2018 Millrose Preview: Willis Tries to End His Mile Drought, Korir vs. Brazier vs. Murphy in a Stacked 800, & Much, Much More
February 03, 2018
February 1, 2018
The NYRR Millrose Games is annually one of the best meets on the indoor calendar, and the 111th edition (or 7th post-MSG), which will be held on Saturday at the Armory is no exception. In all, the meet features 52 Olympians and seven Olympic champions, plus big names such as Noah Lyles, Omar McLeod, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Tori Bowie, Nick Willis, Clayton Murphy, Donavan Brazier, Ajee Wilson, Emmanuel Korir, Robby Andrews and many more. We’ll have on-site coverage all weekend from New York so be sure to check back frequently on Friday and Saturday to hear from the athletes (The pre-meet press conference is Friday at 10 am ET and at 1p m we are doing a live podcast where we will give you the inside info).
Millrose also represents one of the last chances for athletes to hit standards for next month’s World Indoor Championships; with the window closing the day after the US Champs (February 19), there’s not much time left. We preview the professional events below.
However, Millrose is just one of many incredible meets being held on Saturday which we’ve renamed “Super Saturday” as USA XC, Camel City Elite, and the beginning of the IAAF World Indoor Tour all take place Saturday as well. To get a preview of the other meets, check out this article: LRC Weekend Preview: Rupp And Hasay At USA XC, Ches, Engels, And A Lot Of $$$ At Camel City, & Fast Races In Karlsruhe.
How to watch: Live on NBC from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. ET (earlier events streamed on USATF.TV+, which requires a subscription)
Men’s mile (2:47 p.m.)
|Pat Casey||Under Armour|
|Brodey Hasty||Brentwood Track Club|
|Brandon Hudgins||Sketchers Performance|
|Rob Napolitano||Hoka / NJ-NY|
|Brian Shrader||Saucony Freedom TC|
|Sean Tobin||Ole Miss|
The main attraction at Millrose is the Wanamaker Mile, which will bring the night’s program to a close, but before that there’s a B heat featuring former NCAA champs Mac Fleet and Chad Noelle, Canadian Corey Bellemore — the beer mile world record holder who clocked 3:57.20 in Boston last week — and high schooler Brodey Hasty, who will be trying to break 4:00 again after running 4:03 last week at the Armory.
LRC Prediction: Sorry Millrose, we don’t make predictions for B miles. Mile fans, remember there is a way better mile featuring Edward Cheserek and Craig Engels at 3 pm at Camel City.
John Catsimatidis women’s pole vault (3:58 p.m. ET)
Stefanidi and Morris have gone 1-2 at the last two global championships, but Stefanidi has won their last eight matchups head-to-head and bested Morris to win Millrose in 2016 and 2017.
LRC Prediction: Stefanidi keeps on rolling
Howard Schmertz women’s 60 hurdles (4:02 p.m. ET)
|Kori Carter||Jordan Brand|
|Jessie Gaines||Garden State TC|
The U.S. is the world’s best country when it comes to women’s hurdling, and several of America’s top talents will be in New York, including Olympic medalists Kristi Castlin and Dawn Harper-Nelson and world 400 hurdles champ Kori Carter, who is dropping way down in distance for this one. 35-year-old Lolo Jones is also running, though it’s been almost two years since she’s contested a hurdle race. We guess that mean’s she’s not doing the Winter Olympics this year.
LRC Prediction: Tobi Amusan won NCAAs in the 100 hurdles last year at 19 for UTEP and has the best sb of anyone in the field. She’s our pick.
Fred Schmertz men’s 60 hurdles (4:08 p.m. ET)
|Trey Cunningham||Florida State|
|Brian Richards||Shore AC|
|Chad Zallow||Younsgtown State U|
The entire US 110 hurdle squad from London 2017 will be here with Devon Allen, Aleec Harris, and 2012 World Indoor champ Aries Merritt. Expect one of them to win this race; Merritt is the fastest in the field far in 2018 at 7.54 and also has the fastest PR (7.43).
LRC Pick: Merritt FTW.
Women’s 60 (4:19 p.m. ET)
|Murielle Ahoure||Ivory Coast|
|Mikele Barber||Garden State TC|
|Destiny Carter||Trident Sports|
The big matchup here is early world leader Murielle Ahoure (7.07 in Houston last week) against 100-meter world champion Tori Bowie of the U.S., who will be racing for the first time since earning a pair of gold medals in London last summer (she also ran the relay).
LRC Pick: Bowie may be the world champ but her PB is just 7.11 for the 60. Ahoure FTW.
