ATHLETICS Preview: Willis & Simpson back to defend Fifth Avenue Mile titles

The annual Fifth Avenue Mile comes Sunday, running from 80th Street to 60th Street in Manhattan and with defending champs Nick Willis (NZL) and Jenny Simpson (USA) both returning.

This race started in 1981 and for many U.S. athletes, is a fun way to end the season. Willis, a two-time Olympic medalist in the 1,00 m (2008-16) and 2011 Wold 1,500 m Champion Simpson have been among the most successful entrants ever; Willis has won three times in 2008-15-17 and Simpson has won five in a row and six of the last seven in 2011-13-14-15-16-17.

In the men’s race, Willis will face 2016 Olympic 1,500 m gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz (3:53.61 this year) and a host of quality miles, including Americans Lopez Lomong (3:523.86 this year on the track), Ben Blankenship (3:54.88), Johnny Gregorek (3:54.53) and Craig Engels (3:55.12) and Chris O’Hare (3:55.53) from Great Britain.

Simpson, whose tactical brilliance has been the key to her wins in this race, ranks no. 4 in the world this season at 4:17.30 fo the mile. She will be challenged by Britain’s Laura Weightman (4:20.49 this year on the track), Marta Pen Freitas (POR: 4:22.45 to win at ISTAF last week), Americans Alexa Efraimson (4:24.82) and Shannon Osika (4:25.27) and steeplechase stars Emma Coburn (4:31.08 this year) and Colleen Quigley (4:24.88i in 2017).

NBC will have live coverage of the elite races beginning at noon Eastern time on Sunday. Look for results here.