Girls Penn Relays Preview
By Lex Mercado, PennTrackXC.com
The Penn Relays are here! The biggest track meet in America is ready to host some really fast relays and talented individuals for three exciting days. One of the special days of the week is the high school girls showcase that covers the entire first day.
In the 4x100 meter relay, the top American team that will challenge the Jamaicans are Long Beach Poly (CA). The California powerhouse currently holds the 2nd best 4x100 in the country with a 45.70 from the Mt. Sac Relays just under two weeks ago. They have won gold here before and will be prepared for the stage that awaits them. Western Branch VA had the US#3 time in the 4x200 meter relay indoors with a 1:38.74 and finished 2nd at the New Balance Indoor Championships and ran 47.43 earlier this season. Columbia HS had the US#4 4x200 (1:39.37, 3rd at New Balance) and have yet to really get their outdoor campaign rolling. They did run 45.89 last season. PA teams Abington and West Catholic had great 4x200s indoors and may surprise a team that doesn't get the stick around.
For the 4x400, Indoor National champs Medgar Evers and Long Beach Poly will be top contenders to the Jamaican powerhouse teams. Medgar Evers ran 3:42.67 indoors and have been targeting this date since that performance. Medgar Evers were the dominant sprint team for most of the indoor season and haven't tasted defeat this season. They will enter this event fresh. Long Beach Poly ran 3:43.04 for US#2 this 2011 spring season. This year, they will be matched up with Junipero Serra, the only team to run a faster 4x400 this year. Junipero ran 3:42.58 to defeat Long Beach Poly at the Mt. Sac Relays. The rematch will be exciting and the winner between those two teams will likely make the COA final on Friday night. Other teams that will push for a COA spot are Columbia NY (US#9 Indoors), Bloomfield CT (US#5 Indoors), and Benjamin Cardozo (US#2 Indoors).
The 4x800 meter relay will feature several teams from the classic 4x800 final at the New Balance Indoor Championships on March 12. Last year, the last time to make the field was 9:15.66 and many of the American contenders have blown that time away indoors. St. Anthony's come in with the best US time in the field with their indoor US#2 time of 8:59.16 at the New Balance Indoor Champs. US#5 from the indoor season, Strath Haven, comes in with a 9:08.57 from the same meet. They will be the big hometown representative in this event. Northport NY comes in with an indoor 9:10.51. If these teams can run the way they have shown they can run, they shouldn't struggle with making the final on Friday afternoon. Best 2011 outdoor time in the field belongs to Notre Dame PA with a US#8 9:23.48 on April 15.
Fayetteville-Manlius NY completely controlled the national championship distance medley relay at the indoor national championships. The race turned into the race against the national record, which they narrowly missed. The meet record of 11:38.69 set by Blacksburg VA last year is in serious jeopardy on Thursday night. F-M comes in with an 11:39.58 and ran most of that race by themselves. The contenders for the COA title are simiar to the teams they defeated on March 11. Shenendehowa NY was US#2 indoors (11:46.73), Bronxville was US#3 indoors (11:50.85) and have come close to duplicating that performance already this spring (11:56.50 on April 9). Cardozo ran 11:51.14 indoors and will also challenge for a top spot.
In the open events, defending champion Leah Nugent of Abington PA returns to defend her title on her home turf in the 400 meter hurdles. This year she is the highest seeded American in the field and has run 45.14 in the 300 hurdles so far this year. Kyle Plante of Colonie New York (59.76 PR for 400 hurdles) and Alexis Franklin of Old Mill HS Maryland (1:02.86 PR for 400 hurdles, 41.94 for 300 hurdles) will be the next set of contenders to the top three Jamaican seeds. Franklin has run 43.22 this season in the 300 hurdles, which make her the favorite to challenge for the championship.
In the mile, the defending champion is also back. Angel Piccirrillo of Homer Center PA made a name for herself on the big stage with her 4:53.11 victory in the one mile run last year. She comes in with a new lifetime best from the indoor season, but she also returns with some tough competition. Ajee Wilson of Neptune NJ (4:49.46 US#3 indoors) and Joelle Amaral of Randolph NJ (4:49.23 US#2 indoors) come in as only one of two girls with sub 4:50 miles to their name. But everyone else behind her is so close that it's really anyone's race to win. Kelsey Margey of Harborfields NY (4:51.00 indoors) and Rachel Paul of Sachem East NY (4:55.31 indoors) and Madeline Dulac of McDonough MD (4:56.38 indoors) will be ready to take advantage of someone's bad race or big mistake.
Aisling Cuffe comes back to Penn to win one of the few races she didn't last season, the 3000 meter run. So far, she has run 4:45 for 1600 meters and she finished her scholastic indoor career with a 9:56.85 2 mile to win a national title. Her 3000 meter split en route to victory was 9:18.36, which gives her a realistic shot at the meet record of 9:15.3 from 1985. Her biggest challengers include 5000 meter indoor national record holder Waverly Neer of Culver IN, who has run 10:19.57 for 3200 meters this season, Haley Pierce of Tatnall DE, who has run 4:48 for the 1600 this year, and Colleen Schmidt of Holy Trinity NY (10:25.22 2 mile indoors).
