Men's Elite Preview
The Penn Relays are here. The last weekend of April year after year is the track geek's super bowl. This year's relays will be like every other, fun to watch, and if you are lucky a great experience to run in.
The marquee event this year will no doubt be the professional men's 4x100 meter relay. Jamaica will be bringing Asafa Powell, the world record holder in the 100-meter dash who has three times run 9.77. He will be joined by Michael Frater, Lerone Clarke and Dwight Thomas as they plan on getting some early season baton work for the upcoming world championships in Osaka. The US teams will be strong like always and they will select teams from a pool of runners that include Wallace Spearmon, Tyson Gay, Xavier Carter, Marcus Brunson, Leonard Scott, Shawn Crawford and Kelly Willie. All of these runners are world ranked over 100 and 200 meters and with some good exchanges and proper weather we can expect some solid times.
The men's 4x400 meter will be a bit more in favor of the US even with the absence of Olympic and World Champion Jeremy Wariner who will opt for the Drake Relays. Jamaica will bring a solid team capable of a 3:00 flat and the US will use the method of creating 3 teams that are equal to give the fans an exciting race. Look for runners like Bershawn "Batman" Jackson, the world champion over the 400m IH, Kerron Clement, Spearmon, Carter, Otis Harris, Mitch Potter, Lashawn Merritt, Andrew Rock, and Derrick Brew. This race like always will be extremely exciting because ever runner is great and they will all be running in the greatest of the relays.
A new addition to last years meet schedule was the Distance Medley Relay. The relay was such a fantastic addition that the organizers thought they would give it another go. To beat last years race, a world record will need to go down as a team from Kenya took down the world best in 9:15:56 being led home by Alex Kipchirchir 3:52.8 split. The US team anchored by Olympic silver medallist Bernard Lagat also dipped under the previous best and finished in 9:15.63. We should expect to see Lagat, Chris Lukezic, Alan Webb, Jonathon Johnson, Khadevis Robinson, Kevin Hicks, and some 400 runners that the organizers feel would give the Kenyans a good fight. The Kenyan team is unknown but whoever steps foot on the track will certainly give the record a good chase.
High School Boys and Girls Preview
Could this be the year that the Jamaicans lose more than they win? On the boys side I would say no. One of the great high school teams in the world will set foot on our soil and will attack the track in style. St. Jago of Jamaica will come to Philly and they will throw down some times that will make you sick. Led by Yohan Blake who in early April ran 10.11 to break the Jamaican youth record, this St. Jago team comes to Penn having already in the 39's for the 4x1 and they also ran a 3:07 at the Jamaican High School championship. So who will be fighting for second? Long Beach Poly, a perennial athletics powerhouse in California will once again be traveling to Penn. They are led by Bryshon Nellum who is an outstanding quarter miler and is a consistent 46 second runner. Other teams to watch who always bring a fantastic 4x400 meter heritage are Seton Hall Prep, Holmwood Tech, Camden of NJ, Vineland, Transit Tech, Camperdown of Jamaica (last years champion in the 4x4 and the 4x1), Eleanor Roosevelt, Wolmers Boys of Jamaica and most recently Dematha. Dematha did graduate several runners from their teams in the past two years but they will still be in the mix to try and grab a qualifying spot. Mid to low 3:18 gets you in the final.
The 4x1 sometimes is a crapshoot. Not only do you need to be fast but you need to have great handoffs. Look for teams like Holmwood Tech, Deep Creek in Virginia, Long Beach Poly, St. Georges of Jamaica, Camden, Wolmers and Calabar to try and make the championship of America and if they don't make it they will at least be in the small or large school final. Some local teams to look at will be Glen Burnie with nationally ranked 55m and 100m runner Justin Murdock, ER and Dematha. The two latter both made the large school final last year. I am going to go with St. Jago, though.
The 4x800 will be just as competitive as the two previous relays. Local teams like Quince Orchard and Eleanor Roosevelt have a legit shot of making the finals. Other American teams that are perennial finalists are Long Beach Poly, Simon Gratz, Edwin Allen, Chaminade and North Penn. Holmwood Tech of Jamaica won last year and they have had ideal training conditions compared to teams on the east coast. The top 12 teams from the 4 heats will make it to the final, and year after year the last team to make it runs around a low 7:57, although last year the final qualifier ran 7:58.
