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107th NYRR Millrose Games Delivers Enduring Memories

Published by
ArmoryTrack.com   Feb 17th 2014, 4:49pm

107th NYRR Millrose Games Delivers Enduring Memories

By Elliott Denman

Here we go - the enduring memories of an enduring fan (who saw his first Millrose Games in 1945) of New York's most enduring sports event (the NYRR Millrose Games that marked its 107th birthday Saturday at the Armory Track and Field Center.)

1) Peering through The Armory's windows around 2 p.m. to see just-one-more-snowfall of New York's 2014 endless winter continue to flutter down on 168th Street.  But inside the warm-and-cozy nearly block-long former drillshed, the Millrose action continued to heat up and crowds continued mushing to the Fort Washington Avenue entrance to  give this classic event just what it deserved, a virtual capacity audience.

2) Catching some of the early action the later-comers eschewed.  Focusing roof-ward, for instance, and seeing Desiree Freier, the pride of the Texas Pole Vault Club, loft herself over 14 feet, the highest bar of her life, highest by an American girl this year, then declaring she'll be headed back to the Lone Star State (home to the likes of Rev. Bob Richards, Fred Hansen and Billy Olson), train harder than she's ever done it, and return to The Armory in four weeks time prepared to fly even higher at New Balance Nationals Indoor.

3) Catching glimpses of such amazing young talents as Adaria Bryant and Antoine Blackman. Adaria sped off with the NYRR "Fastest Kid on the Block" girls 55-meter dash in 8.27, Antoine took the boys "Fastest Kid" final in 8.19. Will these A&A's eventually be the "fastest kids" in high school, in college, in the nation, in the world?  Well, why not.

4) See old friends and cordial rivals Rachel Seaman and Maria Michta duke it out, wire to wire, in the USATF National Championship women's 1-mile race walk and Rachel (who is Canadian and married to Tim Seaman, who happens to be Maria's coach) claim a meet record with a 6:17.29 win over Maria, whose second-place 6:19.00 missed the listed American record by just 0.57 of a second.

5) Continuing to see this become one of the Big City's biggest racewalking days in years, Sweden's Andreas Gustafsson and Ireland's Robert Heffernan staged a similar mano-a-mano duel in the Susan Rudin Men's National Championship 1-mile walk, and Gustafsson pull off what many considered a huge upset by holding off Heffernan, 5:34.45 to 5:39.75, in the fastest - and yes "legal" - speedwalking seen in these parts since Tim Lewis zipped a 5:33.53 in 1988.  But later dismay for the Seaman family when Tim was "red-paddled" for a technique violation around the final turn and the U.S. title remained in the hands of 20-year-old Jonathan Hallman.   

How's this for Millrose dedication?  Jonathan and his Dad drove over 800 miles from South Carolina for the privilege of walking one mile around the Armory track, then drove 800 miles right back for Jon to be on time for his Monday morning college classes.

6) Hearing Millrose announcer Ian Brooks return to his maybe-true calling. Ian, once one of Great Britain's leading 50K walkers, first came to the U.S. to be the head man at the mic, calling the action at the 1987 IAAF World Cup of Walking, staged in Central Park. Well, he liked what he saw over here "in the States," decided to stay a while, and fortunately for the sport's fans who love his enthusiastic style, he's still here and he's still at it.

7) Seeing former New York guy Norm Oglivie bring his Duke Blue Devils to New York for a 7:30.06 Byron Dyce 4x800 college relay win over Villanova (7:31.57), Monmouth (7:32.16) and four more. 

(7A) Seeing Villanova coach Marcus O'Sullivan, five times a Wanamaker Mile winner, return to his fabulous Millrose roots.   

(7B) Seeing Monmouth coach Joe Compagni smile as his Jersey Shore MU Hawks broke yet another school record in a brilliant winter that Compagni hopes continues in his team's debut performance at The Armory in Friday night's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships.

8) Seeing Chaminade's Andrew Dorritie virtually will himself to a CHSAA boys 4x800 relay win over Fordham's Conor Lundy, in an all-guts anchor of a 7:53.03 race that went down to the final strides. Tradition? This CHSAA race, named for late-great Manhattan College coach George Eastment, has been on the Millrose schedule since 1945, but Chaminade hadn't won itsince 1999

9) Seeing Middle School 800 winners Sherisse Peterson (2:20.83) and Kadarai Booker (2:24.38) give every indication they have the talent to be the next Mary Cain, the next Nick Symmonds.

