Top Ten Moments Of 2019 - Number 2 & Honorable Mentions

Moment #2 - Matt Rizzo Closes An Unthinkable Gap To Win Millrose

Very few races have both the depth of competition, and gravity of the history behind the title, that the Millrose HS Mile does.  An invitation only event, you not only need the talent, but the speed to make it to the starting line.  The 2019 rendition was no different, with plenty of storylines abound.  Sam Affolder is the younger brother of the Meet Record Holder, both William Coogan (NH) and Carter Cheeseman (TX) had parents who contested the title, while others like the Rizzo twins, had some familial rivalries right in the race.

With the depth presented, it was hard to hail a favorite heading into the race, although Sam Affolder (Loudoun Valley, VA) had the strongest PR of the bunch, and plenty of familial motivation.  At the same time, a New Yorker had not won the race since 2015, and the pride of bringing the Title home was sure on the mind of the Empire State harriers.  The gun went off, to much fanfare, and the race was out hard early.  Jake Renfree (Knoxville Catholic, TN) set the pace early, creating a gap.  Through 400m, he split 61-seconds, meaning this was going to be a fast race.  By that point, he had a 5m gap on the field, one that would only grow.  Someone would have to challenge if they wanted to stay in the race.

That person was Sam Affolder, who had the power to hold off the field.  A veteran of the Armory after a record breaking New Balance Nationals the year before, Affolder moved to Renfree as the chase pack went the other way.  By 800m, Affolder had moved to the lead, and injected a pace that dropped the TN senior.  Affolder split 800m at 2:05, and wasn't letting go of the lead.  Renfree was holding on, but the gap grew to 5m.  Behind Renfree, with three laps to go, the chase pack was closer to 25m off the lead.  The gap was growing, with the lap count diminishing every turn.  Time was running out.  Two laps to go, and Affolder's lead had grown.  He has now 3.5 seconds ahead of the chase pack, which for the first time, was lead by senior Matt Rizzo (Bronxville).

Affolder crossed the line for the penultimate time, victory one lap away.  Behind him, Rizzo was surpassing Renfree, well away from the lead.  When Rizzo crossed the same plane as Affolder just had, he was still three seconds back.  For a 200m track, that is a lot, especially on drained legs.

But then Affolder began to show signs of distress.  His pace had slowed, his stride rate decreased.  The chase pack, like sharks sensing blood in the water, began to surge. Rizzo, who had run 2:28 for 1000m in late December, began to close the gap.  Still, that gap was huge, and the strong surge only mitigated the damage, rather than overturn the lead position.  Coming around the turn, with 50m to go, Affolder still carried a 5m lead.  Rizzo pumped his arms, with plenty of company behind him, including 1000m National Leading Sean Dolan (Hopewell Valley NJ) and Renfree, and it was a mad dash to the line.  Rizzo navigated right around Affolder in the nick-of-time, and drove across the line to win in 4:09.12, the 6th fastest winning time ever.

Rizzo would go on to continue with an exceptional Senior Season, soloing what would have been a State Record 1000m at States, if not for our Moment #6, as well as producing the fastest 800m time by a New Yorker since 2012 Outdoors.  He would become a National Champion on a relay alongside his twin brother Alex Rizzo, and is set to continue his running at Stanford University next year.

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