5 Thoughts From 2022 Millrose: On’s Big Day, a 3000m Thriller, & Athing Mu Struggles

By Jonathan Gault
January 29, 2022

NEW YORK – The 114th Millrose Games are in the books (well, except for the men’s shot put, we’ll get to that) and what a meet it was. 

Cooper Teare held off Cole Hocker for what looked to be a famous win in the men’s 3000 meters but left lane 1 open for Geordie Beamish to come in and win an instant classic thanks to a devastating 25.71 last lap. 

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Christian Coleman signaled his return to the big stage with a narrow victory in the 60 meters over Trayvon Bromell, 6.49 to 6.50, the first of what should be several high-profile battles between the young stars in 2022. 

Athing Mu made a brave effort for the first ¾ of the women’s Wanamaker Mile but in the end could not hold on to the triumphant Elle Purrier St. Pierre and wound up stepping off the track with a lap to go.

And in the shot put, most of the Armory and the national TV audience thought Ryan Crouser had broken his own world record, only for it to later be revealed that none of the marks from the competition were legitimate due to an issue with the laser measuring system.

It was a sour note on which to end a fantastic day of track & field. After an afternoon speaking to athletes, agents, coaches, and fans, here are my biggest takeaways from Millrose 2022.

The men’s 3000 ruled and was part of a HUGE day for On Athletics Club

On paper, the men’s 3000 figured to be one of the races of the meet, and it wound up as unquestionably the best race of the day. With a lap to go, we looked set for a reprisal of last year’s NCAA final, which featured Oregon-stars-turned-Nike-pros Cooper Teare and Cole Hocker battling to the tape and Hocker prevailing. Teare turned the tables on his training partner at Millrose, but was so preoccupied with holding off Hocker on his outside that he left lane 1 open, down which steamed the On Athletics Club’s Geordie Beamish, who used a 25.71 last lap to go from 5th to 1st on the final lap and win in a New Zealand record of 7:39.50 (Teare and Hocker both got pbs, 7:39.61 and 7:39.83, respectively). Great athletes, great racing, and even though it was a Kiwi taking down two of America’s brightest young stars, the Armory crowd went wild as Beamish peeled off on a well-deserved victory lap.

Beamish’s win alone would have qualified for a huge day for the On Athletics Club. But it was just one of three big wins for the squad as Alicia Monson ran a meet-record 8:31.62 (#4 all-time in the US) to claim the women’s 3000 and Ollie Hoare capped things off with a 3:50.83 Australian record to take down rival (and Olympic bronze medalist) Josh Kerr and win the Wanamaker Mile.

In the summer of 2020, when many shoe companies were tightening pursestrings in the early days of the pandemic, On threw a bunch of money at the top talent in the NCAA and tapped Dathan Ritzenhein to coach the group. So far, it’s looking like a wise investment. The group sent two Americans (and five athletes total) to the Olympics last year and just dominated one of the biggest meets in the United States. A Millrose title isn’t close to a global medal – something OAC has yet to achieve – but as one of the few track meets shown on a major US network, it’s big exposure (as far as indoor track is concerned).

Also notable is the fact that both Monson and Beamish won while wearing On spikes. Previously, On had allowed its athletes to race in other brands’ shoes while they developed their own superspike (Hoare still wore Nikes today as On does not yet make the new spike in his size). And while Beamish said he did not try out the new unnamed spike until this week and wasn’t even sure this morning whether he would race in it or not, he gave it a go. It sure seemed up to the task today.

Today was a learning experience for Athing Mu

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Athing Mu’s 2021 season was nothing short of a dream. She broke a fistful of collegiate records, then won the US title, Olympic title, and broke the American 800 record twice (finishing up at 1:55.04) – all at the age of 19. It was an exponential rise for someone who had never broken 2:00 when the season began.

But track careers are not exponential, or even linear. Every athlete faces setbacks and today’s Wanamaker Mile was the first for Athing Mu as a pro. Mu gamely went with the leaders and at 1k was running at the tail end of a group of five that had gapped the field. But Mu ran out of gas, and though she was still in 6th place at the bell, it was clear she would be nowhere close to eventual winner Elle Purrier St. Pierre, who ran 4:19.30 to retain her title.

Mu was on pace for 4:25 at 1400 – 12-second pb – but instead chose to step off the track and did not appear to be in any sort of pain. LetsRun approached Mu for an interview and while she initially seemed receptive, she ultimately chose not to go through the mixed zone. Instead, Mu spent a minute staring up at the Armory scoreboard, a bemused smile on her face, before repeating “it’s okay” to herself and speaking to agent Wes Felix before heading to the cooldown area.

In the grand scheme of things, today’s race might benefit Mu. Every athlete, even the greats, need to learn how to lose, and since her emergence as a star, Mu had not faced a moment like this. She didn’t respond brilliantly by stepping off, but Mu deserves credit for showing guts and trying to go with the leaders (something few expected her to do), who are the best milers in the United States right now, in her first major mile race. It’s worth remembering that Athing Mu has been a pro athlete for seven months, and was racing an unfamiliar event against a loaded field. For the first time, she wasn’t just getting beaten, but getting smoked. That’s a lot for a 19-year-old to take in.