In the field events, Keilah Thompson of Western Branch VA has already cleared 20 feet in the long jump this season with her US#1 mark of 20-7 on April 13, making her a viable contender for the championship. Her top American contenders are Junipero Serra California's Alexis Faulknor (US#5 19-6 on March 12) and Maya Walton of Danbury CT (US#5 19-3 indoors). Jordan Matthews of Abington PA has a 19-2.50 mark from the indoor season and could be in the mix.
In the triple jump, Melia Cox of Long Beach Poly CA is the top seed and so far this year has the 4th best mark in the country with a 41-2.50 mark from late March. Three other members of the triple jump field have gone over the 40 foot mark. Desmonae Gray of Western Branch VA and Jessica Caldwell of McDonough MD have both jumped 40-8 during the indoor season, and Siobhan Ford-Holland of Thomas Dale VA has a mark of 40-4 from the end of the indoor season.
Maddie Morrow of Hoover OH comes in as the top seeded American in the high jump. She won her state indoor championship with a clearance of 5-11 back in mid March and then maintained that momentum with a 5-10 clearance outdoors two weeks ago. Alexa Williams of Johnathan Dayton NJ and Fiona Paladino of Montgomery Township NJ have also cleared 5-10 during the indoor season. Anne Holland of Pennridge PA was US#1 with a 5-8 midway through the indoor season.
In the pole vault, the field features only two 13 foot vaulters in 2011 with most of the field in the 12 foot range. Cameron Overstreet of Atlee Virginia (13-1.50 indoors) and Megan Clark of James I O'Neill NY (13 feet even indoors) will be the two favorites coming into the event. Overstreet also has the best mark of the field this spring season with a clearance of 12-6. Carissa Leonardi of Lakeland/Panas NY has a personal best of 12-7 and will be the top challenger to the over 13 foot vaulters.
Christina Hillman of St. Thomas More DE enters the shot put as the top seed and is only one of two girls over 46 feet and one of only three girls over 45 feet this season. US top ten throwers Theresa Piccaillo of Immaculate Heart NJ (46-9 US#7 indoors) and Apresha Hampton of Teaneck NJ (45-9 US#10 indoors) are the other throwers over 45 feet in 2011.
With many marks for the discus being submitted with last year's marks, Sequoia Watkins of T.C.Roberson NC enters the meet with the best mark of the current season of 146-8 back on April 7. Aubree Ray of Middletown PA (142-9 in 2010) and Joanna Koronios of Carle Place NY (141 feet even last year) will be the other top contenders for the championship
In the javelin, the field became wide open when 2010 silver medalist Allison Updike of Tamaqua PA went down a few weeks ago with a season-ending knee injury. So who will take her place as the favorite? Katherine Johnston of Haddonfield Memorial NJ has a personal best of 152-2 from last season. Lauren Kenney of State College PA just threw 147-10 under two weeks ago and has been improving each week despite poor conditions. Updike's teammate, sophomore Christine Streisel, threw a PA#3 and almost 8-foot PR of 146-10 on the 15th at the Mount Carmel Invitational. Nia Barnes of West Orange (145-4) is the only other girl in the field with a mark over 145 feet in the past year.
Boys Penn Relays Preview
By Aaron Rich, MileSplit.us
Boys Mile Run
The Milrose Mile champ, Chad Noelle, Greene NY, has awesome speed and will look to add the Penn Relays mile to his impressive resume. Chad has a 4:11.09 mile PR to give him confidence going into the Mile this weekend. Matt Jablonski, Loyola Bakersfield MD, has already run 8:50.80 for 3200 meters this season at Arcadia and boasts a Mile PR of 4:10.64. Matt should be right in this race until the end. Traveling all the way from Poly CA, Myles Andrews has a 4:14.10 Mile PR, but boasts 1:51 800 speed and so he could be a factor if the kickers are allowed to stick around until the later laps of the race. Jacob Burcham, a Cabell Midland WV soph, has run 4:15 for the mile and isn't afraid to stick his nose in a hot race to see what happens. Jeremy Greenwald, Grassfield VA, has a 4:13 1600 PR, but boasts 50 second quarter speed, and could threaten for the win in a kickers race.
Boys 3000 Meter Run
Scott Morgan, Calvary Baptist NC, headlines this strong field, having run a time of 8:56.12 2-mile at Arcadia. Thomas Morgan, Cary NC, has a PR of 9:07.17 and will be a strong contender. Foot Locker Finalist John Murray, Shrewbury MA, has gone 9:08 and always competitive when he races. Dustin Wilson, Chestnut Hill Academy PA, boasts a 8:30 3k PR, which could put him right in the thick of the competition. Martin Hehir, Washingtonville NY, Ryan Gil, North Allegheny PA, and Morgan Pearson, Delbarton NJ, could also contend.
