119th Penn Relays National Preview

PHILADELPHIA – The event that often draws the most excitement at track and field meets is the one-mile run. It should be no different this weekend (April 25-27) when some of the top prep milers from the northeast and beyond leg it out at the 119th annual Penn Relays Carnival, held at historic Franklin Field.

Scheduled to compete in the boys’ race are nearly a dozen runners that have run faster than 4 minutes, 18 seconds. Among the top contenders are Pascack Valley (NJ) senior Ben Malone, Chantilly (VA) senior Sean McGorty and Perry Hall (MD) senior Vincent Ciattei. In the girls’ competition, Classical (RI) junior Maddy Berkson, St. Mary’s (ONT) senior Jaimie Phelan, Pennsbury (PA) senior Sarah Sargent and Northwest Catholic (CT) senior Sarah Gillespie look to be some of the elite.

Malone and McGorty would appear to be co-favorites for the boys’ crown. Malone owns the fastest time in the field with his 4:07.02 best, a time he ran in the Dream Mile at the adidas Grand Prix last June. Malone, who won the high school mile at the Millrose Games early in the year, has cracked 1:50 for the 800 and recently was fifth in that event at the New Balance Indoor Nationals (NBNI). 

McGorty, who has a best of 4:11.95 for the mile, has had a number of noteworthy performances his final season at Chantilly. This past Saturday,  he blasted to a personal best and US #2 time of 8:46.07 for the 3,200-meter run at the Lake Braddock Hall of Fame Invitational, a race he won by 69 seconds! He’s also has proven to come up big when the competition is at its stiffest.  He battled two-time champion Edward Cheserek at the Foot Locker Cross-Country Nationals before eventually settling for runner-up honors. He was second again to Cheserek in the two mile at the NBNI where he ran a PB of 9:02.01.

Ciattei, who captured the state indoor two mile for Maryland, has also been running well recently. He placed sixth at the NBNI, running a PB of 4:11.71 out of the unseeded heat. Just a little over a week ago, he was a double-winner at the Pikesville Invitational where he ran the 800 in a fast 1:53.42 clocking and was 4:14.39 in the 1,600.

Berkson will be a runner to keep an eye on in the girls’ race. She’s never afraid to take the lead, something she demonstrated in the 800 at the NBNI when she took command for the first 550 meters before eventually placing third overall with an outstanding time of 2:06.67. Berkson owns a best of 4:50.50 for the mile, which she ran at the prestigious Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle, Wash. She has an outdoor PR of 4:27.92 for the 1,500.

Gillespie, who was third at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix where she ran her PR of 4:51.98, was also a fifth-place finisher at Millrose and the NBNI and won the New England indoor crown. Phelan goes into the meet with a best of 4:53.89 for the 1,600, a time she ran at the SPIRE Invitational on Feb. 9. Sargent ran her top time of 4:52.14 to place fourth at NBNI. She was also fifth at Millrose.  The amazing meet record of 4:39.28, set last year by Bronxville (NY) junior Mary Cain, doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy. But this race does have the makings for a time ranging in the 4:47-4:50 range.

Lake Braddock (VA) senior Nick Tuck is the only returning runner from last year’s 3,000 where he placed tenth overall with a time of 8:39.44. The field is strong with several athletes in the field capable of running a time in the low 8:30s and under.

Harrington (PA) senior Max Norris has the fastest time in the field with a PB of 8:28.93. Christian Brothers Academy (NJ) senior Jack Boyle should not be taken lightly. The Columbia University-bound Boyle recently ran 9:05.66 for 3,200 meters at the Arcadia (CA) Invitational on April 6. Middletown North (NJ) senior Tom O’Neil, a fifth-place finisher in the two mile at the NBNI with a best of 9:02 for the 3,200, should also be tough. Other runners that could be in the mix are Lafayette (VA) senior Kurtis Stack (9:08.49, 3,200) and Fox Chapel (PA) junior Ethan Martin (9:16.16 two mile, 8:33.63 3,000).

One of the youngest in the field could be the quickest in the girls’ 3,000 with Arlington (NY) sophomore Bella Burda tagged as the No. 1 seed. Burda has a best of 9:33.9 for 3K and 4:54.73 for the mile. She was fourth in the mile at Millrose. Abington Heights (PA) junior Tesa Barrett, who was fourth in the 5K at the NBNI and has a best of 9:47.73 for 3K, could also battle for the No. 1 spot. Other possible top contenders are St. Mary’s (VA) senior Margaret Dzazba (9:55.66 3K, 4:53.67 mile) and Unionville (PA) junior Courtney Smith (9:48.24 3K).

Jamaicans’ Omar McLeod and Divonte Dennis of Kingston College are the top two seeds in the boys’ 400 hurdles. McLeod has a sizzling 49.98 best. The top U.S. threat and the No. 3 seed is Lloyd Sicard, a senior from Junipero Serra (CA). Sicard has run a best of 37.36 for the 300 hurdles. Garnett Valley (PA) senior Wellington Zaza, who has 21.88 200 speed and has triple jumped more than 50 feet, owns a best of 37.60 for the 300 hurdles.

