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February 10, 2017

Millrose Games preview: Everything you need to know

It’s here. The 2017 Millrose Games get underway tomorrow afternoon at the Armory in Upper Manhattan. Ray Flynn, David Monti and the folks at New York Road Runners do a fantastic job every year of assembling some captivating fields and this year’s edition, it does not disappoint. If you had safety or Zika concerns over the summer and decided not to make the trip to Brazil for the Rio Olympics, no worries. Saturday’s meet will have a similar feel with 18 Olympic medalists coming to New York City.

Paavo Nurmi Two Miles = Flames emojis x100

Matt Centrowitz vs. the Bowerman Track Club’s Ryan Hill and Mo Ahmed.

While the mile fields have been the marquee event of the Millrose Games for years, I personally think this two-mile steals the show in 2017. You have the two-time reigning Wanamaker Mile champion opting to run a longer distance instead of trying to three-peat. As I touched on in my mailbag earlier in the week, I think it’s another Salazar vs. Schumacher battle – at least to Centrowitz, and maybe also for Hill. I remember last year chatting with a fellow reporter at the meet and checking the splits because Hill ended up closing his 3,000m win faster than Centrowitz did in his 3:51.35 mile.

Our own Tony Casey chatted with Hill earlier in the week and the world indoor 3,000m silver medalist mentioned, “I feel like I’ve always got that 7:35 or below in my legs. I know the two-mile record being 8:07, that’s very attainable for a lot of guys in the field. I think there are multiple people that could do that, but you never know how the race plays out. People want to win, also. It’s kind of hard to put yourself out there and pace others to a good time. So, if we all got out there and start looking at each other and it doesn’t go that fast, it wouldn’t surprise me either.”

I’m inclined to think it comes down to Centrowitz and Hill. Like Hill, Ahmed and OTC’s Ben Blankenship have not raced this indoor season so there’s not much to base their fitness off of. Hassan Mead was slated to compete but had a minor injury and did not make the trip to New York.

You might also want to keep your eyes on the clock. Galen Rupp holds the American record with his 8:07.41 from 2014. We’ll know early on whether people choose to follow pacer and Citius Mag contributor Ford Palmer, but I actually spent time reading into studies that sometimes show rivalries can push someone to fast times, so I’d like to keep that option open.

I’m going to hate myself when I re-read this on Sunday and Andrew Butchart is the winner. He needs more more love as well after his 3:54.23 mile last weekend. Really going to regret this. I feel it.

Women’s Wanamaker Mile

Shannon Rowbury looks to win her third consecutive Wanamaker Mile title and this might be her toughest challenge yet. Her new training partner and world indoor 1,500 meter gold medalist Sifan Hassan beat her in the 3,000 in Boston and was a late addition to the field on Monday. Hassan was beat by 800 meter Olympic finalist Kate Grace last month in a 3,000 at the Dempsey in Seattle. Hassan boasts the fastest personal best in the field with her 4:18.20 to Rowbury’s 4:20.34. They’ve just started training together since Rowbury spent some of her build-up in Mexico so it’s also unclear how much of they’ve revealed to each other in practice.

Grace is certainly the sleeper pick and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down since her huge 2016 campaign. This one will certainly be one of the best races to watch and we might get a classic close finish like we’ve seen with Rowbury and Simpson in the past.

Note: Paul Snyder chatted with Amanda Eccleston earlier in the week and we thought Millrose would get a nice little rematch between her and Brenda Martinez, who knocked her off the Olympic team, but Martinez was a scratch on Thursday afternoon.

We’ll go through the rest of the events in order:

John Catsimatidis Pole Vault

This was an electric final in Rio and now we get the rematch between gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi of Greece and Team USA’s silver medalist Sandi Morris. Morris is 4–0 to start the indoor season.

