By Christopher Hunt
Three of country’s top milers have accepted invitations to race in the high school mile at the Millrose Games Jan. 29, including Roslyn’s Emily Lipari.
Race directors also gave automatic bids to Anthony Kostelac of Ablemarle (Va.) and last year’s runner-up Cory McGee of Pass Christian (Miss.). Lipari ran the fastest mile time in the country last indoor season in 4:47.44.
“I was really excited about (the invite) because the last two years I kind of had to cross my fingers or win the Hispanic Games just to get in,” Lipari said. “It’s kind of nice to have that out of the way and not have my focus be Millrose for the season. Now I can just get out there and have fun.”
Kostelac is known as more of a half-miler although he does have a indoor 1,600-meter time of 4:10.73 to his credit. He also made a name nationally as the anchor of Ablemarle’s 4x800 relay that set the national record while winning the Championship of America at Penn Relays last spring in which Kostelac anchored in 1:49.33. It was the same relay that set indoor national record at Nike Indoor Nationals last March.
McGee finished second behind Jillian Smith of Southern Regional the last two years and was also a runner-up in 2007 behind Smith’s teammate Danielle Tauro. McGee could be considered the favorite going in considering her experience and consistency on the track at Madison Square Garden. The senior owns a personal best of 4:49.42 indoors.
“Just to be able to race at Millrose again, and I know it’s my last time, not only is it a really prestigious meet but it’s my favorite meet,” McGee said. “It’s really exciting and it’s an honor. It’s really more of a professional atmosphere.”
The Hispanic Games Saturday is the only meet the offers an automatic qualifier for the high school mile at the Millrose Games besides the Millrose Trials on Wednesday at the Armory. Lipari is the leading athlete in a tremendous field for the girls’ mile that includes Monroe-Woodbury’s Megan Patrignelli, who ran 2:10.25 for 800 meters last indoor season and 4:25.65 in the 1500 outdoors, and Aisling Cuffe of Cornwall, who became a national star in the cross country season and finished fourth at Foot Locker Nationals. Ajee Wilson of Neptune (N.J.) is also in the race. She ran 4:46.84 for 1,600 meters last spring as well.
A showdown between Cuffe and Lipari never came to fruition at the end of the cross country season when Lipari discovered a stress fracture in her right ankle before the state meet that cost her the remainder of the season. If Lipari does win, the automatic qualifier will not good to the second-place finisher. But the race can serve as an audition of sorts in which a fast time can earn an invitational to race at the Garden.
That’s part of what makes the a major draw for the area’s top distance and middle-distance runners. The boys invitational mile features Jim and Joe Rosa of West Windsor-Plainsboro North (N.J.). Jim Rosa was dubbed by many as part of the future of American distance running while he was smashing cross country course records in the fall. South Orange’s Curtis Richburg is the top seed. He clocked 4:11.07 for 1,600 last spring. It also includes Marco Bertolotti of Port Washington who earned a surprise win last year in 4:15.14 and Quinn Raseman of Ward Melville, one of the top cross country runners in the state in the fall.
Sheepshead Bay’s John Thomas is schedule to run both the 400 and 200 and has a shot at the 200-meter state record of 21.26 set by Jermaine Brown of Medgar Evers last year. Chamique Francis of Cardozo, the No. 8-ranked 400-meter runner in the country last season, is entered in her specialty. Michelle Brown of Seneca (N.J.) will also be the race. She ran 52.91 outdoors in the spring.
Indoor national champ Phyllis Francis of Catherine McAuley is also in the girls 800. The boys 800 features Tom Mallon of Central Bucks South (Pa.), who ran 1:51.79 indoors last season.
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.