The No. 1 seed in the girls’ 400 hurdles is Lindblom (IL) senior Shamier Little. She recently captured the open 400 at Arcadia, where she ran a season best of 54.49. Over hurdles, Little was third in the 60HH at the NBNI and has run 1:00.85 for the 400IH. Jamaica occupies the next three seeds with Edwin Allen’s Camira Haughton, St. Jago’s Tatiana Wolfe and St. Elizabeth Tech’s Kimone Green.

The clear-cut favorite in the boys’ high jump is Jamaica’s Christoffe Bryan of Wolmer. Bryan has leaped more than seven feet a number of times.  He had his PB of 7-2.25 at the ISSA Boys and Girls Championship on March 16 and just a few weeks ago in the Bahamas cleared 7-0.25 to win the CARIFTA Games. Jamaica’s Demar Robinson has also sailed over the seven-foot barrier with a PB of 7-0.75. A handful of jumpers have done 6-10, including Smithtown (NY) senior Mike McCann, Bloomfield (CT) senior Demario Gray, Long Beach Poly (CA) junior Vincent Council and LeRoy (NY) senior Rubin Owens.

Fleetwood Area (PA) sophomore Cyre Virgo could be flirting with the six-foot barrier for the girls’ high jump. She captured the NBNI title back in March with a PB of 5-11.25 and two weeks ago had a season-best of 5-10 when she copped the Golden Ram Invitational.

John Curtis (LA) senior Dylan Duvio will be tough to beat in the pole vault. Duvio placed second in the event at the NBNI and was also a runner-up at the Mobile (AL) Challenge of Champions on April 6 where the Stanford-bound leaper had his PB of 17-0. Palmyra (PA) senior Timothy Moses and Robbinsville (NJ) senior Craig Hunter have both cleared more than 16 feet. 

Oakdale (MB) senior Emma King leads the field in the girls’ pole vault with a best of 12-10, a height she did more than a year ago. Emily Savage, a senior from Weston (CT), has a PB of 12-7, which she cleared on Feb. 14 at the CIAC Championship.

Jamaica has seven of the top 10 long-jumpers for boys. The best among the U.S. is No. 3 seed Desmond Mobley of Greece Olympia (NY). Mobley has a best of 25-2, which he did at last year’s NYSPHSAA-NY State Championship. He was sixth at the NBNI with a 23-1.5 effort.

South County (VA) senior Felecia Majors occupied the top spot in the girls’ long jump with a PB of 20-0. Winslow TWP (NJ) junior Cidae’a Woods is No. 3 among the field at 19-8. 

South Brunswick (NJ) senior Jonathan Pitt and Woodside (VA) senior Aaron Worell could be contending for the triple jump crown. Pitt was second at the NBNI where he leaped a distance of 49-7.25 and Worrell has a best of 49-7.5.

The girls’ triple jump has potential for a hometown champion with Chambersburg (PA) senior Marshay Ryan among the best. She won the PTFCA Indoor Championship and has a PB of 42-2.75. Mount Olive (NJ) Keturah Orji should also contend. She won the NBNI at 41.0.25, just a half an inch under her best.

Bridgeton (NJ) senior Braheme Days Jr., the NBNI champion, is the odds-on-favorite for the shot put title. He won the nationals with a heave of 66-6 and has cracked 70 feet with his best of 70-8. Northern Valley Regional (NJ) senior Andrew Trumbetti is the No. 2 seed with a PB of 61-8.

Bowie (MD) junior Antonella Taylor is the top U.S. athlete in girls’ shot with her No. 2 seed of 46-9. New Rochelle (NY) senior Briyah Brown, a third-place finisher at NBNI, has thrown the metal ball a distance of 45-5.25. 

Bryan Pearson, senior from Bangor Area (PA), could snag gold in the discus. On April 11, Pearson had his best of 191-0 at Pen Argyl. Delsea Regional (NJ) senior Joshua Awotunde (186-9) and St. Edward (OH) senior Aaron Zedella (185-10) should also contend.

Cherokee (NJ) senior Jessica Woodard has potential for a top finish in the girls’ discus. She recently set a PB of 161-3 to win the West Deptford Relays. Jamaica’s Tara-Sue Bennett, a senior from Edwin Allen, leads the field with her best of 161-10.25.

In the javelin, Florence Township (NJ) junior Curtis Thompson may be the person to beat. Just two weeks ago, Thompson had a huge PR of 214-7 to capture the Hall of Fame Relays. Manheim Central (PA) senior Cole Proffitt has also bested 200 feet with a PB of 200-9.

Tamaqua (PA) senior and defending champion Christine Streisel should make it two straight in her specialty. At last year’s meet, she won with a heave of 154-10. The Duke-bound Streisel has a best of 160-11.