Joe Yancey men’s 60 (4:24 p.m. ET)
|Carrington Akosa||Princeton University|
|Abdullah Mohammed||Saudi Arabia|
What a field!!!
Only five men have ever run faster than Powell’s 6.44 PR in this event, though he is now 35 years old (he managed just 6.73 in an outdoor 60 last week in Jamaica). Noah Lyles is one of the most electrifying young talents in the sport, and though the 60 may be a little short for him, this will be his first race since winning the Diamond League 200-meter title in Brussels in September. Omar McLeod – the world’s best hurdler and the reigning World Indoor, World Outdoor, and Olympic champion — may be the face of Jamaican track and field in Bolt’s absence but he faces a big challenge here in a race without barriers.
LRC Pick: Ronnie Baker, the two-time NCAA 60 champ and reigning U.S. champ, should be the favorite here. Baker FTW.
Women’s 3000 (4:28 p.m. ET)
World Indoor standard: 8:50.00
|Emma Coburn||New Balance|
|Katie Mackey||Brooks Beasts|
|Margherita Magnani||New Balance|
|Aisha Praught-Leer||Under Armour|
|Kate Van Buskirk||Canada|
The World Indoor standard will be on the minds of several women in this field, though for Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer — who impressed with a blazing 4:27 mile on this track last week — time takes a backseat to mixing it up with a solid professional field. Steeple world champ Emma Coburn is the most accomplished woman in the field by far, and she’s fit, having clocked a 4:38 mile at 7,700 feet of altitude two weeks ago. She has an outdoor pb of 8:48, but with a steeple best of 9:02, you’d expect her to be capable of faster than that if she really goes after a fast time here. Lauren Paquette clocked 8:53 to win here comfortably last week and with the higher level of competition should have a chance to hit the IAAF standard. Kate Van Buskirk, who ran a Canadian record of 4:26 in the mile at the Armory last week, is also in shape to do damage, while Dominique Scott-Efurd is a former NCAA 3k champion. 3k is a good distance for Katie Mackey as well, who has run well as both a miler and 5k type.
LRC prediction: This is a wide-open race that half a dozen women are capable of winning. We’ll take Coburn but we’re not confident about it.
John Thomas women’s high jump (4:40 p.m. ET)
|Jenna Rogers||Rutherford NJ|
20-year-old Vashti Cunningham, the reigning U.S. and World Indoor champ, is the headliner. High school sophomore Jenna Rogers, who set a national freshman record by clearing 6-0.75 last year, is also entered.
LRC Pick: Cunningham FTW.
Mel Sheppard men’s 800 (4:41 p.m. ET)
|Sho Kawamoto||Suzuki JPN|
|Wesley Vazquez||Juventus TC|
|Drew Windle||Brooks Beasts|
|Clayton Murphy||Nike Oregon Project|
This may be the race of the day at Millrose, and it features a matchup that U.S. track fans have been salivating over for a long time: Donavan Brazier vs. Clayton Murphy. One of the great unanswered questions in recent NCAA running is who would have won a 2016 NCAA 800 final between Brazier (who actually won the race in a collegiate-record 1:43.55) or Murphy (who won the 1500 at the same meet and went on to run 1:42.93 and earn Olympic bronze later that summer)? They did meet in the prelims of the Olympic Trials a month later (Murphy went on to win the 800 while Brazier was famously eliminated in the first round) but they’ve never raced each other in a final. Until now.
Of course, it would be more dramatic if we thought Murphy wasn’t likely to embarrass himself in this one. Brazier has run a 3:59 mile and 46.91 400 in two indoor races this season, so he should be ready to go here in his first 800 of the year. Contrast that to Murphy, who has run two 800s but hasn’t broken 1:50 in either of them and looked awful in finishing 7th at the Dr. Sander Invite last week. Still, to finally see the two young stars on the track together will be a treat for American fans.
But they’re far from the only studs in this race. Emmanuel Korir almost broke Brazier’s NCAA record last year as a freshman at UTEP and went on to claim wins at the Kenyan Trials and the Herculis Monaco meet. He’s an absolute stud. Drew Windle broke out with a huge 2017 season that saw him run 1:44 and make the World Championship semis. And Brit Kyle Langford, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday the day before the race, finished higher than Worlds than anyone in this race — he was a shocking 4th last year in London. The race also includes Japanese national record holder Sho Kawamoto, 24, who ran 1:45.75 as a 21-year-old.
