As it turns 112 years old, the Millrose Games remains one of the most revered and exhilarating indoor track and field meets in the country. Since 2012, the event has been held at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory in Manhattan, where runners compete on what is billed as “the fastest track in the world,” a banked, 200-meter oval with a springy Mondo surface.
When top elite and junior track and field athletes gather there on Feb. 9, the day is bound to be filled with extraordinary moments. The competition, which is sponsored by New York Road Runners, has gained such popularity in recent years it’s now televised on NBC and will air Feb. 9 from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. eastern time. (Track fans with a subscription can watch the live webcast 11:30 a.m.-4:30pm. eastern time at usatf.tv.)
From rematches between rivals to a world-record attempt, here are races we can’t wait to see:
The NYRR Wanamaker Mile
The meet’s signature event, the Wanamaker Mile for elite men and women, is expected to produce some electrifying—even record-breaking—performances. The Nike Oregon Project recently announced that Yomif Kejelcha, a 21-year-old from Ethiopia, will attempt to eclipse the current world record of 3:48.45, set by the legendary Hicham El Guerroujin 1997.
As he tries to make history, Kejelcha will likely rub elbows with Edward Cheserek, who almost broke the indoor mile record last year when he ran an eye-popping 3:49.44 in Boston. Cheserek, 25, was a 17-time NCAA champion at the University of Oregon after moving to the United States from Kenya as a teen. They’ll probably have company from American Clayton Murphy, who recently set a flat-track world record in the 800 meters, running a blistering 1:45.92 at Camel City Elite meetin North Carolina. Murphy, also of the Nike Oregon Project, won a bronze medal in the 800 meters at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The star-studded field will also include New Zealand’s Nick Willis, the bronze medalist in the 1500 at the 2016 Olympics. One of Millrose’s most familiar faces, Willis is set to make his seventh appearance at the meet. The 35-year-old is hoping to finally capture the mile title after finishing second in 2009, 2015 and 2016 and taking third in 2008 and 2014.
The women’s mile race is set to feature a gripping re-match between last year’s winner, U.S. Olympic steeplechaser Colleen Quigley, and runner-up Kate Grace, a 2016 U.S. Olympian in the 800m. Last year, Quigley, 26, narrowly beat Grace in a thrilling sprint to the finish.
In addition to each other, Quigley and Grace will have to look out for Kaela Edwards, a former NCAA champion in the indoor mile, Shannon Osika, who took third in the 1500m in last year’s U.S. indoor track championships, and Katie Mackey, the 2017 USATF road mile champion.
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I hate this picture. Or, my stomach knots a little when I see it. It’s me, losing. And because this was at Millrose last year, and perfectly captures two athletes straining for the finish, and Colleen in victory, and we’re both running Millrose again, I will continue to see similar photos between now and February 9. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ But why is my reaction so adverse? I’m working hard to get to the finish, to win. And I’m milliseconds behind a competitor, my training partner and friend, whom I respect. Nothing in that to be ashamed of. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ I think it’s the embarrassment of being caught really wanting something, and visibly failing to achieve it. Failure is noble in theory, in private, in retrospect. But when I’m faced with evidence of my own public failings, I just think it looks pathetic. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ A picture fractures my pretend world, in which these pathetic parts of me are a secret. As if my friends and loved ones don’t know. As if my coaches and mentors don’t know. As if they care. That your failings are unknown or not worth knowing (or worth hiding) is the greatest lie propagated by anyone who would profit from your insecurity. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ I make that face all the time in practice. I’ve lost a lot of races with that face. But I’ve also won many with the exact same ugly determination. I believe in that face. You struggle, again and again. And one day, you triumph. ⠀ ⠀ (TY @notafraid2fail for letting me use your objectively good photo 😉)
Fred Lebow/Dr. Sander Invitational 3000 meters
Although the Wanamaker Mile attracts some of the best middle-distance in the world, they’ll be no shortage of superstars in the 3,000m. Like the women’s mile, the women’s 3000m is set to feature another riveting duel between return competitors. Last year, Aisha Praught-Leer edged out her training partner Emma Coburn, the reigning world champion in the 3,000m steeplechase, to take the title.
Coburn is looking forward to another race with Leer, who represents Jamaica and also competes in the steeplechase. “The goal for Millrose is to run fast as we can and work together again,” she says.
Other notables in the field include Elinor Purrier, the 2018 NCAA indoor mile champion, and Weini Kelati, who currently runs for the University of New Mexico and finished second at the NCAA XC Championships last November.
In the men’s race, the stage is set for an exciting competition among rising distance stars, including Canadian Justyn Knight, the 2017 NCAA Division I XC champion, and collegiate rivals Morgan McDonald of the University of Wisconsin and Grant Fisher of Stanford University. McDonald fought off Fisher to snag the title in a blazing sprint to the finish at the NCAA Division I XC Championships last fall. McDonald is also the 5,000m champion in Australia, where he was born.
At 29, American Hassan Mead is considered the veteran in the field. Mead competed for the U.S. in the 5,000m at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and won the men’s 10,000 meters at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships. Also joining the talented group at Millrose is Patrick Tiernan, a former Villanova University standout and 2016 track Olympian for Australia.
The Junior New Balance Invitational Mile
The high school boys’ and girls’ mile at Millrose is always one of the most highly-anticipated events of the day. The thrilling races are not only fun to watch, they highlight the enormous talent and potential among the top teen milers in the country.
Some winners grow up to become wildly successful professional runners. Ever hear of…Shalane Flanagan? Nearly two decades ago, Flanagan, then just a teen girl from Marblehead, Mass., was a Millrose Games mile champion.
Without a doubt, all the girls ready to toe the line in Saturday’s race have big dreams. Take Katelyn Tuohy, a 16-year-old junior from Thiells, New York. Tuohy has dominated the high school running scene of late, winning two consecutive Nike Cross national championships titles and setting records on the track, like the 15:37.12 high school national indoor record she blazed on January 21, in her first race at the distance. Her long-term goal is to stay healthy and compete in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials on the track.
For now, she is focused on capturing the coveted Millrose mile crown, which eluded her last year when she struggled and finished fourth.
At the Millrose Games Trials on January 9, Tuohy posted a mind-blowing 4:39:15; she appears ready for her Millrose moment. One competitor likely to put up a good fight is Kelsey Chmiel, a senior from Saratoga Springs, New York. Often overshadowed by Tuohy’s commanding wins, Chmiel is also tremendously talented and accomplished. She finished second at Millrose last year, beating Tuohy and running a personal best of 4:44.55. At Nike XC Nationals, Chmiel was runner-up to Tuohy two years in a row. Other girls to watch include Marlee Starliper, a senior from Pennsylvania who finished third in last year’s Millrose mile, Taryn Parks, a junior from Pennsylvania, and Victoria Starcher, a junior from West Virginia, who hold personal bests in the mile of 4:45 and 4:46.
On the boys’ side, New Jersey senior Sean Dolan, the national champion in the outdoor mile, is expected to be a top contender, along with Sam Affolder, a senior from Virginia with a personal best of 4:08.69. (His older brother Noah holds the Millrose boys’ mile record of 4:07:24.) With a 4:12 PR in the mile, Tennessee state champion Jake Renfree also has the potential for a powerful performance. The field also includes twin brothers Matt and Alex Rizzo from Bronxville, New York. The seniors are not only both strong milers, they have an uncanny ability to post twin times. Both have run 4:17, with Matt’s record hundredths of a second faster than his brother’s.