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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Superfan Daily: Millrose Preview and Picks

Late last week the Millrose Games lineups were announced. Yesterday USATF re-launched its Pick N Win Game, the online pick-em contest that was so financially beneficial to your Superfan last spring.

TV coverage is live at 8 PM on ESPN2.  Ato Boldon tells us the coverage will be different and much better.  Here are my thoughts on the events to be contested Friday at the Garden...

Men’s 60 meters
This is part of a special USA versus Jamaica contest, scoring both men’s and women’s sprints. It looks like pretty much the best athletes available from each country. The stars (Bolt, Gay, Powell) don’t run indoors, and it looks like Walter Dix will skip the undercover campaign this year as well.

Of the rest, Nesta Carter, Yohan Blake and Trell Kimmons are the world’s best. Ivory Williams and Mike Rodgers are two of the next three best Americans. Oshane Bailey is an up-and-comer. I picked Carter to win, with Blake as my backup pick.

Morea after the jump...

Women’s 60 meters
This race isn’t as strong as the men’s, but it has the world’s best all-around sprinter in Veronica Campbell-Brown. Lauryn Williams is a big question mark, so I’d probably say that Miki Barber is the next best entered. But this shouldn’t be close.

Women’s 400 meters
None of theses runners are true stars. DeeDee Trotter was at one time but has battled injury for quite a while. Mousha Robinson is a journeywoman, dependable but not likely to win. Natasha Hastings looks like your best bet, having won the 400 at the recent New Balance Games.

Men’s 600 yards
This was once the classic indoor distance, just under 550 meters. Bershawn Jackson has shown a mastery of it at Millrose, winning three of the last four years. The other win was by Renny Quow, who is also entered, turning the trick in his breakout year of 2009. I have to go with Jackson, then Quow.

Women’s 1500 meters
Lately Sara Hall is known almost exclusively as the wife of a highly talented eccentric. But last year she ran pretty darn well, with runner-up finishes at Millrose and several road miles plus breaking some long-standing PRs.

On the other hand, Carmen Douma-Hassar has, at her best, always been better than Hall. She’s flying under the radar, as she had a seriously subpar 2010 and nonexistent 2009 after becoming a mother eighteen months ago. She ran very well on Saturday behind Jen (Barringer) Simpson at the New Balance Games, though, and I’d say the smart money is on her.

Men’s Mile
Bernard Lagat is a master at accelerating hard off a dime, and knowing the exact moment to do it. No one in the last several decades has been better at it. That’s exactly what you have to do to win a race on a tight board track. Little wonder, then, that he’s the all-time leader in Wanamaker Mile victories.

That said, I wouldn’t take Deresse Mekkonen lightly. He’s the defending World Indoor Champion and sports a 3:48 PR. Also not that, in general, I’ve found that Ethiopians don’t show up at the starting line if they’re not ready to roll. I think Lagat will have the toughest fight to win the Wanamaker Mile he’s had in quite a while. But I still think he’ll win.

Men’s 2 mile
Looking at the start list, this will not be a race. This will be a solo meet record attempt by Galen Rupp. But, given the asthma problems Rupp had last week, what happens if he’s a no-go? Who’s your backup pick? You’ve got Abiyot Endale, a journeyman New York resident of Ethiopian extraction who ran 4:02.42 at the Fifth Avenue Mile last fall; Stephen Haas, a struggling pro whose main accomplishments are qualifying for USATF championship races; Liam Boylan-Pett, a 2010 Georgetown grad with several sub-4 miles to his credit; and Harbert Okuti, a 2009 Iona grad from Uganda who has recently beaten guys like Stephen Furst and Brent Vaughn.

Obviously you take Rupp FTW, but if he drops out it gets weird. Not to mention the heart attack it will cause meet director Tom Jordan. I like Endale as my backup pick, but I’m far from confident.

Women’s 60 meter hurdles
Priscilla Lope-Schliep was the best in the world last year, and always comes to Millrose sharp. I’d say she’s a pretty safe pick. In terms of the backup pick, Queen Harrison and Perdita Felicien are the best of the rest.

Women’s Pole Vault
Jenn (Stuczynski) Suhr spent most of each of the last two years injured. When healthy, she’s better than anyone but Isinbayeva. This is where the “backup pick” feature is nice, because you don’t have to gamble on Suhr’s health. If she’s ready to go, she’s the favorite; if not, then Fabiana Murer is an equally strong favorite.

Men’s Shot Put
Millrose is the only time this indoor season that we’ll get such a strong lineup of shot-putters. After this, Christian Cantwell will get some minor shoulder surgery, and Reese Hoffa will be going to Australia in mid-February. Cantwell is the titan here, losing just once in 2010 and 2011 put together. His lone loss came to Hoffa. Take Cantwell to win and Hoffa as your backup.

Men’s Multi Challenge
This is a special three-event mini-decathlon, featuring the high jump, shot put and hurdles. It’s a setup that appears to favor Ashton Eaton, the world record holder in the indoor heptathlon. But that’s not how it really is. If you total lifetime bests in these three events on the scoring tables, Bryan Clay is at 2822, Trey Hardee is at 2728, and Eaton is at 2709.

The order of events is shot put, then hurdles, then high jump. This means athletes know what they’ll need to do in order to win going into the last event and can strategize accordingly. Clay is by far the best shot putter in the field, and about equal to Hardee and Eaton in the hurdles. Eaton is the best high jumper, but not by much. Clay has so much room for error that I’d say he’s hands-down the guy to pick.

Track on TV
Olympics: Reliving the Glory: Atlanta '96, 10:00 PM tonight on Universal Sports

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines.

Flotrack's Kick of the Week is a good one.

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