Stage Set at the Garden for Millrose Games

 Smith leads girls mile; Boys & Girls and Cardozo square off in 4x400

By Christopher Hunt

Kyle Merber says he generally isn’t bothered by the lights, by the big stage. Track is fun. He smiled a lot before his race at the Boston Indoor Games last Saturday, didn’t feel pressure.

But he’s never run at Madison Square Garden before. The Half Hollow Hills West senior has never even seen the Millrose Games in person. But he knows that his race might be different.

“I’ll try not to look up,” Merber said. “There is some pressure when 18,000 people are watching you. You definitely feel some pressure.”

But any nerves will vanish as fast as the smoke from the starter’s pistol. Merber, who committed to Columbia, is enjoying his finest season. He finished third in invitational mile at the Boston Indoor Games in 4:12.42, a personal-best and the third-fastest time in the country this season in one of the fastest high school mile races in history. He has the fastest time in the field for the boys invitational mile tomorrow in the race scheduled for 10:05 p.m.

The race in Boston was blistering from the onset. After 200 meters it began evolving into a race for third, which Merber won with fantastic kick that broke him up from sixth place. He knows the smaller track and tight turns at the Garden won’t allow for major last-second surges though, nor does he expect an aggressive tempo.

“I’m looking for this race to be a little bit more strategic,” he said. “That race (in Boston) went out really fast. I don’t think people are going to be going out for PR’s. I don’t think it’s going to be out really fast. But somewhere in the middle of the race it’s probably going to become a kicker’s race and it’s going to pick up a lot.”

Merber is the only New Yorker in the race beside Charles White who competed for Garden City before his parents moved to Cherry Creek, Colo., after his sophomore year two years ago. Robby Andrews of Manalapan, N.J. is also in the race. He showed a colossal finishing kick at the New Balance Games when he won the mile in 4:12.48. Parker Doudreau earned his invitation at the Yale Classic. He ran 2:28.93 in the 1,000 meters at the Stanner Games which leads the country. Andrews has the second-best 1,000 time in 2:30.52.

But Merber doesn’t think this race will come down to shear leg speed.

“I definitely think I’m physically capable of winning but it’s going to come down the mental aspect,” Merber said. “I’m just going to try to put myself in a position to make a move at the end. It’s the kind of race where one wrong move on one wrong turn and that could be the end of it.”

The girls invitational mile features girls with eight of the top nine performances in the country this season, led by Southern Regional (N.J.) junior Jillian Smith. She won the mile in Boston Saturday in 4:48.83, the country’s fastest time this season, and she’ll be the favorite tomorrow. Smith’s former teammate, Danielle Tauro, won in Boston last year and followed that winning the mile at Millrose. Smith aims to duplicate that feat tomorrow. Smith buried the field after Canadian Jessica Parry tried to take the pace in Boston, in a race that was fast from the start.

Smith finished fourth last year. The only other returner from last year’s race is Kristin Reese of Carmel, who owns the second-fastest time in the country, 4:52.65.

Cardozo 4x400 (Photo by Errol Anderson, Millrose Games/Global Athletics)

Of the relays tomorrow, the PSAL girls 4x400 at 6:47 p.m. could easily be the most exciting high school race of the meet. The race features Boys & Girls and Cardozo, two of the top relays in the country. Neither team has run at full-strength this season.  Nadonnia Rodriquez already envisioned herself and Cardozo’s Dalilah Muhammad snatching baton at the same time, initiating a scene that could replay itself at the national championship meet.

“We want to put on a good show,” Rodriquez said after the relay qualifier. “It’ll be fun.”

Reach Christopher Hunt at Meet Preview


Girls Suburban 4x400 Relay (6:23 p.m.)

Bay Shore
Mount Vernon
Woodrow Wilson
Pine Bush

Boys Suburban 4x400 Relay (6:29 p.m.)

New Rochelle
Union Catholic

Girls Catholic 4x400 Relay (6:35 p.m.)

Bishop Ford
St. John's Prep
Bishop Loughlin
Cardinal Spellman
St. Anthony's

Mayor's Cup Boys PSAL 4x400 Relay (6:41 p.m.)

Clara Barton
Francis Lewis
Sheepshead Bay
East NY-Transit Tech
Boys & Girls

Mayor's Cup Girls PSAL 4x400 Relay (6:47 p.m.)

Benjamin Cardozo
Boys & Girls
Campus Magnet

Border Clash Boys 4x800 Relay (6:53 p.m.)

Morris Hills
Warwick Valley
Washington Township
Hunterdon Central

Girls HS Mile (7:10 p.m.)

Cory McGee (Pass Christian)
Emily Lipari (Roslyn)
Hannah Davidson (Saratoga)
Caitlin Lane (Greenwich)
Jillian Smith (Southern Regional)
Shelby Greany (Suffern)
Jillian King (Scotia-Glenville)
Jeanne Mack (La Salle)
Kristin Reese (Carmel)
Melanie Thompson (Voorhees)

Boys HS Mile (10:05 p.m.)

Bobby Andrews (Manalapan)
Charles White (Cherry Creek)
Doug Smith (Gill-St. Bernard)
Kyle Merber (HHH West)
Nick Critis (Wissahickon)
Parker Bourdreau (Danbury)
Peter Dorrell (Blacksburg)
Vince McNally (Conestoga)
Willie Ahern (Danbury)                         (Photo by

Randall's Island Sports Foundation Boys Catholic 4x800 Relay

Fordham Prep
St. Joseph by the Sea
Monsignor Farrell
Iona Prep

Kellenberg 4x800 (Photo by Errol Anderson, Millrose Games/Global Athletics)

HS Boys Mile All Time Top Ten
1 Kevin Byrne NJ 4:08.0 1977 - 1
2 Jonathon Riley MA 4:10.62 1997 - 1
3 Mike Stahr NY 4:10.98 1983 - 1
4 John Carlotti NJ 4:11.41 1983 - 2
5 Miles Irish NY 4:11.84 1983 - 3
6 J.T. Burke CT 4:11.94 1989 - 1
7 Ryan Travis LA 4:13.22 1997 - 2
8 Dylan Welsh NY 4:13.30 1999 - 1
9 Vince Draddy NY 4:13.3 1979 - 1
10 Greg Herzog NY 4:13.3 1979 - 2
Thanks to Kalaby!