Touted as the premier indoor track meet of the young 2011 season, the 104th Millrose Games in New York's Madison Square Garden this Friday does seem to live up to its billing.
Drawing top athletes from around the globe, the meet should set the tone for a very competitive season, culminating in the World Outdoor Championships in Daegu, South Korea in late August.
Let's take a look at some of the hottest matchups.
The Wanamaker Mile
36-year-old American Bernard Lagat, who last year deposed the legendary Eamonn Coghlan as the so-called Chairman of the Boards, goes for an unprecedented ninth win. Looking to end Lagat's string will be the young (23) Ethiopian champion, Deresse Mekonnen, who missed last year's race due to a visa snafu.
Six others are entered in the race, most notably David Torrence (USA) and Lee Emanuel (GB).
A sizzling time is virtually guaranteed with 800m specialist Matt Sherer acting as pace-setter.
USA vs Jamaica 60m Sprint Challenge
An exciting feature this year pits three Americans against three Jamaicans in both the men's and women's 60-meter dash. A combined score from both races will determine the champion.
In the men's race, Americans Ivory Williams, Mike Rogers and Trell Kimmons will contend with Nesta Carter, Lerone Clarke and Oshane Bailey of Jamaica.
Carter was the 2010 co-world leader with American Tyson Gay in the 100-meters at 9.78 seconds. Kimmons, known for his excellent starts, could capitalize in the shorter 60m race, which places a premium on a quick exit from the blocks.
On the women's side, Jamaica will enter Veronica Campbell-Brown, Trisha-ann Hawthorne and Vonette Dixon opposite Americans Lauryn Williams and the Barber twins, Miki and Lisa.
Williams and Campbell-Brown have a little personal history: In the 2007 World Championships, Campbell-Brown nipped Williams in a photo finish in the 100m finals.
To add to the drama, Campbell-Brown also won a highly controversial photo finish with Lisa Barber in the 2006 Millrose.
Women's 60-meter Hurdles
2010 Bowerman Award (the Heisman Trophy of women's track and field) winner, Queen Harrison is hoping to launch her professional career with a victory over longtime Canadian stalwart Priscilla Lopes-Schliep.
Harrison, who also specializes in the outdoor 400m hurdles, is taking a gutsy gamble stepping in with the Canadian speed merchant in the short 60. But a win by the American would signal a potential bright and profitable future across the entire hurdles spectrum.
(UPDATE): As of Wednesday morning, Lopes-Schliep's name had been removed from the Millrose Games' start list. No more details were available.
Millrose Multi-event Challenge
The 2010 men's Bowerman winner and world record-holder in the heptathlon, Ashton Eaton will test his mettle against world-class decathletes Brian Clay and Trey Hardee in a three-event challenge.
The 60m hurdles, high jump and shot put should provide a small test of versatility for these great athletes. Eaton just last week improved his PRs in the pole vault, 60m hurdles (7.68) and in the shot by over three feet (sending a message?).
Former NCAA champion Jake Arnold and high school record-holder Curtis Beach will keep the three amigos honest.
Women's Pole Vault
Her Royal Highness, Yelena Isinbayeva, took a vacation from her lofty perch last year, allowing at least a glimpse of hope for several pretenders to her throne. Fabiana Murer, of Brazil, and American Jenn Suhr came closest to threatening the crown. Murer consistently toyed with the 16-foot barrier and Suhr actually eclipsed it once, setting an American record.
Murer and Suhr will face off at the Millrose. There are others in the field—Israel's Jillian Schwartz, USA's Melinda Owen and Becky Holliday—who vault in the 15-foot range, but it should come down to the two high-flying suitors.
And yes, Yelena will be watching from afar.
Other highlights (with predictions)
Bershawn Jackson steps down from his 400m hurdles and steps up to a 600-yard run. Despite a challenge from Trinidad's Renny Quow, I think Jackson's superior conditioning will get him the win.
The American Howitzer, Christian Cantwell, will launch the 16-pound ball beyond 70 feet. Reese Hoffa, Adam Nelson and Ryan Whiting aren't quite ready for that distance this early in the season.
The aptly-named Dee Dee Trotter takes the women's 400-meters.
The lithe Sara Hall refuses to lose in the women's 1500. With Ireland's Karen Shinkins performing rabbit duty, a brisk early season time should ensue.
Galen Rupp recovers from half-a-race in his last outing (asthma attack) to win the 2-mile.
Television coverage runs from 8-10pm (Eastern) Friday on ESPN2.
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