WEEKEND PREVIEW: Top Collegians at NYRR Millrose Games

By Tyler Mayforth, USTFCCCA

February 18, 2016   

NEW ORLEANS — You don’t go to the NYRR Millrose Games just to hit qualifying marks.

You go to do something special.

Over the years, hundreds of collegiate runners traveled to New York to compete in one of the most prestigious indoor track & field meets in the world.

QUICK LINKS: Meet Schedule | Start Lists | Watch Live

This year is no different as Duke’s Megan Clark, Oregon’s Edward Cheserek and Raevyn Rogers, Penn State’s Brannon Kidder and Villanova’s Jordy Williamsz will compete at the New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory this weekend.

There is a very strong chance fans could see one or two collegiate records fall in The Big Apple.

Look below to see those athletes who have the best chances at etching their names into the record books.

If you can’t make it out to The Armory on Saturday, you can watch the NYRR Millrose Games on USATF.tv from noon to 4 p.m. ET and then flip over to NBCSN from 4-6 p.m right after.

Paavo Nurmi 3000 Meters

Saturday, February 20 | 4:56 p.m. ET

No one has come closer to Alistair Cragg‘s collegiate record in the 3000 than Lawi Lalang in 2013.

Cragg bettered Henry Rono‘s mark — that stood for 26 years — by three seconds (7:38.59 to 7:41.4[converted from 2 mile]) and Lalang ran 7:42.79 at the Razorback Team Invitational on one of the world’s fastest tracks.

Can Edward Cheserek — who’s best time in the event is 7:47.20 — top Lalang’s time or give Cragg a run for his money? Quite possibly.

Want to know why we think that? Here’s the catch: Lalang outclassed a flock of collegians in Fayetteville, Arkansas; Cheserek will be pulled along by a world-class field on The Armory’s 200-meter banked oval.

Joining Cheserek on the starting line are some incredible mid-distance and distance runners.

  • Ryan Hill — 7th fastest time on the American all-time list at 3000 meters (7:34.71).
  • Lopez Lomong — 2nd fastest American all-time at 5000 meters (13:07.00); 3rd fastest American all-time in the mile (3:51.21).
  • Evan Jager — 6th fastest time on the American all-time list at 2 miles (8:14.95); 8th fastest American all-time at 3000 meters (7:39.98).
  • Cam Levins — Canadian record holder for 2 miles (8:14.69) and 10,000 meters (27:08.51); 2012 The Bowerman Award winner.

Let’s not forget Cheserek’s former teammate, Eric Jenkins (2015 NCAA champ at 3000 meters) is entered as well.

This has all the makings to be a quick race.

The meet record in the event is 7:43.81, set in 1999 by Kenya’s Paul Bitok.

Mel Sheppard 800

Saturday, February 20 | 3:07 p.m. ET

Brannon Kidder already has a record-breaking run under his belt this season.

Back in January, Kidder became the second collegian to go sub-2:19 in the 1000 and bettered Rich Peters‘ mark by 0.29 seconds (2:18.26 to 2:18.55).

Can Kidder take down Paul Ereng‘s 26-year-old record of 1:44.84?

Let’s not get crazy since Kidder’s indoor best is 1:47.01.

Kidder’s sights should be set on the American collegiate record, set in 1999 by Missouri’s Derrick Peterson (1:45.88).

Earlier this season Texas A&M freshman Donavan Brazier finished a step shy of Peterson’s record. Brazier clocked a time of 1:45.93 in his collegiate debut at the Aggie 11-Team Invitational.

The headliner in Kidder’s heat is Duane Solomon, a two-time USATF champion and a fourth-place finisher at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Women’s 800 Meters

Saturday, February 20 | 5:34 p.m. ET

Ever since her record run at the 2015 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, fans have wanted to see what Raevyn Rogers had in store for the indoor season.

Rogers didn’t disappoint in her debut, running the fastest-ever time by a collegian at 600 meters (1:26.34). It was also the second fastest mark all-time by an American behind Alysia Montano.

We have yet to see Rogers run an 800 indoors — her signature event — until now.

Judging by the talent in her heat, there is no reason why Rogers couldn’t break Nicole Cook‘s collegiate record of 2:00.75.

Rogers will race against 2014 USATF Indoor and Outdoor 800 champion Ajee’ Wilson, 2014 The Bowerman Award winner Laura Roesler and 2013 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist Brenda Martinez, among others.

NYRR Wannamaker Mile

Saturday, February 20 | 5:50 p.m. ET

Over the past four years, the indoor collegiate record in the mile has been broken three times at the Millrose Games — Miles Batty in 2012 (3:54.54), Chris O’Hare in 2013 (3:52.98) and Lawi Lalang in 2014 (3:52.88). The only outlier came last year when Edward Cheresk ran a personal best of 3:56.43.

Can Jordy Williamsz — owner of a 3:56.84 mile and a 3:39.53 1500 — get the train back on the tracks? Unlikely.

Williamsz would need to run four seconds faster than he’s ever run for a mile and leapfrog 10 men on the all-time list. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before, though: O’Hare PR’d by 3.5 seconds in 2013.

Can Williamsz at least get on the all-time collegiate chart? Now we’re talking.

If Williamsz crosses the line before the clock hits 3:55.11, he’d join some pretty elite company.

And it’s not like Williamsz will be running alone in the Millrose Games’ marquee race.

See if you recognize two of these names — Matthew Centrowitz (3:50.53 PR) and Nick Willis (3:49.83 PR). Here are two more, just because — Robby Andrews (2015 IAAF World Championship finalist at 1500) and Christian Soratos (2nd place at NCAAs last year).

Williamsz hasn’t raced an open mile since the 2014 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. He finished eighth.

Fred Schmertz Pole Vault

Saturday, February 20 | 3:58 p.m. ET

There are currently five female members of the 15-foot club in collegiate track & field.

Three of them — Megan Clark, Sandi Morris and Demi Payne — will compete on Saturday. Current Arkansas freshman Lexi Weeks and former Texas standout Kaitlin Petrillose won’t be in New York.

Come June, chances are that Clark and Payne will be joined by Weeks — and a host of others — in Eugene, Oregon when they battle for an NCAA title.

As for right now, we’ll just have to settle for watching Clark and Payne fight for glory at The Armory.

Clark’s best vault this season came earlier this month inside this same building. She cleared 4.60m (15-1) and tied for ninth on the all-time collegiate chart.

While she doesn’t have indoor eligibility left, Payne made sure her competition wouldn’t forget about her when she recently posted a clearance of 4.88m (16-0) and moved up to third on the world indoor all-time list.