Previews09 Feb 2024

Middle-distance match-ups and high-quality hurdles clashes expected in New York


Josh Kerr in action at the Millrose Games (© Taylor Sims)

World record potential in the middle distances, combined with strong sprints and hurdles fields, highlight the Millrose Games, a World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in New York on Sunday (11).

Yared Nuguse returns to defend his Wanamaker Mile title. Last year’s race was a thriller with Nuguse breaking the North American indoor mile record (3:47.38). On the heels of his World Championships fifth-place finish in the 1500m, Nuguse then shattered the 16-year-old continental outdoor mile record in September at the Wanda Diamond League final (3:43.97).

Now Nuguse has his sights on the world indoor record of 3:47.01 set by Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha in 2019.

“I feel fitter than I felt last year at Millrose,” Nuguse said, “so I feel like if I really just put myself out and go for it a little bit, I think shaving 0.4 seconds off shouldn’t be that much of a task."

Nuguse will be challenged by Mario Garcia Romo, his Spanish training partner and a two-time World Championships finalist, along with world road mile champion Hobbs Kessler, who won the 1500m last week in Boston with a PB, and Britain’s George Mills, who finished ahead of Nuguse over 5000m last month in a PB of 12:58.68.

At twice the distance, Josh Kerr also has his eye on a world indoor best, this one held for nine years by fellow Brit Mo Farah (8:03.40). The world 1500m champion will be joined by Grant Fisher, the US record-holder at 5000m and 10,000m, and New Zealand’s George Beamish.

For Kerr, the two-mile is a better fit for his training than the mile. “In this part of the season, the mile is too quick for me,” he said.

But the two miles, which precedes the meet-ending Wanamaker Mile races, could set the tone for a record-setting day. “It has to be fast,” Kerr said. “The number of guys that are in there, if we don’t string it out, it’s going to be a mess. So for us, having the pacemakers at a world-record pace for a race that’s not run all that often, I think will allow us to settle into the race better and really make an exciting race for people to watch.”

While Nuguse and Kerr, who won the 3000m last year in New York, are Millrose veterans, Yaroslava Mahuchikh will be making her debut at The Armory.

The world champion and Olympic bronze medallist from Ukraine is the world leader in the women’s high jump, leaping 2.04m in Cottbus last month. Mahuchikh will be looking to dethrone USA’s 2016 world indoor champion Vashti Cunningham, who won the last two times the women’s high jump was contested at Millrose (2018 and 2019).

The men’s pole vault returns to the New York stage after a 10-year hiatus. The all-US field could shape up as a head-to-head battle between Olympic and world silver medallist Chris Nilsen, who holds the US indoor record, and KC Lightfoot, the US outdoor record-holder.

Clashes on the straight

Tia Jones turned heads in Boston last week when she sped to victory in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.72 – just 0.04 shy of the world indoor record. In what is possibly the highest-quality field of the entire meeting, Jones will take on the likes of two-time world champion Danielle Williams, two-time world indoor champion Nia Ali, defending Millrose champion Devynne Charlton of The Bahamas and NCAA champion Ackera Nugent of Jamaica.

World record-holder Christian Coleman is seeking his third straight 60m victory at Millrose in his season-opener. He’ll take on Canada’s Olympic 200m champion Andre De Grasse, who has not run the 60m at Millrose since 2016. Jamaica’s Ackeem Blake, who set a PB of 6.45 in his first ever indoor 60m race last weekend in Boston, should also be a factor at the tape.

Sprint sensation Julien Alfred has already got her season off to a strong start after an incredible 2023 campaign. The Saint Lucian star, who was undefeated last year in the 60m and 100m until placing fifth in the 100m in Budapest, heads to New York with season's bests of 7.04 for 60m and a world-leading 22.16 for 200m.

In the 60m on Sunday, Alfred will line up against Jamaicans Shashalee Forbes and Briana Williams and US contenders Tamara Clark and English Gardner.

In the men’s 60m hurdles, 2022 world silver medallist Trey Cunningham of the US, who is second on the world list, will take on a strong slate that includes 2023 world bronze medallist Daniel Roberts.

Monson and Muir to battle at two miles

Alicia Monson broke the North America record in the 3000m last year at Millrose and is on a mission to win her third straight title on this track – with a record perhaps in a different event.

The two-mile distance is one more lap than a 3000m and her ultimate goal is the continental record of 9:10.28. Monson will be in fast company with Olympic 1500m silver medallist Laura Muir of Great Britain, US mile record-holder Nikki Hiltz and world U20 5000m champion Medina Eisa of Ethiopia.

World indoor silver medallist and new mother Elle St Pierre will vie for her third title in the women’s Wanamaker Mile. The race will be a rematch between St Pierre, the North American indoor record-holder at the distance, and Jessica Hull of Australia, who won their showdown in the 3000m last week with an Oceanian indoor record. Josette Andrews of the US, twice a Millrose mile runner-up, will try to break through for her first title.

Olympic 800m bronze medallist Raevyn Rogers, who contested the 400m last week in Boston, returns to her speciality at Millrose and will face Jamaica’s Natoya Goule-Toppin. Noah Kibet and Bryce Hoppel, the world indoor silver and bronze medallists respectively, will clash in the men’s 800m.

The women’s 300m pits Ireland’s NCAA 400m champion Rhasidat Adeleke against Talitha Diggs, the 2022 NCAA and US champion.

Karen Rosen for World Athletics