.11, with early leader Ed Cheserek in sixth in 7:40.79. Twelve guys under 7:47, with Trevar Dunbar in 7:47.39.

Isaac Cortes showed his mean kick to win the Boys NB High School mile in 4:09.87, with a 28.77 last 200 meters!

Natasha Hastings, fresh off her 300 meter AR last weekend in Boston, ran a fine 51.66 for her 400 meter victory. Natasha is finally understanding just how good she is over 400 meters. I expect to see her on the medal podiums this year.

Shannon Rowbury is in fine form. Her mile win here, in 4:24.39 lead nine women under 4:30.30! Kerri Gallagher ran 4:26.18 for second.

Duane Solomon won the 800 meters, named for Mel Shepard, in 1:47.52, over Brannon Kidder, in 1:47:59. Duane used a well timed kick near the finish to win in the final steps! A nice second race of the season, after Duane's 1000 meter race last weekend in Boston, where he took second. I am looking forward to seeing Duane set the AR for the 800 meters some day, but right now, lots of endurance work as he builds for Rio.

The Men's elite mile had eight runners under 4 minutes, lead by Johnny Gregorek, son of 1980 Olympian John Gregorek. Johnny mixed it up with Kiwi Julian Matthews, who just joined Ron Warhurst fine group of milers in Ann Arbor. Gregorek used a 27.78 last 200 meters to take the win in 3:56.67. Matthews was second in 3:56.91, Thomas Awad, 3:57.03 and in fourth, Drew Hunter, in 3:57.81, a new high school record, after the record he set just two weeks ago.

I have to admit that I loved the women's 800 meters. Brenda Martinez, the hard charging middle distance goddess, pushed the pace, and Ajee' Wilson, nailed it, taking the win, with a finely timed finish in 2:00.09 to 2:00.14, just missing the MR. Laura Roesler, in her fourth race of the season, after an achilles injury, ran 2:00.49 as the NCAA champion and Bowerman Athlete of year award winner shoes the making of a fine comeback!

Oh, and then, the Wanamaker mile. The reason I travel 3500 miles on a Friday to see this meet. And, sports fans, it lived up to the hype.

Kyle Merber, a 3:34 1500 meter runner in his own right, lead the field through 400m in 58.97, 800m in 1:57:57, 1000m in 2:26.91 and 1320 in 2:56.40.

At that point, Matt Centrowitz and Nick Willis, the defending dynamic duo from last year, were in two and three, with Willis ahead. Centrowitz tried to move twice between 400 meters and 200 meters, then, he got by Willis.

Nick Willis, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist, battled Matt Centrowitz all the way to the finish as Matt Centrowtiz defended his 2015 title, in 3:50.63, with Nick Willis in 3:51.06. Chris O'Hare ran 3:52.91 for third, and Robby Andrews ran a fine 3;53;16, with Corie Leslie, 3:53:87 and Cross country stud Garrett Heath, 3:55.10.

That race had the Armory rocking! There is no better way to insure an SRO than to have the fans leave satiated by a fine series of competitions. And the Wanamaker mile is the way this meet ends, with Willis and Centrowitz giving their all, to the delight of the five thousand plus fans in this sanctuary of modern indoor athletics.

Ray Flynn and Norb Sanders are two of the true characters of our sport. Nord built this sanctuary and protects the Armory with each and every breath. Ray Flynn used his experience as a fine athletic manager and former athlete to build a series of races and fields (along with Brad Yewer, one of our favorite human beings and manager at Flynn Sports), making this meet all about the races, all about the competition.

In a year when our sport is being thrown into the dung pile, and considered by some to be half dead, Millrose Games has shown that, something we know, but take for granted: creating fine events takes time and patience, but the response from the fans, athletes, coaches and media is all worth it.

And finally a shout out to the NYRR. Peter Ciaccia and Michael Capiraso put their hearts and pocket books where they should be; supporting our sport and the next generation ( New Balance, the sponsor of the Armory calls them Game Changers), of track fans. Such a fine meet, one of 90 plus events in the Armory each season, change kids lives.

Who knows who was inspired tonight by the myriad of fine events and races, celebrating all this is good about the world's finest sport, athletics.

It is time to grab a taxi, find some food, and post a few more stories, but one final picture for you.

As I was heading over to the media area, after the meet, I shook Nick Willis hand. With him were his lovely wife and cute son. I remember my son, attending meets at that age. As they left, Coach Ron Warhurst was holding Nick's sons hand as they headed out of the Armory.

I was thinking about how many races that Nick Willis has honored us with during his career, giving it all he has. I want to see him win some big ones this year, a truly great way for a classy athlete to run in 2016. I have watched him run since 2003 (google the NCAA 3000m with Willis and Alistir Cragg and you will see a race, sportsfans).

And with that, your athletic pilgrim, continues his journey, looking for the perfect track meet, the perfect race, and the perfect cheering section.

See you in Portland in two weeks!

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