Mel Sheppard Men’s 1,000 meter run

Casimir Loxsom heads into this race off a world best 600 meter time of 1:14.91, which he set on his Penn State home soil on Jan. 28. He’ll be joined by his training partners Brannon Kidder and Shaquille Walker, but his biggest challenger will likely be Donovan Brazier. The NCAA 800-meter record holder got lucky in Boston a few weeks ago when he managed to get the 600 victory due in large part to a Duane Solomon disqualification. It’s a little more distance than we’re used to seeing with these guys but that should be the battle up front.

Women’s 300 meter dash

Olympic 400 meter champion Shaunae Miller faces off against U.S. Olympian and high school sensation Sydney McLaughlin. Miller has not raced indoor this year. In fact, her last indoor race appears to be a 2:12.86 for 800 meters on Jan. 31, 2016. Her 300 personal best is 36.10 from her victory here in New York back in 2014. Her credentials most likely make her the favorite for the race but the bigger storyline for the U.S. track and field audience will be whether McLaughlin gets the U.S. high school 300 meter record, which is Francena McCorory‘s 36.96 from 2006. McLaughlin clocked a 37.11 last month at the Armory and went on to split 52.32 in the world record-setting women’s DMR at the New Balance Boston Indoor Grand Prix. Fellow U.S. Olympians Ashley Spencer and Natasha Hastings (a NYC native, waddup) are also in the field.

Women’s 3,000 meter run

Low-key there hasn’t been enough chatter about the return of Molly Seidel. I ran into her at a cross country meet at Notre Dame and she was in great spirits about a training stint in Flagstaff and was looking forward to finally being healthy again. Notre Dame also gave her a great welcome back with a Lebron-like video announcing her return for the upcoming track season.

It wouldn’t be smart to rule Seidel out for a win but Brie Felnagle is in great form to start the indoor season. There hasn’t been a hiccup in her transition from Seattle to the NorCal Distance Project. That was evidenced by her 4:27.27 world-leading mile time.

Women’s 500 meter dash

Queens is going to show up to the Armory and it is going to be loud for this race because of Dalilah Muhammad. The Olympic champion in the 400 meter hurdles returns home. It’s up to Alysia Montaño and Courtney Okolo to spoil the party.

Men’s Wanamaker Mile

As per tradition, the night will end with the men’s Wanamaker Mile. We’ll have a moment where we’ll miss Centrowitz and Nick Willis from the field but the unpredictability adds intrigue into the race. When the press release for this race was announced, Clayton Murphy was named the headliner but he struggled to an 8:16 for 3,000m in Boston to open the indoor season. Not entirely sure if there was some sort of injury but his Olympic Village roommate Robby Andrews could be the favorite. This is closer to being his bread and butter than Murphy.

Let’s ignore the loss to Sam Penzenstadler last weekend and just focus on the 1,000m victory in Boston earlier this month.

The other contenders are: Fifth Avenue Mile champion Eric Jenkins (who ran 7:44 in Boston); Charles Philibert-Thiboutot (the Canadian Olympian who has been training in California) and Colby Alexander (NJ-NY Track Club’s breakout star last year). Gags’ group will also have Kyle Merber and Johnny Gregorek in the field, so the New York ties are in there.

(Sidenote: The Invitational Mile has some solid names in the field with former NCAA 1,500m champions Mac Fleet, Andy Bayer and Chad Noelle in there. A lot of eyes will be on LaSalle Academy’s D.J. Principe [4:00.97 PR] as he attempts to break four minutes for the mile and join Alan Webb and Drew Hunter as the only high schoolers to do it indoors. He ran his personal best in January at the Armory but struggled when I saw him in Boston and ran 4:12. The Invitational Mile is at 2:52 p.m.)

Follow @CitiusMag on Twitter and Instagram for live updates and photos from the Millrose Games.

Here’s how to watch the meet online (All times E.T.)

Time: 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Online: USATF.TV will carry a stream of the early events from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m before it switches over to NBC Live Extra at 4 p.m. and runs through 6 p.m.

TV: NBC’s broadcast begins at 4 p.m.

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