Christian Coleman gives himself an A- in his return

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After his first big race in almost two years, 60m world record holder Christian Coleman gave himself an A- for his 6.49 victory against a star-studded 60m field. He received some of the loudest cheers of the day upon his introduction at Millrose, showing support (or at least obliviousness) from the fans as Coleman returned from his 18-month ban for whereabouts failures.

Coleman said that he treated 2021 as he would a normal year of competition, and though he wasn’t able to race, he did what he called “race modeling” in practice, where he ran some “pretty good” times, though he wouldn’t go into specifics.

What kept Coleman motivated was the knowledge that his ban would not be a career-ender. He’s still only 25 years old and though he missed the Olympics, he suddenly has World Indoor Championships in each of the next three years and global outdoor championships in each of the next four years. He will have plenty of opportunities to prove that he is “back.”

“I feel like I quickly bounced back, put it behind me and just kind of moved forward, just looked to the future,” Coleman said. “That was the main thing that kept me going.”

LetsRun asked Coleman how he felt he would have done in Tokyo had he run last year. Marcell Jacobs won the 100m in 9.80; Coleman’s pb, set in the 2019 World Championship final, is 9.76. But, true to his forward-looking approach, Coleman did not take the bait.

“I guess we’ll never know,” Coleman said.

Coleman looked good, but he was challenged by 2016 World Indoor champ Trayvon Bromell, who came on late and finished just .01 behind in 6.50. Bromell did not seem bothered at all by getting edged out by Coleman, barely treating today’s race as a defeat, and said that he is focusing on the outdoor season, not indoors (he will race once more, at his sponsor New Balance’s meet next weekend, and call it a season).

“I was laughing at the end though,” Bromell said. “I knew that’s what everybody waiting on but they’re gonna have to wait until me and him go at each other outdoors…I looked over and I seen him leaning and I thought it was funny because I was like, we about to be battling like this all year. “

Donavan Brazier didn’t watch the Olympics but is feeling back to his best

800m world champion Donavan Brazier ran the 400 meters today at Millrose and…looked like an 800 runner running the 400 meters. Unsurprisingly, true 400 men Christopher Taylor and Vernon Norwood beat Brazier to the break at 200 meters, though Brazier, with his long-pumping stride, was not far behind them. On the back straight, he moved up to make his move but could not get around them. Coming off the final turn, Brazier charged again on the outside, but it was too late and he had to settle for third in a pb of 46.55.

All in all, Brazier was pleased with his effort. The indoor 400 is tricky to master for even veteran runners, and Brazier still shaved .36 off his previous indoor pb of 46.91. 

“I tried passing on the backstretch,” Brazier said (though passing on the turn would hardly have been better). “Can’t do that in a 400 indoors. Found out the hard way.”

Brazier was in very high spirits after the race. He had surgery to fix a bone impingement and correct a fractured tibia last year — the injury he was running through when he finished last in the 800 at the Olympic Trials — and was worried about how his ankle would hold up, but said he felt no issues. It was a relief following a painful 2021 and tail end of the 2020 season, when he battled plantar fasciitis.

“The last healthy race I had was probably 2020 Big Friendly 1500 (in July 2020),” Brazier said. “That was the last time I felt like I do now, just healthy, getting good, consistent training blocks in.”

Brazier hasn’t been blowing workouts out of the water, but he’s so talented that as long as he is healthy and training decently well, he’ll be the favorite in pretty much any 800m race he enters.

Mentally, Brazier said it was also difficult to bounce back from the heartbreak of not making the Olympic team last year. He said he did not watch the Olympics outside of the women’s 400 hurdles and the women’s 800, in which Union Athletics Club teammate Raevyn Rogers earned the bronze medal.

“I felt like it was something that was mine for the taking and I kind of fucked up a good thing,” Brazier said of the Olympic 800. “Just to watch that [would have been] pretty hard…I really don’t even know how the [men’s 800] played out. People told me, but all I know is Americans didn’t bring home any medals.”

The men’s shot put was a debacle

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In the first month of 2022, track & field has seen a collegiate record in the triple jump revoked and the results of the Great Ethiopian revised. But by far the most embarrassing measuring error came today at the Millrose Games in the men’s shot put. In his first competition of the year, Olympic champion and world indoor/outdoor record holder Ryan Crouser threw what was initially reported as 23.38 meters with his second-round toss – not only an improvement on his 22.82 indoor world record, but a centimeter beyond his outdoor world record.

But right away, Crouser knew something was wrong. 

“I’ve thrown over 23 [meters] a number of times and I know what that feels like,” Crouser said. “ …I let it go, saw it come up on the board as 23.38 and then went to the [officials] and said that was not correct, unfortunately.”

But while Crouser knew the result was not valid (five of the top six men had also thrown “personal bests”), that information was not relayed to the fans or NBC audience. It wasn’t even reflected in the results, in part because the officials initially believed that the problem lay with the display system. Only after the meet was over were the erroneous results removed from the Millrose results page.

In reality, Crouser said, the laser used to measure each throw had been bumped either before the competition or early in the competition. As a result, the distances were correct but were being measured from the wrong spot. Crouser’s “record” throw was actually about 22.50 meters – which would have broken Crouser’s 22.33 meet record from 2019, and a throw Crouser said he was still “really happy” with.

The mistake was unfortunate, but the way it was handled was worse. The fact that there was no announcement on the broadcast to let fans know about the mishap is a black eye on an otherwise outstanding day of track and field.

2022 Millrose Games Coverage (Click here for all the coverage):

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