10) Seeing Will Leer claim the vaunted Wanamaker Mile title in a 3:52.47 PR win over Lawi Lalang (3:52.88), Nick Willis (3:53.02), Nate Brannen (3:54.32) and three others under four, as Bernard Lagat and Eamonn Coghlan, perhaps the two most storied names in Wanamaker Mile history, gave them votes of approval for continuing the Millrose tradition of marvelous/magnetic Wanamaker miling, a situation ongoing since 1911.   

And Alan Webb, 11th of 12, bow out in 4:06:11, ever classy, ever willing to talk - his ups, his downs, his career decisions, his future. "Thanks for the memories," Ian Brooks told him, a classy move, too.   

11) Eight-time Wanamaker king Lagat saw all this unfold as he warmed down from his triumph in the Paavo Nurmi 2000 meters, a 4:54.74 American record performance. He had inspiration before the race even got going.  Just in from Finland, and serving as official starter, was Mr. Mika Nurmi, grandson of the famed "Flying Finn" who'd first thrilled Armory fans in 1925.

12) Coghlan, the seven-time Wanamaker Mile victor, always the "chairman of the boards," now a member of Ireland's Senate, saw it all from his spot in the stands.   One question posed to him:  "How is it that Ireland's "athlete of the year" (50k world king Heffernan) is a racewalker and not a runner?"  The answer:  "Robert's a great athlete and throroughly deserved the honor.  God bless him, he's a world champion and he brought honor to Ireland."

13) Seeing Neptune, NJ's  Ajee' Wilson continue her inexorable progress in the women's middle distances - from scholastic flash as a Neptune Flier, to World Youth Champion, to World Junior Champion, to sixth-place 800 finisher in the Moscow Outdoor Worlds, to 2:01.81 winner of the (hopefully) appropriately-named Road to Rio women's 800.   Road to Rio? Sure looked that way with Canada's Jenna Westaway (2:01.89), Jamaica's Natoya Goule (2:02.22) and  Iceland's Anita Hindriksdottir (2:02.66) running 2-3-4.

14) Giving one more vote of approval for the return of the "retro" races - the men's and women's 300s, the men's 1,000 and 2,000.   

When Lalonde Gordon won the bronze medal in the London Olympic 400 meters for Trinidad and Tobago, he quipped that "everybody on (gold medalist) Kirani James' island (Grenada) is going to turn out for the celebrations, but nobody on my block in Queens is even going to know I've been to the Olympics." 

Well, Gordon's back on the world stage with his 32.47 300 win at Millrose, a good warmup for the 400 at Indoor Worlds in Sopot, Poland. 

Likely headed to Sopot, too, is women's 300 winner Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas, after her 36.10 lap-and-a-half. (With Stanford-bound Columbia,N.J. high schooler Olivia Baker a late-entry fifth in 38.73.)

15) Pitted against such U.S. talents as Erik Sowinski, Nick Symmonds, Michael Rutt and Robby Andrews, undersung 21-year-old Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse simply ran them all out of their socks in an eye-opening 2:17.63 1000-meter win, fastest time in the world this year. 

This was the Mel Sheppard 1000 - the five-lap kilometer named for the man who won the Olympic 1500 for the U.S. in 1908; with the nation still seeking his successor 106 years later - and Bosse was a lively winner. 

A 21-year-old university student in Paris, kinseiology-major Bosse was asked the correct pronunciation of his name.  "Boss?  Boss-a? Boss-ay?"  

"Any of those are okay with me," he said. "I always know who I am." 

But he's been too busy running to know "The Boss." 

"He's somebody in music, I think. But I'm not exactly sure."

16) Mary Cain "simply won the NYRR Women's Wanamaker Mile in 4:27.73. No records, no major headlines for this one, just one more piece of quality work for Bronxville's pride and joy, clearly getting more comfortable in her pro racing status every time out. 

Might her ex-Bronxville teammates be just slightly jealous of Mary's now major-league status, or even resentful of all the records their school might have demolished had Mary remained in the lineup?  

"No-no-no-no," Bronxviller Hillary Rizzo told us.  "We're all just so very proud of everything Mary has ever done.  She's still our classmate. And we still love her." 

No Cain? No problem for Rizzo's Bronxville team, which still won the Eastern Girls 4x800handsomely in 9:16.62.

17) Trudging out in the ice, the cold, and the mush - but armed with lots of new and warm memories.

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