The Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden is a historical meet with a rich history, an event that immediately invokes magical memories of the One Mile Run for high school enthusiasts. With the 103rd running of these games set for Friday, January 29th we have put together five defining moments of the girls and boys high school One Mile Run. Our hope is that these stories encourage others to look up the history of this rich event and discover how many amazing athletes have run this 11-lap-to-the-mile track and emerged with fast times and incredible stories.
The stories with be released from #5 to #1 beginning tonight through Friday morning, January 29th.
Millrose Mile Moment #1: Kevin Byrne, Paramus Catholic NJ 1976, 1977 Champion
Millrose Mile Moment #2: Mike Stahr, Carmel NY, 1982, 1983 Champion
Millrose Mile Moment #3: Sarah Schwald, Spokane WA, 1989 Champion
Millrose Mile Moment #4: Shola Lynch, Hunter NY, 1984, 1986 Champion
Millrose Mile Moment #5: Jillian Smith, Southern Regional NJ, 2008, 2009 Champion
Millrose Mile Moment #1
Record are set only to be broken, and very few last for longer than a couple of years.
Certainly not for 33 years right?
Kevin Byrne's Millrose mile record is on the list of those that have survived for that long.
Kevin is quick to point out several reasons why his record has withstood the test of time and the fleet of foot. Last on his list of course, he is a humble distance runner after all, is the fact that he just ran incredibly fast on the tight Madison Square Garden oval.
Kevin points first to the winter weather that year. "It was very snowy that winter so it was difficult to run outside". Since Kevin could drive he dedicated himself to making the trek to the West Point indoor track facility 2-3 times per week to train on their 300 meter circuit.
Secondly, he points to the 1983 race that Mike Stahr won in 4:10.98. "Stahr was in great shape, and there was talk of a sub-4 effort at Millrose". But the race turned tactical, killing the chance of a sub-4 effort and also a shot at the record.
Kevin adds that "Mike nearly got the record anyway with his sprint over the closing laps".
Third on the list is the unavoidable fact that Alan Webb didn't run the Millrose mile his senior year. "He ran 3:59.86 at the Armory the week before", Kevin laughs. "That's worth 4:02 at the Garden'.
Lastly, he points to the fact that the indoor season has changed. "A lot of guys go late into December with cross country, and the indoor season has its biggest meets in March. Millrose was a race that we geared for. The focus is also on winning more than chasing records, as it should be".
Ok, got all that?
In 1977 Byrne was on the top of his game, and way above the competition. Prior to Millrose he had run a 4:08 at the Philadelphia Track Classic. "I think the next best miler in the country had run 4:16", he says.
He also had plenty of experience, having finished 2nd as a sophomore with a time of 4:15.6. Marty Ludwikowski won with a time of 4:15.5. "I dove at the line and skinned up my face and legs". The resulting photo was instantly famous. "All of a sudden high school milers wanted to run at Millrose".
As a junior he won the race in 4:18.2 in a very crazy race. There was a fall and pile-up with two laps to go. "I hurdled the runner in front of me and won the race". Kevin adds, sounding as if he felt lucky to have stayed on his feet, "if you didn't fall you got top-3".
As a senior he had John Gregorek and Roger Jones in the race with him. Gregorek represented the USA in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, in the 3000 meter steeplechase.
Gregorek was determined to work the senior hard, taking the pace out for the first half of the race. "In the style of Mike Stahr John wouldn't let me pass him".
Then Byrne went around him, opening up a gap he would never relinquish. When he stopped the clock at 4:08 a moment in history was created that few probably realized we would still be talking about as we approach the 2010 Games.
That Spring Byrne was the MVP at the Penn Relays, anchoring his DMR to 3rd place with a 4:04 1600 meter leg. He ran for Georgetown with Gregorek and won a Penn Relays 4x800 in 1981. He was also a Junior National XC champion.
Three generations of Byrne's will have run at Millrose when the meet concludes tonight. Byrne's son Kevin is on Red Bank Catholic's (NJ) 4x800 squad that was invited to run in the Metro 4x800. His father ran at Millrose in the early 1950's.