Boys 400 meter hurdles
This event also looks to be dominated by Jamaican athletes. The top three entrants are Javan Gallimore, Jamiaca College JAM, Omar McLeod, Manchester JAM, and Patrick Campbell, Munro College JAM.
Boys Javelin Throw
Billy Stanley, South Park PA, comes into the javelin this year with the top throw of 206-7, but nothing is assured as Kaleb Zuidema, Midland Park NJ, won last year with a toss of 216-5.
Traves Smikle from Calabar JAM, looks unbeatable this year if he is on his game. Samuel Mattis, East Brunswick NJ, who finished 2nd last year, has a best of 197-3 and will be challenging again this year. Kyle Long, Hempfield (3) PA, has thrown 185, but has been above that in small meets when the weather is above 35 degrees.
Boys Shot Put
Nick Vena, Morristown NJ, has owned the Penn Relays since he burst onto the season as a freshman. He has won three straight competitions here at Franklin Field and looks likely to pull the hat trick and do it again this year. Nick has a lifetime best of 72-10.5 in the shot and has thrown 70-04.5 this year.
Boys High Jump
Leading the US contenders will be Mark Jones, Summit NJ, who was 2nd here last year with a jump of 6-10. Jones has gone 7-00.25 in the event as a lifetime best. He'll have his hands full with David Hall, Kingston College JAM, who has cleared 7-00.50 this season.
Boys Pole Vault
Just how high will we get? Well, if the weather cooperates we could see two vaulters well over 17 feet as they battle each other. Jordan Yamoah, the NY state record holder out of Arlington, has gone 17-1 indoors and Dalton Duvio, John Curtis LA, just cleared 17-1 a few weeks ago at the Sugar Bowl Invitational.
Boys Long Jump
This is likely to be a all-Jamaica affair between the two top seeds. Ramone Bailey, Wolmer's JAM, and Keneil Grant, Kingston College JAM, are the only two jumpers over 24-05 this year. The top US jumper could come from PA with Rich D'Ambrosio, Malvern Prep, clearing 23-09.75 as a lifetime best.
Boys Triple Jump
The boys Penn Relays record could go down on Saturday with Marquis Dendy, Middletown DE, back to defend his title from 2010. His PR of 52-07.25 is above the record of 52-02.75, so it could be close.
Boys 4x800 Relay
This relay is always a great way to start Friday morning, with US and Jamaican teams vying for spots in the Championship of America race to be held on Saturday. Top US programs with a chance to make it to the final are Central Bucks West, PA, Abington, PA, Long Beach Poly, CA, St. John the Baptist, NY, North Rockland, NY, and Montgomery, MD.
Boys Distance Medley Relay
This race could very well go under 10 minutes with cool temps on a sunny day, which Friday is likely to be. Warwick Valley, NY, winners of the 4x800 relay last year, have Tim Luthin on anchor and his fierce kick could prove fatal to other contenders down the stretch. Warwick Valley won the DMR at the NBIN indoors on the strength of that kick. Two other strong favorites are Christian Brothers Academy, NJ, and West Windsor Plainsboro North, NJ. Another treat that this race could offer is the anchor leg of St. Benedicts Prep, NJ, Edward Cheserek. A quick study of high school distance running, Cheserek has gone 8:42 for 2 miles and 14:02 for 5k, and he isn't afraid to burn the pace to put his team in contention.
Boys 4x400 Relay
The highlight for the preps from both the US and Jamaica, as well as for the fans, this event promises loads of thrilling action all morning on Saturday, followed by the always competitive showdown with the COA final later in the afternoon. The morning action will feature teams vying for spots in the final, but the morning action is always exciting as super-fast splits can come out of any heat and are announced to the crowd as they happen. Juniper Serra, CA finished 2nd in the final last year in a crazy finish with Wolmer's Boys JAM, and Vere Tech JAM, and should be right back in contention to make the final again this year. Two other exciting teams to watch from the US are Long Beach Poly CA, who ran 3:13.52 at the Mt. SAC Relays, and Dematha Catholic, MD, who went 3:15.23 indoors. Half Hollow Hills NY, and Knightdale NC, are two other US teams with a chance to get into the final. Munro College JAM, Calabar JAM, St. Elizabeth Tech JAM, and St. Jago JAM, are all favorites as well.
Boys 4x100 Relay
Always exciting, these races are fast, furious and thrilling to watch. Most often the COA final is filled with the best Jamaican teams vying for glory in front of a frenzy of fans. However, last year, three top US programs competed very strongly in the event with Juniper Serra, CA, 5th, Long Beach Poly, CA, 6th, and Rio Mesa, CA, 8th in the final. Look for these programs to be back at it again this year. Other contenders include Suitland, MD, Medgar Evers, NY, and Knightdale, NC.