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Irish still on their marks at Millrose Games

Ray Flynn with the 2019 NYRR Millrose Games Wanamaker Mile winner, Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia, and eight-time Wanamaker Mile champion Bernard Lagat. Flynn is a two-time Olympian for Ireland, owner of 89 sub four-minute miles, and is one of an elite group of men to have run under three minutes and fifty seconds for the mile. Photo by Ross Dettman.


By Ray O’Hanlon

The Millrose Games are alive and well and ready for the off this Saturday, February, 8 at the Armory New Balance Track & Field Center in Washington Heights.

The “alive and well” assessment comes courtesy of meet director Ray Flynn, whose attention this time of year, as it has for a number of years now, turns to the boards in the asphalt canyons of Manhattan.

This year’s Millrose meet will be the 113th so there’s no lacking in tradition.

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There will be no lack of talent either and, as has been the case for many years, the Irish will be represented in both current competition and past tradition.

In the latter context “Chairman of the Boards” Eamonn Coghlan, winner of seven Wanamaker Mile titles, will be in attendance.

In terms of competition, meet organizers have announced that six-time Olympic gold medalist and 13-time world champion, Allyson Felix, will be competing in the women’s 60 meters and there will be what a release describes as “a thrilling shot-put duel” between 2016 Olympic gold medalist Ryan Crouser and 2019 World Championships gold medalist Joe Kovacs.

The men’s 60 meter hurdles lineup includes world champion Grant Holloway, Olympic champion Omar McLeod, defending NYRR Millrose Games champion Devon Allen, and outdoor national champion Daniel Roberts.

Olympian and 2018 champion Chris O’Hare of Great Britain, 2017 champion Eric Jenkins of the United States, four-time Olympian Nick Willis of New Zealand, and world championship medalist Filip Ingebrigtsen of Norway will headline the NYRR Wanamaker Mile men’s field

World champion and American record-holder Donavan Brazier, and defending NYRR Millrose Games champion and NCAA record-holder Michael Saruni, will take part in the men’s 800 meters.

And other top class competitors from the world and college circuit are also readying for the array of races and field events.

Irish interests rest on Drogheda’s Andrew Coscoran, who will be running in the Invitational Mile. He finished second at the 2019 Irish Championships in the 1,500 meters.

Olympian Mark English will be competing in the men’s 800 meters. He’s a European Indoor Bronze Medalist.

Glen Carty and Ciara Schmidtmeier are Ireland’s qualifiers for this year’s NYRR Fastest Kid in the World Youth Boys 55 meters and Girls 55 meters. Last year, Shane Haran of Ireland won the boys race with a time of 8.68.

Cian McPhillips from Longford Athletic Club became a late entrant after clocking 3.44 in a high school 1500 meters in Athlone. That the equivalent of a 4.02 mile.

Here’s how the Longford Leader reported it: “Cian McPhillips got 2020 off to the best possible start with a blistering performance in the AAI Indoor League meet at the Athlone IT Arena. Ten athletes took to the start line for the senior 1500m race of seven and a half laps of the 200m track. From the gun, John Fitzsimons (Kildare AC) set a fast tempo in his role as pacemaker. He churned out successive 30-second laps with Cian tucked in behind. The duo were closely followed by Conall Hayes (Le ChéileAC) and Kevin McGrath (Bohermeen AC) in the lead group. At 1200m, Fitzsimons stepped off to allow the trio battle it out for the closing stages.

“Cian immediately kicked for home and covered the final 300m in 44 seconds to record a winning time of 3:44.85 to claim victory by three seconds. His time set a new Irish Junior (under 20) indoor 1500m record by over a second breaking the previous record, set by Colin Costello, that had stood since 2005.

“The time was also the fastest by a junior athlete in Europe so far this year over the distance. It also placed 17-year-old Cian comfortably inside the ‘A’ qualifying standard for the World Junior Outdoor Championships which will be held in Kenya in July. Cian’s coach, Joe Ryan, was delighted with the race and even felt that Cian still had a little left in the tank at the end. His next race will be at the world famous Millrose Games in New York on February 8th. Representing his school, Moyne Community School, Cian will compete in the American High School Mile which will take place before the Wanamaker Mile at the 5,550-capacity Armory Arena.”

This will be a race that Ray Flynn will keep a particularly close eye upon given that he, too. is from Longford, though home for many years now has been in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Flynn is impressed by the changes in Ireland over the years that now allow athletes there to remain in place and compete through college and beyond.

He is impressed, but not entirely convinced.

“A lot of the top kids still come here, but many of them stay at home in Ireland,” he says.

Which is fine as far as it goes but Flynn still believes that coming to America takes Irish athletes out of what he describes as their “comfort zone” and presents them with top level competition week in, week out.

“The NCAA system is better than it has ever been,” he says.

Flynn is himself an alum of East Tennessee State so knows of what he speaks.

Irish success in U.S. middle distance racing does indeed trace itself back to the days when more promising Irish runners were making, well, tracks, across the Atlantic.

Flynn himself is an example, as is Eamonn Coghlan and Marcus O’Sullivan, who currently runs the track program at Villanova.

Those Irish Wanamaker Mile victories came at Madison Square Garden. The Millrose Games moved to The Armory in 2012 after having called the Garden home from 1914 to 2011.

According to the meet release, more than 200 athletes share the distinction of being both Millrose and Olympic champions. In November, 2013, the New York Road Runners became the title sponsor of the NYRR Millrose Games, which is owned by The Armory Foundation.

“The NYRR Millrose Games is a USATF television series event, and The Armory Foundation appreciates the support of USA Track & Field.”

The meet will be televised live by NBC nationally on Saturday, February 8, from 4 to 6 p.m.