On your marks. Get set. Go!
Madison Square Garden, New York City
It’s been a brutal winter in New York, and the season has only just begun. Seven snowstorms in six weeks, record amounts of snow every time out, and everyone in New York is sinking into a winter funk.
But with the first call of “On your marks. Get set. Go!” one can see the light at the end of this tedious winter tunnel. Long the premier indoor track meet in New York (104 years and counting) the 2011 Millrose Games kicked off with a bang on January 28, 2011.
With each sharp turn, sharp spike and sharp elbow, high school runners, collegiate athletes and professionals all navigated the notoriously quick bends of the track hoping to cross that finish line in first place.
The Millrose Games has been the premier track meet in New York through its tenure. With the recent emergence of the Adidas Grand Prix Meet, the Millrose Games have ceded a lot of the spotlight, but as far as indoor meets go this is the one that gets the season going and quite frankly there is none better.
Millrose also represents the first installment of a series that has been in the works since the stunning (to some) sweep of the entire sprint schedule by Jamaica in the Beijing Olympics.
Yes, the Millrose Games is hosting the first installment of the USA v Jamaica sprint series.
In the city with perhaps the greatest number of expatriate Jamaicans, and gracing the same arena where Mohammed Ali, Willis Reed, Mark Messier and Patrick Ewing reached for greatness, a pantheon of elite sprinters will stake an official claim in a rivalry that has been the benchmark of sprinting for the last 60 years. Decades ago the names were different. George Rhoden, Herb McKenley, Merlene Ottey, Ollie Matson and Carl Lewis have given way to Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Carmelita Jeter and Tyson Gay.
The USA v Jamaica race is a new wrinkle, one that will probably, hopefully energize the casual fan base in both countries. At bare minimum on this night it represented the starting gun for a new track season, and all that comes with it.
Who knows if the competing athletes are aware of the historical rivalry of the two countries? Those same casual fans of track and field may think that the success of the Jamaican sprinters in Beijing came out of nowhere. They may not even be aware of the rich tradition of track and field in general and sprinting in particular in Jamaica.
But ever since the Helsinki Olympics of 1952 when the quartet of Wint, Laing, McKenley and Rhoden won the 4X400 relay gold medal, knocking the USA team into the silver medal, Jamaica has been the consistent overachievers of the sprinting world. In my lifetime I cannot recall a major track and field meet in which Jamaicans were not medal contenders, and I’m not even counting the fine runners of Jamaican descent (OJD) running for other countries.
On Friday night, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Nesta Carter, Lauryn Williams, Mike Rodgers and others toed the line in the indoors 60 meter dash at the Millrose Games hoping to stake a claim for sprint supremacy. For self and for country.
On a cold Friday night in New York, a day after 19 inches of snow blanketed the city, Veronica Campbell-Brown who said in her post race press conference that she had ‘been in transit for over 36 hours’ trying to fly into the city, won the women’s 60 meter dash ahead of Lauryn Williams and the Barber sisters. With Nesta Carter’s win in the men’s version and Vonette Dixon’s triumph in the hurdles, it is safe to say that Jamaica drew first blood. The point system showed that the US officially won the two race sprint series by virtue of their multiple runner up points in both events, but as Mike Rodgers of the US said in his press conference “The Jamaicans got us tonight. But we will see them at Penns.”
Yes indeed, Mr. Rodgers, we’ll see you at the Penn Relays. We’re coming to your neighborhood, and let the fun begin. Those races at Franklin Field in Philadelphia are called “USA v The World” but really, who do you think is representing the world in the sprints?
The track season has begun. On your marks. Get set. Go!