Millrose Magic: the fab five races not to miss
Men’s Wanamaker Mile, 7:53pm US time/ 12:53am Irish time
Just like any good show, they’re saving the best for last at the Millrose Games, but we’re getting straight into it and discussing the event that unquestionably merits top billing. This race – this battle of speed, wits and tactical prowess – is by far the most mouth-watering clash not just of these Millrose Games, but of the entire indoor season. It is fitting, then, that it occurs in a race steeped in history: the Wanamaker mile. So many contenders, but who will be victorious in this one-mile, royal rumble in the Armory?
In one corner stands Nick Willis, the mercurial miler from New Zealand who set a national record of 3:51.61 when dispatching a decent field with east in Boston last week. In another is Matt Centrowitz, the home nation’s leading hope. He comes to the Armory off the back of a win over 1,000m in Boston last week, where he sharpened the blades nicely for this battle with a 2:17.00 performance to become the second fastest American of all time. It’s not simply a head-to-head, though, as in another corner stands Bernard Lagat, the 40-year-old, eight-time winner of the Wanamaker Mile. Lagat looked as fast as ever when closing with a 26.22-second last lap during a narrow defeat to Dejen Gebremeskel over 3,000m last weekend. Lagat is still great, even now, at 40, but surely even he doesn’t have a ninth life, a ninth Wanamaker title, in him? Another contender is the fast-finishing Will Leer, who trains with Nick Willis, and could pose a threat if he’s positioned close enough to the front as they take the bell. That, though, will be a place everyone will want to be.
Who will win? We’ll have to go with the man who appears to have the perfect combination of speed, endurance, tactical wisdom and experience for this fight – the man with an armoury so strong it’s difficult to see him defeated. He’s the man who told me last week he set a 100m personal best in training just a fortnight ago, at the age of 31. He’s Nick Willis.
Women’s Wanamaker Mile, 7:20pm/12:20am
It’s not quite going out on a limb to say that an athlete from the Nike Oregon Project will probably win this race, given that they have four formidable athletes in action, but the question is: which one?
Will it be Mary Cain, the world junior champion over 3,000m last year, who showed when finishing second to teammate Treniere Moser over 1,000m in Boston last week that she is looking more and more likely to translate her vast ability to senior level? Possibly. Will it be Jordan Hasay, who looked supreme when winning in the Armory two weeks ago? Unlikely, given that this is well below her usual race distance. Could it be Treniere Moser, who tuned up for this with a good run behind Ajee Wilson in New York two weeks ago before taking victory over Cain with a 2:37.86 1,000m in Boston last week. Maybe. My money, though, is on Shannon Rowbury, the 30-year-old who ran a swift 4:22.66 mile on a flat track last week. That piece of form is superior to anything her rivals have accomplished this season, and makes her a worthy favourite. If anyone can upset the Oregon Project stranglehold here, it is Nicole Tully, who very nearly usurped Brenda Martinez on the anchor leg of the distance medley relay in Boston last week.
Women’s 800m, 7:35pm/12:35am
It’s difficult to see any other result here than another win for Ajee Wilson, the former world junior champion who has shown in recent years that she is most at home when controlling 800m races such as this and this, on all known form, should be no different. Wilson ran with differing tactics in the Armory a fortnight ago, playing a waiting game and taking the lead on the last lap, but her superiority over this field is so pronounced that it’s likely she’ll make a much earlier run for home in this race. If anyone can give her a run, then it will be Latavia Thomas or Charlene Lipsey, but this race looks set to be an exhibition of Wilson’s supremacy.
Men’s 5,000m, 6:45pm/11:45pm
This race revolves around the man who stole the show here at the Armory two weeks ago: Cam Levins. The Canadian, who is a member of the Nike Oregon Project, took a remarkable double on his last visit to the Armory, and assuming he brings that same form here for the Millrose Games, he looks the likely winner of what is a loaded men’s 5,000m.
There are others, though, who will make his task an arduous one, not least Japanese training partner Suguru Osako, who stormed to a national record over two miles when losing to Levins two weeks ago. The Nike Bowerman Track Club will bring a six-strong legion of troops to this race, and the most dangerous of those look to be Lopez Lomong, Ryan Hill and Andrew Bumbalough. The race, though, looks like it will be Levins’ to lose. Given the shape he’s in, it’s almost impossible to see him being dropped before the final lap, and given how much his speed has improved under the tutelage of Alberto Salazar, he should be able to unleash that most deadly weapon on that final lap on Saturday night.
Men’s 500m, 7:03pm/12:03am
Though the success of the Millrose Games has always been centred on the middle distance events, there are a number of top-notch races to get the speedsters’ juices flowing on Saturday night. The pick of them is the men’s 500m, which sees Belgium’s Jonathan Borlee face off against 400m hurdle specialist Bershawn Jackson and a duo of leading Americans. Jackson, a former world champion at the 400m hurdles, has a personal best of 45.06 seconds in the flat event, though that dates back almost eight years now. The favourite, it’s fair to say, will instead be Borlee, a 44.43-second 400m performer. The Florida State graduate will be looking for a good performance en route to the European Indoor Championships in Prague next month, but he will face some stiff opposition at Millrose, mainly from the duo who went 1-2 at last year’s US Indoor Championships. Michael Berry was second there, running 45.64 behind Kyle Clemons 45.60, and if either of them can reproduce that form over the longer event on Saturday night, Borlee will have his hands full. It should be a cracker.