He will be in attendance tonight to cheer his son on, and keep a keen eye on the clock during the mile run. "(Pat) Schellberg has run 4:12, Anthony Kostelac has wheels, so if he is on his (Pat's) shoulder… we'll see".
Kevin concludes with, "The packed stands can be both intimidating and exciting", he pauses, "It was my favorite place to run".
There have been several athletes who have won more than one Millrose HS Mile, there is nothing unusual about that. But winning while adding your own style to the race, a style that still captivates nearly 30 years later, is a truly unique accomplishment.
Mike Stahr, of Carmel High School in New York, is one of those athletes, with a strong desire to run from the front.
But it did come with some work. During his Freshman and Sophomore years Mike would attempt to lead every race he ran, but "was usually overtaken by stronger athletes during the last quarter of the race".
"I was better known then as 'The Rabbit'".
Stahr was finally strong enough to run the way he desired his junior year. "Excluding XC I won every race I ran that year, from the front", he says.
Stahr won the boys Jumbo Elliott mile in 1982 against some tough competition, including Miles Irish, who would go on to become a teammate of Mike's at Georgetown.
Stahr took the lead from the gun and set a very fast tone for the race. The race opened up in 59 seconds, but then slowed to a 2:06 for the second quarter, with Stahr still controlling the pace. With a little more than a lap to go Stahr opened up a gap and held on for the win, with a 60-second last quarter mile, in 4:13.63.
"Winning Millrose in '82 was wonderful. I didn't have any specific plans on how to race… so I simply thought I would do what felt right".
The next year, 1983, was truly a clash of the titans. In that year Miles Irish ran 2:24.1 for 1000 meters, still #3 All-Time. Mike Stahr ran 2:24.2, which is still #4 All-Time! Throw in John Carlotti, Bernardsville NJ, who edged Stahr in the high school Fifth Avenue Mile the previous summer 4:05.6 to 4:05.7, and you have some serious talent in the race.
The 5th Avenue mile "sparked the rivalry between John and I. Over time Millrose became a race about winning, not going for sub-4".
The Jumbo Elliott mile began just as it had the year before, with Stahr exploding to a sub-59 second opening quarter mile. A 2:05.5 split, however, took the pressure off of a run at 4 minutes, and all that was left was to race.
In laps 9 and 10 (of 11), Carlotti twice attempted to surge past Stahr, but was rebuked by an intense challenge, as if to say 'this race is mine'.
With just under two laps to go Irish challenged Stahr, and then Carlotti again, but Stahr continued to fight them off, refusing to relinquish the lead that had been his the entire race.
With one lap to go Stahr took off, opening a gap that would remain intact, to finish with a 4:10.98, #3 all-time at Millrose. Carlotti would finish 2nd with in 4:11.41 and Irish 3rd, 4:11.84.
"The race was one of the most exciting races run at the Millrose Games… it was an amazing time and a wonderful race".
Stahr wound up at Arizona State for his first two years of college where he was a part of a World Record-setting 4x800 relay squad, that he anchored with a split of 1:45.
He would later transfer to Georgetown, and as a senior, run an incredible 3:54 split for 1600 meters as Georgetown set a DMR world record with a time of 9:20.9. Villanova and Mount Saint Mary's also ran under the old record.
Mike currently operates a website called Running2Win, where he offers private coaching. He is also a visiting professor at Miami University.
(Editors note: Comments came in late last night from Sarah and were added to the story. Thanks Sarah!)
Sarah Schwald, Spokane WA, has done something that no other prep female runner has done. She has run under 4 minutes and 50 seconds for a full mile on the tight turns that define the track at Madison Square Garden (Photo by Victah Sailer, Photorun.net).
In 1989 Sarah was a sophomore in high school in Colorado. The idea of a glamorous indoor meet on the East coast was not even a thought in her head, but when she got the call she thought "a free trip to New York CIty was too cool to pass up".
Sarah was new to indoor track races so she decided to have fun with the experience. "Most of the girls had already raced a lot and were very indoor savvy, so I just figured that I would put myself in a postition to do well and see how it played out.
