By Rich Sands, @sands
NEW YORK (8-FEB) A trio of American records highlighted an intense afternoon of racing at the 113th NYRR Millrose Games at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory here. Donavan Brazier and Ajee' Wilson lowered their own national records in the men's and women's 800, respectively, while Elinor Purrier was a surprise winner of the women's Wanamaker mile, clocking the second fastest indoor time in history.
PHOTO: Elinor Purrier sets American record in the mile at the 2020 NYRR Millrose Games (photo by Kevin Morris)
Brazier struck first. After a cautious first 400 (53.04), the reigning world outdoor champion slowly moved through the pack, seizing the lead just after the 600-meter mark. He blitzed the final 200 in 24.89 (completing a second 400 in 51.18) to clock 1:44.22, solidifying his status as history's fifth-fastest indoor performer. That improved on the 1:44.41 he ran at this meet last year, when he finished second. "I was pretty confident with the pace, it was feeling pretty slow that I could get around them pretty quick" he said of his third-lap surge.
Bryce Hoppel was a distant second in 1:45.70, an indoor personal best, while Isaiah Harris took third in 1:46.01.
The women's mile was fast from the gun, with pacemaker Megan Mansy hitting the quarter mile in 63.3 and the half mile in 2:08.4. Germany's Konstanze Klosterhalfen, the defending champion, shot to the lead with four laps to go, with Canada's Gabriela Debues-Stafford, Great Britain's Jemma Reekie and Purrier following in single file through the three-quarter mile mark. After the bell, Purrier made a strong move on the final backstretch to pass Debues-Stafford and Reekie, hitting the 1500 in 4:00.20, a personal best, and just a step behind Klosterhalfen (3:59.87, a German record). The Vermont native swung wide on the homestretch to pull away for the win in an astonishing 4:16.85, the second fastest time ever indoors, behind the 4:13.31 world record set by Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba in 2016. It also shattered the American indoor standard of 4:20.5, set way back in 1982 by Mary Decker Slaney. Only Slaney's outdoor time of 4:16.71 from 1985 is faster among Americans under any conditions.
"I knew it was going to be a fast pace and then just kick as hard as I could," said the stunned Purrier, the 2018 NCAA Indoor champion in the mile for the University of New Hampshire. "The second to last lap I started getting a little more confident, and thought, 'OK, I don't feel totally out of it, I'm going to try to make a move.'"
Klosterhalfen was rewarded for her aggressive tactics with a German record 4:17.26 in second place. Reekie (4:17.88) and Debues-Stafford (4:19.73) also set national records as the top eight runners broke 4:29.
Moments later, the women's 800 went off and the usual front-running Wilson had to contend with an early challenge from France's Cynthia Anais, who grabbed the inside line behind pacesetter Latavia Thomas.
Jamaica's Natoya Goule charged into second place after the 400 mark, and she and Wilson were clear of Anais just before the bell lap. Wilson swung wide on the final backstretch to pass Goule and was free and clear for a run to the finish. She covered her last 200 in 29.87 to cross the line in 1:58.29, more than a second ahead of Goule (1:59.35).
Wilson lowered the 1:58.60 U.S. record she ran to win this race a year ago. "With 220 to go I felt strong and I didn't know what she [Goule] had left, but I knew I had a lot in the tank," said Wilson, who has bronze medals from the last two world outdoor championships. "I didn't want to get too excited and too aggressive and go too early, so I waited until the first turn [of the last lap] and just slingshotted off and went from there."
The New Jersey native, who now lives and trains in the Philadelphia area, won this race for a fifth time since 2014, but admitted to feeling a little extra pressure after she saw she was on the cover of the meet program. "When I saw it at the press conference yesterday my cheeks got all flushed and I was like now you have to win," she said with a laugh.
"You gotta deliver."
Chris O'Hare won the meet's climactic race, the men's Wanamaker Mile, by making a strong move with two laps to go, clocking 3:55.61. That marks the second time in three years that the Scotsman has won the historic race. Behind him, the next seven finishers were separated by just over half a second, with Oliver Hoare, an Australian who runs for the University of Wisconsin, second in 3:56.47, and American Rob Napolitano, a late entrant, third in 3:56.56.
American Allie Ostrander (8:48.94) and Canadian Justyn Knight (7:46.36) used strong kicks to win the women's and men's 3000-meter races, respectively. Finishing 11th and last in the men's race was Nico Young, a senior at Newbury Park High School in California, who shattered the U.S. high school record with a 7:56.97 effort. The previous mark of 7:59.33 was set by Drew Hunter in 2016.