That’s a lot of fast guys sharing a six-lane, 200-meter track, and with 10 athletes in the field, space is going to be hard to find. 10 guys is a lot for an outdoor 800; for an indoor 800, it’s almost unheard of at this level. Getting into good position early will be key. Keep an eye on Korir. Tactically, he’s still a work in progress, but he may have the highest ceiling of anyone in this absurdly talented field.
LRC prediction: We think it comes down to Brazier or Korir. If Korir gets out well, it’s his race to lose, so we’ll pick him FTW.
Note to meet directors: the 800 is meant to start in lanes. The race should not feature a waterfall start. You 100% need to have 4 lanes with two people in it and then 2 single lanes. The good news is that that is exactly what Millrose is doing.
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Dr. Sander men’s 3,000 (4:52 p.m. ET)
|Andrew Butchart||New Balance|
|Garrett Heath||Brooks Beasts|
|Ryan Hill||Nike Bowerman TC|
|Woody Kincaid||Nike Bowerman TC|
|Shadrack Kipchirchir||US Army|
|Julian Oakley||Ocean State AC|
We already know Shadrack Kipchirchir is fit and ready to rumble after his 3:55/7:42 mile/3k double last weekend. He won fairly comfortably in the 3k at BU but he’ll have his hands full at Millrose with Andrew Butchart, NCAA XC champ Justyn Knight, and reigning World Indoor silver medalist Ryan Hill. Butchart’s 7:42.97 was the #2 indoor time in the world last year, and Knight should be ready for something fast after a “rustbuster” 3:55 mile in Boston. Hill’s best distance is 3k and always comes ready to play at Millrose — he was 2nd in the 5k in 2015, 1st in the 3k in 2016, and 2nd in the 2-mile last year. Woody Kincaid, who was 2nd at USAs in this event last year, is also back after missing significant time last year due to injury, while Julian Oakley has quietly been running very well this year (7:44 at BU in December, almost beat Craig Engels in the mile in NYC last week). This one should come down to the wire.
This one should offer a decent preview of the 3k at USAs (minus Paul Chelimo, who is racing in the 3k Camel City at 2 pm ET) and could give Knight the chance to chase a fast time. Breaking 7:45 would put him in the top 10 all-time among NCAA runners. Breaking 7:40 would be truly impressive — only one collegian (Alistair Cragg, 7:38.59 in 2004) has managed that. Knight’s PR is 7:47.82.
LRC prediction: Kipchirchir keeps rolling and picks up another W – this time under 7:40.
Women’s 300 (5:03 p.m. ET)
Olympic 400 champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, the 200m bronze medalist at Worlds last year, will be favored here. American Courtney Okolo ran an early 51.89 for 400 to win on this track a week ago.
LRC Pick: Miller-Uibo.
New Balance HS girls’ mile (5:08 p.m. ET)
|Kelsey Chmiel||Saratoga NY|
|Katie Dammer||Clarks Summit PA|
|Beth Donnelly||Brentwood TN|
|Lily Flynn||New Rochelle NY|
|Anne Forsyth||Ann Arbor MI|
|Katherine Lee||Shoreham NY|
|Brooke Rauber||Tully NY|
|Reilly Siebert||Syosset NY|
|Marlee Starliper||Dillsburg PA|
|Sarah Trainor||Hyde Park NY|
|Katelyn Tuohy||Thiells NY|
|Victoria Vanriele||Berkeley Heights NJ|
|Gabrielle Wilkinson||Wynnewood PA|
Katelyn Tuohy runs on her biggest stage yet (at least in terms of the eyeballs on this nationally-televised race) and the question is not whether she’ll win, but how fast can she run? At the moment, her mile PR sits at 4:43.62, but after running a high school record of 15:37 for 5,000 meters two weeks ago, expectations will be high — as they always are for Tuohy these days. Only six high schoolers have broken 4:40, and on the fast Armory track, Tuohy seems like a good bet to become #7. Mary Cain‘s national record of 4:24.11 is out of reach for now, but remember: Tuohy is only a sophomore. Don’t sleep on Kelsey Chmiel, either. Last month, she beat Foot Locker champ Claudia Lane to win the Great Edinburgh XCountry.
LRC Prediction: Tuohy breaks 4:40.
The 6 HS girls to break 4:40 in the mile indoors (courtesy Track & Field News)
4:24.11 Mary Cain, 2014
4:32.15 Alexa Efraimson, 2014
4:36.61 Katie Rainsberger, 2016
4:38.5 Debbie Heald, 1972
4:39.0 Lynn Jennings, 1978
4:39.47 Kate Murphy, 2016
NYAC men’s 400 (5:16 p.m. ET)
|Vernon Norwood||New Balance|
Gordon won here last week in 47.07, but he looked to be in a great deal of pain afterwards. Good to see that he’s back racing again.
