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Penn Relays Preview Blog
By: David Warren

Countdown to the Penn Relays

One of the best races you will ever see!

I love a good 4x4. It doesnít matter if both teams are running 3:10s or 3:35s. If the squads are evenly matched it will be a pleasure to watch. This year the 4x4s at Penn are looking to possibly be the deepest ever. The past decade we have seen some deepest finals in the history of the Penn Relays. But the top 10 times are still owned by the 1990s. This year some squads are going to break into the top 10. 3:11.21 gets you on the list.

The Relays record of 3:08.72 by the Obea Moore led John Muir squad in 1997 could be in jeopardy. Itís hard to even fathom that, but why not? Late last month at the Jamaican High School championships the teams went at in the final event of the championships. The 6th place time was 3:15.78. Calabar won the team title and capped off the meet with a 1st place finish in 3:10.19. Kingston grabbed second in 3:12.64, Jamaica College 3rd in 3:13.12 and Wolmers in 4th with 3:13.56. 4 squads UNDER 3:14, especially at the end of a four day meet. That is ridiculous!

After the Jamaican schools you have quite a few contenders to make the finals. Boys and Girls of Brooklyn ran 3:15 indoors and they have already run 3:17.20. Oakcrest and Trenton Central in Jersey have run 3:16.11 and 3:17.80 respectively. Suitland, Laurel, and Wise are three local teams to keep an eye on. Laurel ran 3:15 the other day at the Waldorf Track Classic while Suitland was the runner up in the race in 3:17.96. Wise ran 3:20, but with Champ Page and Beysean Hamilton, two of the areas top long sprinters they will be in contention. Add in Serra and Poly who I mentioned in a previous post and you have eight American squads who have 3:16 or 17 potential competing with six Jamaican squads who have already run 3:15 or better and they are all going after eight spots in the final! Events 441-445 on Saturday morning will be something to watch. I canít wait.

Did you know that this is the 50th anniversary of women being allowed to compete in the Penn Relays.

Jesse Owens competed at the Penn Relays. In 1936 he won the long jump and the 100 yard dash and Ohio State won the Sprint Medley Relay. Did you know Owens still holds the Ohio State University record in the long jump? He jumped 26-8.75 in 1936!

I am going to take a quick look at the hurdles. Right now Maryland is the hotbed for high school hurdling. We have to start at the top with Alexis Franklin from Old Mill and Dondre Echols from Potomac.

Franklin will be going after her 3rd straight Maryland 300IH title Memorial Day weekend but before that she probably has some unfinished business to take care of. She rolled through Maryland during the indoor season and the only blemish on her record was the 4a 55HH final. But lets be honest she was attempting a triple that not many can even fathom. 300, 500 and 55HH. Who does that? That 6th place in the 55HH probably prevented her from being the All Met Athlete of the year but in the grand scheme of training and progression I think we have to look at what the 300 and 500 have done for her. Compared to last year she dropped a second in the open 300 and by the end of the indoor season she dropped 4 seconds in the 500m.

Last year, she ran 59.07 to finish 2nd at Penn. This year she has already opened the outdoor season with a 57.43 open 400 and 43.48 in the 300IH both run on the same day and a 4x4 relay to add. She has clearly maintained her fitness from indoor and I would have to say going into Penn she is the favorite. Adriana Brown of St. Elizabeth Tech was the High School Champion in Jamaica this past month. She goes in as the top seed but her winning time was 58.97, a time Franklin basically ran last year when she was much slower.

Sticking with the Maryland girls and moving over to Montgomery County we will take a quick look at Gwen Shaw and Sylvia Deppen. Both out of Wootton High School, these two girls have made a huge leap in the last year. Shaw finished 3rd in the state 300 in 40.67 and finished 2nd in the 55HH while Deppen ran 1:17.45 in the 500 and finished 5th. Recently both split in the 57s over the flat 400 and they are both in the low 44s over 300IH. While Franklin is the top rated hurdler in Maryland these two girls are the heirs to title. In my memory Olivia Durr of Poolesville has the fastest time over 400IH and she ran 1:03.65 at Penn. Later in the season she ran 44.78 and went on to win the state title. Maybe someone can give me a heads up on what Laura Shaw ran. Leave a comment in the box. She was also pretty damn fast over the 300IH. Shaw and Deppen are already well under level of fitness that Durr had at the moment. Disregard my local bias and look for that 1:03.65 to go down and look for these girls to crack the top ten. Iím being serious.

Dondre Echols will end this year as the greatest hurdler ever in the state of Maryland (on a technicality). He grabbed the indoor state record in the 55HH. He broke it first in the prelims and he came back in the finals and broke it again in 7.20. The old state record was 7.40. Oh yeah he also won the 55 dash in 6.44. Like Franklin, Shaw or Deppen he has not stopped. Last weekend, he went out to Arcadia and ran 13.71, good for 3rd place and came back and finished 3rd in the 300IH in a time of 37.11. The state record is 13.84 and is held by Jerry Roney. The 300IH record is held by James Graham in 36.51. Itís conceivable that Echols can take both records down. He can get the 110. Here is why he could get the 300IH. In 1999 when Graham won he ran the 400 dash right before he ran the 300IH so he wasnít fresh. He won both those events that day in 47.32 and 36.51. He also began the day with a 14.04 110HH victory. Honestly I am just excited to see what he can run in the 400IH. No matter what he is a hoss.

Poly Ė Serra part 2

The previous post was pre-Arcadia, one of the biggest meets in the country. Now that the results are in we are going to take a quick look at how the Serra and Poly squads have done and we will also look a little more in depth at the girls.

