Another Millrose Games victory for Bernard Lagat (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
Preview New York, USA

Lagat to go for ninth Mile win at Millrose Games - PREVIEW

Friday night (28th) New York City's Madison Square Garden will once again see its distinctive 160-yard (146.3m) track crammed onto the arena floor as the 2011 IAAF Indoor Permit season begins at the 104th Millrose Games.

The lengthy history of Millrose combined with the evolving face of athletics has given the fixture a unique timetable. Traditional events like the capstone Wanamaker Mile will rub elbows with newcomers like the women's Pole Vault and one-off events like the New York Police Department vs. Fire Department relay and the second annual "Super 60" featuring professional athletes from outside athletics.

Mile challenge for Lagat

The Wanamaker Mile, a race which has long outlived its namesake sponsor department store, has been the exclusive domain of Bernard Lagat for a record-setting eight years. (The great Eamonn Coghlan's reputation as "Chairman of the Boards" was built around seven Wanamaker Mile wins.)

However, the World Indoor title at 1500m has been the exclusive domain of Deresse Mekonnen since 2008, and the diminutive Ethiopian placed ahead of Lagat at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, taking silver to Lagat's bronze. At 23, Mekonnen may be in a position to start his own streak of Wanamaker victories to go with his gold medals from Valencia in 2008 and Doha in 2010.

Sparkling sprints

The men's and women's 60m fields have been set up to highlight the sprint rivalry between the USA and Jamaica, with multiple Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown highlighting the women's 60m for the island nation. Joining Campbell-Brown, Vonette Dixon and Trisha-Ann Hawthorne for Jamaica will be Lauryn Williams and sisters Miki and Me'Lisa Barber for the USA.

The men's 60m will feature Jamaica's Nesta Carter along with countrymen Lerone Clarke and Oshane Bailey; the USA will be represented by Mike Rodgers, Trell Kimmons and Ivory Williams.

The women's 60m Hurdles will feature former World Champion Perdita Felicien and NCAA champion Queen Harrison along with Jamaica's Vonette Dixon.

Global champions in Shot Put, Pole Vault, Multis

One of the newest records in the Millrose books belongs to the men's Shot Put, where event record holder Adam Nelson will return to the Garden floor to face World Champion Christian Cantwell, 2007 World outdoor champion Reese Hoffa and rising star Ryan Whiting. Nelson, Cantwell and Hoffa between them have more global titles than are easily summarised, although Cantwell has been most consistent in recent seasons and is likely the man to beat in New York.

Another impressive collection of global titles will be on display in the Millrose Multi Challenge, a three-event multi including Shot Put, 60m Hurdles, and the High Jump. Stepping to the line will be defending Olympic Decathlon champion Bryan Clay, defending World Decathlon champion Trey Hardee, and indoor Heptathlon World Record holder Ashton Eaton.

Brazil's World Indoor champion Fabiana Murer will pole vault in Madison Square Garden for the first time, a thrilling event for spectators at the Garden who are often close to the height of the crossbar. Murer will face defending Millrose champion Jenn Suhr, the highest vaulter of 2010, in a field of five.

Rare distances for men

The non-standard distance for the Garden track lends itself to events like the Mel Sheppard Men's 600-yard race (about 549.6m) which are unlikely to be raced at a high level elsewhere. This year's race, named for a four-time Olympic gold medallist from the early 20th century, will feature outdoor 400m Hurdlea ace Bershawn "Batman" Jackson and Trinidad's Rennie Quow. Quow was the 2009 winner, while Jackson took the victories in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

Dee Dee Trotter and Natasha Hastings will headline the somewhat more traditional 400m distance for women.

Another rarely-run distance will be the men's two-mile race, the longest race run at Millrose in several years. U.S. Olympian Galen Rupp will headline that event.

The women's 1500m will include Canada's Carmen Douma-Hussar, a three-time winner at Millrose, and Sara Hall of the USA, a three-time Millrose runner-up.

Packed schedule on tap

The complete schedule at Millrose covers six hours and forty events, plus four weight throw competitions (for men and women, open and high school) held earlier in the day at the Armory Track Center. In addition to the professional events already mentioned, the schedule features a full suite of relays for area high schools, one-mile walks for men and women (the latter a national championship event), and high school boys' and girls' miles.

Among the relays, the "NY’s Fastest" race will put a team from the New York Fire Department against another from the New York Police Department, two city service departments which wage friendly rivalries in several athletic venues. This race, more about the victory than the time, will be 4 x 160 yards.

The Madison Square Garden crew clears away the banked turns of the track temporarily for the 60m sprint session, and one of the races to be staged in that time will be a "Super 60m" featuring professional athletes from outside athletics. Last year's race was made up entirely of NFL players; this year, the field also includes an Olympic gold medallist bobsledder (Steve Mesler) and entries from the NBA, MLS football, and Major League Baseball. The defending champion, Anthony Dorsett Jr., ran 7.01 in 2010 and will be back this year.

Parker Morse for the IAAF

Click here for the complete schedule and entry list