LRC Prediction: Cherry was 6th at USAs last year outdoors so he’s our pick.
NYRR women’s Wanamaker Mile (5:27 p.m. ET)
|Kate Grace||Nike Bowerman TC|
|Ciara Mageean||New Balance|
|Elinor Purrier||New Hampshire|
|Colleen Quigley||Nike Bowerman TC|
The women’s Wanamaker Mile lost some star power when Brenda Martinez withdrew this week, but it still features five of the top six finishers from last year’s U.S. outdoor champs — only champ Jenny Simpson is absent. Kate Grace was second in that race at USAs last year and second in this race at Millrose as well (in a very fast 4:22), which makes her one of the favorites. There are a couple of uncertainties surrounding Grace, however.
No. 1: She hasn’t raced yet this year. That’s not necessarily a problem. It just means we don’t know exactly how fit she is.
No. 2: She’s in the same situation as Clayton Murphy. Both Murphy and Grace experienced a lot of success under their previous coaches (Lee Labadie for Murphy, Drew Wartenburg for Grace), but both decamped to Portland to run for a coach/training group who specialize in longer events. Just as Murphy is the only 800 runner that Alberto Salazar coaches, Grace is the only 800/1500 runner that Jerry Schumacher coaches (recently, at least — Josh Thompson now runs for BTC as well, but he’s really a mile/steeple guy in our book).
To be honest, that doesn’t phase us in the least in this case (and for anyone down on Murphy, remember he’s only been with Salazar for a few months). Since Schumacher was a 3:39 1500 guy himself, we’re not worried about him not knowing how to coach the 1500.
As for others in this field, 31-year-old Sara Vaughn is coming off a career year, Colleen Quigley ran 4:24 last year and was 2nd in the mile at USAs, while Elinor Purrier ran her PR of 4:29 here last year and has already run 8:55 this season for 3k. Nicole Sifuentes ran 4:27 in Ann Arbor on January 13 and medalled at World Indoors in 2014.
LRC prediction: The jury may be out on Salazar coaching the 800 but we don’t doubt that Schumacher can coach the 1500 — Kate Grace is your women’s Wanamaker Mile champion.
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Jack and Lewis Rudin Women’s 4×800 (5:35 p.m. ET)
|Columbia University||Sarah Hardie, Bianca Alonzo, Terri Turner, McKenzie Sup|
|Iona College||Rachel Garn, Kaitlyn Ohrtman, Dani Martino, Sophie Murphy|
|Jamaica||Natoya Goule, Fellan Ferguson, Simoya Campbell, Kimarra McDonald|
|NY All Stars||Cecilia Barowski, Ce’aira Brown, Lynsey Sharp, Kendra Chambers|
|Penn||Mikayla Schneider, Maddie Villalba, Katherine DeVore, Nia Akins|
|USA||Charlene Lipsey, Ajee’ Wilson, Chrishuna Williams, Raevyn Rogers|
There’s a lot of talent in this race (Ajee Wilson, Charlene Lipsey, Raevyn Rogers, Lynsey Sharp, Natoya Goule) but generally we prefer to see that talent square off individually rather than in a relay format. Relays at these indoor meets can be a lot of fun. The 4×800 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in 2014 was incredible, with two teams battling to the line for the world record, but what made that race great was that it was a race — both teams battling for the win rather than solely against the clock.
And on paper, this women’s 4×800 at Millrose looks more like Team USA against the clock than Team USA against the rest of the field. With a 1:55 woman (Wilson), a 1:57 woman (Lipsey), and the 4th and 5th placers from USA outdoors last year, that squad looks to be the strongest on paper. They’ll be chasing the world record of 8:06.24 (2:01.56 per leg), set by Russia in 2011, which will be a challenge as Lipsey (2:03.74) and Williams (2:04.62) did not run great last week. Fun fact: three of the four (Lipsey, Wilson, and Rogers) are coached by Derek Thompson.
That also opens the door for the NY All Stars, who could actually challenge Team USA as Ce’Aira Brown ran 2:02.27 last week (#2 in the U.S.) and Lynsey Sharp has run 1:57 outdoors. Remember, in that great 4×800 in Boston back in 2014, the battle was supposed to be between the Brooks Beasts and NJ*NY Track Club and both of those squads lost to the U.S. All Stars, who also set the world record. We’d rather see a great race than a world record at Millrose.
