PHOTO: Dominique Scott of the University of Arkansas in advance of the 2016 NYRR Millrose Games (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO: Dominique Scott of the University of Arkansas in advance of the 2016 NYRR Millrose Games (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (19-Feb) — Getting their first dose of the professional track circuit, collegians Dominique Scott and Erin Teschuk are excited for tomorrow’s NYRR Millrose Games. While both have had their eyes on the Wanamaker Mile for Women for months, the road here to The Armory has been one filled with anticipation, enthusiasm, and nerve. With the race just over 24 hours away, both Scott and Teschuk simply want to get to the line and see what happens.

“This is just such a cool opportunity. I didn’t expect to get invited to race this mile, but I’ve grown up watching the Millrose Mile and to now be part of it is kind of like a dream come true, kind of surreal. I’m just ready to take the opportunity and gain experience,” said Scott, an Arkansas Razorback who is competing unattached this indoor season. “That’s what this weekend is all about for me. Just gaining experience, dipping my toes in the water of professional running, and hopefully next year I’m running a lot more of this type of race.”

For Scott, her spot at the NYRR Millrose Games was discussed way back in November, when she finished third at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Louisville. Knowing she did not have an indoor season of NCAA eligibility remaining, Scott and coach Lance Harter envisioned the Millrose Games as a chance to run fast before refocusing for their final NCAA Outdoor campaign together in Fayetteville.

“When I heard that I got invited to run in the Millrose Games I knew that I had to kind of step up my training and make sure I was ready in six-weeks time to run a fast mile,” said the recently-wed Scott. “I’ve really just been on a roll… I’ve been so fortunate, everything is going well.”

While Scott was destined to race here, North Dakota State’s Teschuk was a last minute add to the field. For months, Teschuk and coach Andrew Carlson were aware that the 21-year-old Canadian steeplechaser was on the bubble. If one athlete scratched, she’d get the nod. Only last weekend did the pair receive word a spot had opened up.

“I had thought that maybe it was not going to happen and thought, ‘oh well, I have to accept it,'” Teschuk told Race Results Weekly. “I had been planning for a while hoping and waiting to get in, and I knew I was on the wait list… After a week or so of just waiting, I kind of accepted that it wasn’t going to happen this year and that I’d try again next year.”

Teschuk was added after Stephanie Charnigo, third in last year’s race, scratched with an injury.

Traveling from Fargo, N.D., Teschuk is excited to race against world-class competition at the most famous indoor oval in the world. This season she’s been relatively unchallenged, posting marks of 4:36.71 for the mile and 16:01.69 for 5000m in solo efforts. She also ran the 1600m leg of the DMR at the Armory Track Invitational earlier this month.

“I find a lot of the times [racing alone] in the middle of a race I’ll end up slowing down here and there, so I think just being in this competitive atmosphere and having people to run with for the whole race,” she began, “I’m sure it’ll go out fast and I’m just excited to try and get a faster time. Definitely lowering my season best, personal best, is a goal.”

Scott and Teschuk agree that this meet is a perfect springboard for what is to come, both later this season and further down the outdoor road. Teschuk plans to race at the Summit League Conference meet (in the mile, distance medley relay, and possibly another event) next week, and then focus on the NCAA Championships. If she achieves the IAAF World Indoor Championships standard (4:13.00 for 1500m indoors or 4:30.00 for the mile), she’ll cross her fingers hoping to be selected to represent Canada in Portland.

The IAAF World Indoor Championships are currently off the table for Scott, instead choosing to make her final Arkansas season the utmost priority. Ideally, she’d also like to represent her native South Africa at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. If not chosen by South Africa, then Scott will look into representing the United States in the future; she married former Arkansas runner Cameron Efurd last December.

“Outdoor season, I definitely want another [NCAA] National Title. I’m not sure what race, if it’s going to be the 1500m, 5000m, or 10,000m that I’m going to go after,” said Scott, runner-up at both the 5000m and 10,000m at last year’s NCAA Outdoor Championships. “Then hopefully I can be running for my home country in the Olympics come August.”

Looking at recent history, collegians have fared well in the Wanamaker Mile. On the men’s side, former Arizona standout Lawi Lalang ran 3:52.88 in 2004 to set the NCAA record. A year prior, then-Tulsa star Chris O’Hare ran 3:52.98 to set the previous collegiate best.

For the women, last year Shelby Houlihan (formerly of Arizona State) ran 4:30.77 for seventh. And in 2013, Emma Coburn (Colorado) ran 4:29.86 to edge Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Agostino (4:30.03) for top collegiate honors.

Both Teschuk and Scott are hesitant to make any predictions, rather choosing to soak up as much of the experience as possible in the next 48 hours. They plan to race as competitively as possible, while at the same time learning from their more seasoned peers. American Shannon Rowbury has requested the race be rabbited at American record pace (4:20.5; 2:08 through 800m).

“It’ll be whatever the competition dictates. Going into the race I kind of want to just focus on being competitive and not be looking at my splits,” Teschuk said. “Just go out there and race. But I would like to definitely go under 4:30.”

Four minutes, 30 seconds was also a number Scott had in mind. Her current lifetime best indoors is 4:32.48, though she said her best 1600m split in a relay was 4:28.4.

“I’m hoping to just get pulled along. No, I’m not going to go out with the pacemakers and try and run a 2:08 first 800m. I’m just going to hang on, try and remain relaxed in the field, and let the others do the work for me,” said Scott.

Needless to say, both Scott and Teschuk are excited to lace up the spikes alongside Rowbury, Treniere Moser, Morgan Uceny, Katie Mackey, and more.

“I think it’s going to be an amazing meet. The caliber of athletes in the women’s mile tomorrow is amazing. I feel blessed to be one of the names on the list and one of the girls that is going to be on the starting line,” summed up Scott.