The marquee event at the Millrose Games – the one that follows the national anthem – has traditionally been the men’s Wanamaker Mile. Since the meet moved from MSG to the Armory in 2012, it has featured a more balanced menu of professional distance events, including the newly formed women‘s Wanamaker mile and whatever event Bernard Lagat is targeting for an American record (5,000m in 2012, 2-mile in 2013, 2,000m this year).
While vets Lagat and Nick Willis will lead the charge for the men, on the women’s side this year the meet is all about youth – and not just Mary Cain. The “Road to Rio” 800m race is loaded with teenage talent, even without Cain who has shifted to the mile, which is hers to lose, which seems so unfair, as she’s only 17.
Women’s 3000m 3:29 p.m.
Two of the headliners in this race were involved in the classic 2012 Olympic Trials 5000m race: Kim Conley and Abby D’Agostino. Conley’s gutsy run – she pushed the pace to get it below the 15:20 qualifying standard, then came-from-behind to pass the cratering Julia Lucas at the line – got her 3rd place and an Olympic slot. Abbey D’Agostino finished on the other side of Lucas, two tenths of a second later. Now it’s Rio in the distance, not London, and these two will likely be competing head to head to get to Brazil. Conley has been on a tear this indoor season, with a 4:24 mile time to D’Agostino’s 4:28.
Men’s Paavo Nurmi 2000m 3:56 p.m.
Evan Jager, Andrew Bumbalough, and Cam Levins have been cast members in Bernard Lagat’s indoor record-setting 2-mile run (since bested by Galen Rupp) at the Armory last year. This year they’ll be looking to beat the old man of the track. Lagat likely still possesses the best kick, though David Torrence, if he could hang on, may threaten with his track speed. The American indoor record of 4:58.6, set by Steve Scott in 1981, serves as an unoffical pacer to this race.
Women’s Wanamaker Mile 4:18 p.m.
Without the New Balance middle-distance stars in the race (Jenny Simpson, Brenda Martinez, Kim Conley), Mary Cain is the clear favorite. Olympic steepler Emma Coburn was fourth in the mile last year. She and Morgan Uceny were both throttled by Conley in the 2,000m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, and Conley has been running on par with Cain, so it would be a surprise if either of them competed up front. In good form are high schooler Alexa Efraimson, who came in 4th at the University of Washington Invitational in 9:00 in the 3,000m, and Oiselle’s Amanda Winslow, who won that race in 8:56. One of Cain’s advantages though is that she’s got home-track advantage, having competed and trained at the Armory on numerous occasions. Cain’s NOP teammate Treniere Moser will be in the mix, but was two seconds back of Cain in a 1,000m on Feb. 8.
Mel Sheppard 1000m 4:32 p.m.
This event is among those on Nick Symmonds’ record-breaking list in 2014, but to win he’ll need to beat a few guys who ran quite a bit faster than him indoors last weekend, Erik Sowinski and Mike Rutt. In the Mel Sheppard 600m run last year, the unheralded Sowinski handled these guys, running 1:15.61 to Symmonds’ 1:16.89 and Rutt’s 1:17.68. The extra 400m takes it out of everybody’s comfort zone. Who would have thought before that race that Sowinski would represent Nike and Symmonds Brooks for the next go-round? We like Symmonds outdoors and in championship races, but we think Sowinski’s the better off-season and indoor runner. Watch out for France’s Pierre Ambrose Bosse, who could play the spoiler.
Women’s Road to Rio 800m 4:38 p.m.
Teenagers from the U.S., Iceland, and Canada face top competition from Jamaica in an international field of 800m prodigies. Iceland’s 18-year-old Anita Hinriksdottir, who resembles a jet when she runs with her forward lean and outstretched arms, has drawn numerous comparisons to Cain, who originally was slated to run this event. She ran 2:01.81 indoors Jan. 19 in Reykjavik. Jenna Westaway, 19, a first-year student at the University of Calgary, ran a 2:02.57 at the Boston Valentine Invitational, and Jamaica’s Natoya Goule, 22, last year went under two outdoors. Ajee Wilson, 19, has the best 800 PR with a 1:58.21, though she struggled last week in the 1,000m. The event should be highly entertaining.
Men’s Wanamaker Mile 4:48 p.m.
Can anybody compete with Nick Willis? Wouldn’t it be fun to see Galen Rupp try, but that attempt was interrupted by a balky cuboid bone last week. Chris O’Hare of Scotland ran the race of his life at the Wanamaker Mile last year, finishing 4th in 3:52.98. Lawi Lalang was 5th in 3:54.56. Those two guys are the best bets to push Willis towards the Wanamaker Mile record of 3:51.21, set last year by Lopez Lomong.