Francis scores huge hometown upset at Millrose Games

Lois Elfman | 2/19/2015, 9:57 a.m.
Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross was one of the undisputed stars of the 108th NYRR Millrose Games, but the night ...
Phyliss Francis runs to a eye-popping upset win over Sanya Richards-Ross.

Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross was one of the undisputed stars of the 108th NYRR Millrose Games, but the night belonged to Queens native Phyllis Francis, who ran away from the field in the women’s 400 meters, making her professional track debut. She admitted to some anxiety before the race.

“I told myself just go for it,” said Francis, who grew up running on the Armory track and competed in the Millrose Games during her high school days at Catherine McAuley High School. “It’s a little mind-blowing right now. … My coach said, ‘You might surprise yourself.’”

The Millrose Games got a big boost of assistance from these busy volunteers.(Lois Elman Millrose Games photos)

The Millrose Games got a big boost of assistance from these busy volunteers.(Lois Elman Millrose Games photos)

Another victor making a pro debut was Sharika Nelvis, who edged out Jasmin Stowers in the 60-meter hurdles.

“It was a good race. I have no complaints, not until I go and talk to my coach,” said Nelvis. “He’ll tell me all the problems I had. I was excited to be here. To get the win, I’m even more excited.”

First place in the 60-meter dash went to Murielle Ahoure, who, at 7.05, was .06 of a second faster than 2014 champion Michelle-Lee Ahye. The enthusiasm and proximity of the crowd inspired both runners.

“The race felt really good. I feel like I got out of the blocks properly, and that’s the key to the race,” said Ahoure, who celebrated her win by seeing the Broadway show “Wicked.” “It’s actually my first time running at the Millrose Games. It’s my first time in New York. I got to see Times Square for the first time, and that was quite exciting. I got to do some shopping and walking around and exploring, so I had a really good time.”

Sally Kipyego won the 3,000 meters, saying she wanted to enjoy the crowd and the atmosphere. Her main goal for the season is qualifying for the World Championships in Beijing, and this race was part of the preparation.

“This was a great win and a great confidence boost going into the season,” Kipyego said. “As athletes, [crowd energy] always makes our experience so much better.”

In the final women’s events of the evening, New Jersey native Ajee Wilson defended her 800-meter title and Shannon Rowbury won the women’s mile. Earlier in the day, St. John’s scored two big wins, taking the women’s 4x200 relay and the college women’s 4x400 relay.