LRC prediction: When we first heard there was going to be a WR attempt, we assumed they’d easily get it. But now we aren’t so sure. Last week, Wilson only ran 2:00.90, Lipsey ran 2:03.74, and Williams 2:04.62. Team USA wins, but no WR.
NYRR men’s Wanamaker Mile (5:50 p.m. ET)
|Ben Blankenship||Nike Oregon TC|
|Robert Domanic||Ole Miss|
|Josh Kerr||New Mexico|
|Charles Philibert Thiboutot||ASICS|
|Alfredo Santana||GSTC New Balance|
By now, you’re surely heard that Nick Willis has run Millrose five times and has yet to win the Wanamaker Mile, definitively proving that it is way easier to medal at the Olympics (Willis is 2-for-4) than it is to win Millrose.
The fact that Willis has yet to win is largely due to his competition. In 2008 and 2009, he had to face Bernard Lagat — only the second-fastest man ever at 1500 and a runner perfectly-suited to indoor track with his slight frame and tactical savvy. In 2015 and 2016, he had to face Matthew Centrowitz — the 2016 Olympic champ and another one of the best tacticians of his era. In the past 13 years, only two men have run faster indoors than the 3:51.06 Willis clocked at Millrose in 2016. One was Galen Rupp (yes, it’s still hard to believe Rupp ran a 3:50.92 mile). The other was Centrowitz, who ran 3:50.63 in the same race as Willis’s 3:51.06.
The only result that really looks odd in retrospect is 2014, when Willis lost to Will Leer and Lawi Lalang, and even then, both of those guys ran 3:52 in that race, which is moving indoors.
With Centro heading to Australia this winter, defending champ Eric Jenkins withdrawing due to injury, and Edward Cheserek (whom some are speculating is in WR shape) opting for the mile at 3 pm ET at Camel City, the stage is set for Willis to finally claim the trophy. After missing some time last summer, he came on strong late, winning his fourth 5th Avenue Mile title, and looked comfortable in running 3:57 in his indoor opener on January 13. The bad news for Willis fans? He was forced to miss several days with sickness last week:
The flu took me out for 5 days but a 60mins run yesterday, and some snappy 200s today show me I should be fine for @MillroseGames. I'll definitely be well rested 🙂 One week to go!
— Nick Willis (@nickwillis) January 27, 2018
Can anyone beat him? At his best, Willis is the class of this field but he’s not racing a bunch of chumps, either. Robby Andrews‘ kick is legendary, and though he looked rough last week in running 1:50 for 800, Andrews has been famously inconsistent over the last few years. Chris O’Hare had a career year last year, running a Scottish record of 3:33 and making his second World Championship final; though Willis beat him at Worlds, they split their two post-Worlds duels, with O’Hare winning at the Long Island Mile and Willis winning 5th Ave. Kyle Merber led this race at the bell last year before Jenkins and Clayton Murphy ran him down; a win here would be a neat story 10 years after he won the HS mile at Millrose. Ben Blankenship won USA Indoors in the mile last year, and his 4:01 at altitude in Albuquerque last week wasn’t all that bad — it was just overshadowed by Cheserek’s mind-blowing 3:54 in the same race.
Josh Kerr should not be ignored, either. The New Mexico sophomore went from unknown to double NCAA champion to the World Championships last year at the tender age of 19. Reigning NCAA champs also have a strong recent history at Millrose. The NCAA mile record went down here three years in a row, each time to the defending NCAA champ — Miles Batty in 2012, Chris O’Hare in 2013, and Lawi Lalang in 2014. The NCAA record is going to be tough to get after Cheserek lowered it further to 3:52.01 in Boston last year, but Kerr is a stud and won’t be fazed by this field.
LRC prediction: Indoors is generally less predictable than outdoors because athletes may be at different points in their training, but we like Willis to finally take the Millrose monkey off his back. He’s continued to train at a high level since the last outdoor season and he’s got a major championship coming up in two months at the Commonwealth Games. He’s our pick FTW. That being said, we think Josh Kerr is a BIG TIME talent and might get the win.
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Don’t forget, there is a ton of great action taking place before Millrose on Saturday. Read about it here: LRC Weekend Preview: Rupp And Hasay At USA XC, Ches, Engels, And A Lot Of $$$ At Camel City, & Fast Races In Karlsruhe
Talk about the action on our fan forum/messageboard. MB: What a weekend. Rupp and Hasay go for XC titles, Engels vs Ches at Camel City + Millrose.