The Boys DMR usually comes down to who has the best combination of 800 runner and miler. Look for teams like Colts Neck, Shaker, Warwick Valley, and Shenendehowa to make some big moves. These teams are historically very strong middle distance teams and should bring there A game to Penn.
The Boys mile has three kids from Maryland and they are all very talented. Matt Centrowitz of Broadneck, Chris Moen of Walter Johnson and Andrew Revelle of Atholton are all capable of taking the crown. They each have big victories and they have all run very solid times. Centrowitz was last years winner at 3000 and this past winter ran some amazing times ranging from the 1000 to his 1600 run in Boston. Moen ran and won at New Balance and qualified for Millrose and he is the MD indoor state champ. Revelle took the indoor season off but ran at meets up and down the east coast and posted some solid times. Last years champ Dominic Della Pelle will also be in the race to defend his title and you should never count out a champion.
The boys 3000 will have local runner Graham Bazell of Atholton who for a brief moment this past indoor season held the top time nationally in the two mile. Bazell will be joined in the race by Mike Spooner of West Springfield and Jason Weller of Pennsylvania. All three are capable of taking the title but sometimes the 3000 comes down to has the best legs on that day.
Lastly while most of the fans are sleeping in or just arriving to the stadium the boys 400IH will be going off. The two top seeds are two of the highest ranking long hurdlers in the world, Johnny Dutch of Clayton in North Carolina, and Riker Hylton of St. Jagos in Jamaica. This will be an awesome race if anyone gets up early enough to watch. Both of these gentlemen should run times around 51 and I wouldn't be surprised if Dutch gets close to that 50 second barrier. He is one of the most talented young hurdlers in the world today.
The High School girls relays will come down to four names, Long Beach Poly, Holmwood Tech, Edwin Allen and Eleanor Roosevelt. The best school on the west coast, two of the best from Jamaica and the top from the east coast will go head to head.
The 4x4 is the premier event and these three teams as well as Edwin Allen of Jamaica would love to take home the crown. Holmwood did graduate a few runners from last year's championship squad but like all good teams they just reload. The meet record of 3:34.75 could go down as Holmwood has already run 3:34 this season. ER ran 3:39 last year and with a deep team they should be well rested when the final comes around. Other teams to watch for will be Poly who has run 3:41, Vere Tech, Manchester (both out of Jamaica), and Uniondale. I am rooting for ER and I think they can do it. 3:53 will put you in the final.
The 4x8 will once again be a battle between Holmwood, and ER. Holmwood won last year in 8:45, 5th fastest ever at Penn, and ER ran the third fastest high school time ever with a 8:53. Suffern of New York has run some very quality times and they should be in the mix for a while as well. ER and Holmwood are going to go at it though and they should run away with this race. All four ER girls have run under 2:10 so a top 5 all time mark could be set. Local team Winston Churchill is seeded with in the top 12 so having another area team make the finals is not out of the question. Low 9:20's can get you into the final.
The 4x1 will come down between Holmwood, Poly, Rancho Verde of California, and the usual suspects from Jamaica St. Jagos, Vere Tech and Edwin Allen. Virginia Pan Handle powerhouse Bethel should also be in the mix as they are returning some key runners from last year's awesome squad.
The girls DMR will be dominated by the American schools as only two Jamaican squads are entered. Southern Regional of New Jersey heads the field. Led by their superb miler Danielle Tauro and an awesome 1200 meter in Jillian Smith who is a 4:55 miler herself, they should run themselves to victory. Local team Walt Whitman should have a good race but to really make some noise their 400 meter runner will really need to step up to the challenge.
In the open 3000 all the local eyes will be on Cara Harrison of Quince Orchard. Cara has stepped up her game this past year and has had some really awesome runs. She is seeded 15th so a high place and a solid time would mean a great deal. Ashley Higginson of Colts Neck and Catherine White of Northside in Virginia lead the entries in the 3000 field.
In the girls High Jump local high schooler Audrey Gariepy - Bogui from Winston Churchill is seeded third behind an awesome duo of Ashley Gatling of Deep Creek and Brigetta Barrett of Ketchum in NY. Deshana Briggs of Booker T Washington in Virginia is seeded 4th. These four should fight for the title that Gatling won last year. The winner jumped 5-8.5 last year and once again the competition should come down to most misses.