Facing the toughest competition and performing when it counts most is the goal of every track & field athlete in 2016, and the head-to-head matchups at the 109th NYRR Millrose Games feature clashes that could resonate all year.
A handful of the top competitive rivalries in the sport will be on display at the New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory on February 20, including a men's high jump that features 2012 Olympic medalists Erik Kynard and Derek Drouin, and a women's 800 meters that features Olympic medal contenders Ajee' Wilson and Brenda Martinez.
Kynard and Drouin are the top North Americans in the high jump, an event that has been set ablaze globally by the arrival of young, supreme talents over the past several years. These two began a rivalry in college, when Kynard was at Kansas State and Drouin at Indiana University, which fueled them both.
“Derek Drouin is in fact my greatest rival,” Kynard said. “We have been competing against each other since the Pan American Junior Games in 2009 where he took first and I finished second. This rivalry continued into college and now into the professional and major championship realm.”
In 2012, Drouin denied Kynard a rare chance at an NCAA Division I three-peat. A couple of months later in London, Kynard of the U.S. took silver and Drouin of Canada earned bronze. Their back and forth battles have continued in the years since. In 2015 at the IAAF World Championships final in Beijing, Drouin won the world title and Kynard was eighth.
The high jump has been a historical fixture of the NYRR Millrose Games since 1915. All-time greats such as John Thomas, Valery Brumel, Dwight Stones, Franklin Jacobs and Hollis Conway are part of the meet's fabric, a fact that will be celebrated on the eve of the meet at the New York Athletic Club.
In the women's 800, Wilson, the NYRR Millrose Games defending champion, and Martinez, a world bronze medalist, both seek confidence-building victories in their build up to the Olympic Trials. Martinez, 28, won bronze at the 2013 World Championships. Wilson, 21, has been viewed as the future of the event. She ran the fastest time in the world in 2014 and is returning from an injury that curtailed her 2015 season. Wilson, who prepped in Neptune, N.J., has won the 800 meters at the NYRR Millrose Games the past two years.
Martinez and Wilson have both run sub-1:58 outdoors, indicating Olympic medal potential.
“I am so excited to participate in the historic NYRR Millrose Games,” Martinez said. “The amazing competition and spectators at The Armory's New Balance Track and Field Center make this a wonderful event to be a part of.”
To purchase tickets for the 109th NYRR Millrose Games please go to https://tickets.nyrrmillrosegames.org/Tickets.