All the way across the country on the opposite coast, New York City’s Amory hosted the world’s longest-running and most prestigious Indoor Track & Field competition for the 110th time last Saturday, the NYRR Millrose Games.
In a weekend where Stanford athletes were spread across 4 meets in 4 different states, last year’s NCAA Outdoor Nationals 800m silver medalist Olivia Baker was sent to the Big Apple to take a crack at her bread and butter event in a stacked field.
Her race was among the most anticipated of the afternoon, overflowing with talent from the likes of pros like Ajee Wilson and Charlene Lipsey, to high-school spectacle Samantha Watson.
Baker told me afterwards in regards to her strategy entering the race,
“Something that my coach and I were focusing on was finding my rhythm and not my place. So I like to get out and get towards the start of the pack and just sit there until the last lap.”
“But we talked about how the race could go fast, and for me to just find my pace, which for me I wanted to get out in 28, come through in around 58, and then continue on at that pace and hang on.”
And she followed that verbatim. In a 4-lap race, she immediately found her rhythm from the gun, and finished her first lap in 28.9s, her first 400m in 58.3s, and her 600m in 1:29.7s.
“And so for me today 28 ended up being kind of towards the back of the pack but we were okay with that. So I just held on to it and unfortunately that last 180m I didn’t have a great kick.”
Baker found her rhythm, but it unfortunately did not translate to finding her place. She stuck to her plan and positioned herself perfectly to challenge her personal best of 2:02.02s but just did not have enough left in the tank to hang with the pack, finishing her last lap in 35.26s to a 7th place finish in a time of 2:05.00s.
Winning the race was Ajee Wilson, who topped the American indoor record of 1:58.71s set by Nicole Teter in 2002. Wilson came in at 1:58.27s, tearing through the record just a bit harder than 2nd place finisher and Adidas teammate Charlene Lipsey, who finished 0.37s behind her.
Also setting her own kind of record was Samantha Watson, who ran a national best high school time of 2:01.28s. Watson, a high school senior, has yet to commit to a school but when I asked Baker to make her pitch to the young stud, she broke that Watson had already turned Stanford down.
This weekend marked the last opportunity to take the rust off before the postseason set in, and Baker chimed in as far as her goals for the upcoming few weeks.
“Just to qualify for NCAA’s [Nationals]. We’re going to take it one race at a time. Maybe the 2:05 will be enough but it might not be, so I might run another 800 at conferences before going to NCAA’s. And just continuing to improve, learning every race, and keep getting better.”
MPSF Conference Championships will take place on the 24th in Seattle and NCAA Indoor Nationals will be hosted by Texas A&M on March 10th.
Also representing Stanford was Cardinal alumna and 2016 Women’s Olympic Gold recipient in the Pole Vault, Katerina Stefanidi. She took her 3rd consecutive Millrose Games title with a vault of 15’ 9 ¾”.