First the Poly boys and the Serra boys did very well. Both lowered their 4x1 times. Poly ran 41.63 and Serra ran 41.75. Both are in a good position to run well at Penn and qualify for a final if they can get the stick around. Poly also concluded Arcadia with a win and a 3:18.55 in the 4x4. That time puts that at 12th in the nation. Not one team ahead of them will be attending Penn this year.

Both girls squads are awesome and should do well at Penn. Poly graduated one of the great runners in the country last year Akawkaw Ndipagbor. She won everything she ran. She was the west coast version of Olivia Ekpone for 4 years. Poly easily won state meets with her but now she is gone. Replacing a 53 second 400 runner is hard so you would expect the squad to drop off. Just like the mens team they have not. This season they have already run 46.04, 3:52.27 and 9:17.66. Those marks are 2nd, 16th and 7th in the nation. Expect them to be a major player in all three. Last year Poly won the 4x1 Championships at Penn, the schools 2nd, in a time of 45.23. They also finished 4th in the 4x4 in 3:47.03 and 2nd in the 4x8 championship, a mere 20 seconds off the back of the winner Edwin Allen.

I am looking for big things from Serra. They return 3 of there 4 best runners from a squad that last year finished 5th at Penn in the 4x4 in 3:48.29. That team went on to become the winner of the California state meet in 3:43.21. They won Arcadia this past weekend in 3:47.18 and ran 1:38.30 in the 4x2. They also return 3 of 4 on the 4x1 and have already run 46.59 this season. Nationally, Serra ranks 6th in the 4x1, 6th in the 4x2 and 5th in the 4x4.

Today we are going to take a quick peak Long Beach Poly and Junipero Serra. These two schools from California produce some of the most outstanding runners in the country and drop some of the most ridiculous times year after year.

Last year the Poly and Serra boys finished 1st and 3rd at the California state meet respectively. Last year at Penn, Serra finished 2nd in the small school 4x1 final in a time of 41.75. They finished 2nd in the 4x4 with a time of 3:14.39. At the state meet they went on to run 3:12.44 and finished 2nd again, this time to Poly. Poly ran 3:15.18 in the Penn Relays final but went on to win the California state meet final in 3:12.44. A few hours before that 4x4 final at Penn last year, Poly was involved in a solo race against the clock in the 4x8. After the first leg they were never really threatened. A few schools got within 5 or so meters but not one of them could put any more pressure than that. Poly ended up winning in 7:31.69, the 3rd fastest time ever at Penn. At the New Balance Outdoor National meet they went on to run a national record in 7:28.75.

Of all of the folks on both those talented teams only a few are back. Serra has 2 guys from the 4x1 and 1 guy from the 4x4. They also add two 39 flat 300 hurdlers into the mix. However this season they have already run 42.19 and 3:20.79. The 3:20.79 is not the most amazing time ever but after 2 meets and with 3 fresh bodies on the relay itís pretty impressive. Poly is in the same position. They return just two relay starters from last years state championship squad but the pipeline is so deep at that school. After just a few late march meets they have already run 41.74 and 3:20.01. Both schools are in the top 40 nationally in both relays. The thing I find most impressive is that these two schools have really just started to compete. They donít run indoor except a big meet here or there and their state meet goes into early June. Although the times from Texas and Florida are great they are deceptive because they are much deeper into their season. Texas has their state meet in early May as does Florida. It might take 41.80 and 3:16.5 to make the finals but look for Serra and Poly to make some noise as their party is just beginning.

Let's start this off with one of the best collegiate rivalries at the moment. The women of LSU and Texas A&M. Led by one of the best sprinters in the country, Kimberlyn Duncan, who is the reigning NCAA indoor and outdoor 200m champion, the ladies of LSU will look to take home at least four of those big wheels and I think they can do it. LSU is the 4 time defending SMR champion and have won 6 of the last 9 championships of America. This past weekend at the Texas relays they ran 3:43.79. 5 seconds faster than their winning time at Penn last year and only 2 seconds off the Penn meet record. This will be the easiest race for them all weekend.

The Aggies of Texas A&M have their own impressive string going. They are the three time defending NCAA outdoor team champion. Five hours before the SMR race we will witness a barn burner when LSU, who won last years 4x1 NCAA outdoor title, will go up against the two time defending Penn Relays champion Aggies. These two teams own the 1st and 3rd fastest times in the world this year with 42.99 and 43.21 and these two squads have won the previous four editions of the 4x100 at the relays and 6 of the last 8. Together they own nine of the top ten times at Penn and number ten on the list is 43.30. Nothing should change this year. If we get some sunshine look for both squads to light it up on Friday afternoon. Imagine running a 1:31.28 in a 4x2 and getting 3rd. This happened to Texas A&M at the Texas Relays. LSU won with an eye opening 1:30.01. A&M has owned this event the last three years but LSU wants the title back. Combined these two teams have won 8 of the last 10 and only twice has a team run under 1:30. With an electric atmosphere and decent weather on Saturday I think we could be looking at a possible 3rd time under 1:30.

Aggie Freshman Olivia Ekpone (Northwest 2011) has already solidified her position on A&Ms 4x100, 4x200 and will most likely be on the 4x400. If the Aggies want to be successful this year at Penn they will have to rely on her range.


2012-04-05 04:03:47

Olivia Big Time Man

Track fan
2012-04-12 14:27:10

Gwen Shaw had a high 1:01 400 hurdles last August at the AAU Junior Olympics. Great blog about Penn!

2012-04-12 18:27:37

Ok thanks for the update.

2012-04-14 09:41:58

62.72 for Laura Shaw at penn in 03

PR Fan
2012-04-27 09:08:54

Good stuff Dave. Thanks

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