That year Cheri Goddard was also in the race, and was most likely looking to win without much trouble.
Enter the sophomore from Colorado.
The pair went back and forth throughout the race, trading leads. "Cheri Goddard and I would take over the lead if the pace slacked. It wasn't planned but it was clear that the winner was going to earn it".
Earn it she did, coming out on top with a Millrose record of 4:49.94. Goddard finished just a stride back in 4:50.33. The times still remain as the top two times ever run in the high school girls race at Millrose, 21 years later.
When asked about the time that her record has stood Sarah responded "It seems that when you are able to be in the moment, just enjoy it, and not put expectations or limits on yourself, great things can happen".
Sarah found herself in Spokane, WA for the remainder of her high school career. She won a AAA XC championship with a time of 16:55.1 in 1990 and holds the GSL record in the 800 of 2:13.5.
Sarah went on to run for Arkansas, winnin an NCAA 3k title, and then as a professional runner who finished 7th in the 1996 Olympic Trials 1500 meter final. She recently received her MBA in Brand and Product Management from the Wisconsin School of Business and landed a job at Nike world headquarters in Global Running Brand Marketing.
You could say that Shola Lynch (Hunter, NY) was a diminutive 14-year old girl when she stepped up to the starting line at the Garden for the 1984 Millrose Girls HS Mile, but she was certainly no stranger to the attention that she was about to receive. Shola starred on Sesame Street from the ages of 2-6 years old, where she shared the stage with the likes of Kermit, Big Bird, and Bert and Ernie.
When she walked off the track after 11 laps of racing she was an instant celebrity of a different type, as an elite high school athlete.
Shola took the lead on lap one and stayed there for the entire race. She was willing to withstand any challenge posed to her throughout the race. With just over a lap to go Shola had two pursuers to shake and shake 'em she did.
As Shola extended her stride and began to pull away, she opened up even more with approximately 120 yards to go and slammed the door on everyone else. The crowd reacts to carry her the last half-lap around the track with their excitement.
Shola crossed the line with a time of 4:53.39, which is amazing on the Garden track no matter what age you are.
Her track dominance continued with a US#3 all-time 1000 meter run indoors with a time of 2:49.65 that she ran as a junior in 1986. The mark still stands as the 13th best US girls performance indoors of all time.
She won a second Millrose Mile in 1986 as well, with a time of 4:53.6.
Her success gave her the opportunity to run for the University of Texas where she won 6 Southwest Conference championships and jumpstarted her career as a documentary film maker.
Jillian Smith (Southern Regional NJ) was only a sophomore when she won her first state title in the 1600, a 'real state title', as New Jersey runs a Meet of Champions race, pitting the best of the state against each other, regardless of school size, private, or public status.
In the Winter of 2007 Jillian won the MOC 1600 with a time if 4:53.98.
Just a year later she would begin her quest toward Millrose immortality. Jillian won the Millrose HS Mile in 2008 with one of the fastest times in the event with a 4:50.87 clocking. She sat back throughout the race, erupting to the front with two laps to go to quickly open up 10 meters. She quickly opened up to 20 meters as she flew through the last lap with the victory secure. She also won the Reebok Boston Indoor Games a week prior with her HS indoor personal record of 4:48.83.
That year she also won her second straight indoor NJ MOC 1600 with a time of 5:00.96.
In 2009 Jillian returned to Millrose as the defending champion with a chance to repeat, a feat only achieved by four other high school girls, Danielle Tauro in 2006 and 2007, Nicole Blood in 2003 and 2004, Sally Glynn in 1994 and 1995, and Shola Lynch in 1984 and 1986.
She became the fifth girls repeat champion with a winning time of 4:51.88. Even more impressive is that her two winning times were the 3rd and 4th fastest girls Millrose times ever. The record is held by Sarah Schwald, Spokane WA, with a time of 4:49.94 that she ran in 1989. Cheri Goddard was 2nd that year in 4:50.33.
Jillian went on to win her third straight NJ MOC 1600 with a time of 4:48.23.