Seven days! This isn’t some cheesy reference to an early 2000s “horror” movie but is a show of elation for the 118th Penn Relays Carnival. Now lets not kid ourselves, everyone has ThePennRelays.com as their homepage like myself and is ready for next week like I am, if you aren’t you very well should be.
This year Penn Relays is going to go from successful to record breaking! Call me crazy but if you have seen some of the teams lined up to compete you would be thinking the same thing. First, for anyone unfamiliar with Penn Relays, though professionals and collegiate athletes compete, the true races are the High School Championship of America races or as it is colloquially known, Greater Caribbean Championship. Though Jamaica has dominated these six traditional relays for as long as they have been coming there are times when USA has a team or two that can show them what the Red White and Blue are really all about.
On the ladies’ side, the star of the show is likely to be Wakefield High out of North Carolina. They made the 4x100 finals last year (got 8th) but this year they are taking home the watches and plaque. Though they could steal the show from Jamaican teams like Vera Technical who have already run 45.63 this season, they are not the only team in contention. Jamaican powerhouses besides the aforementioned should also be jockeying for a chance at gold with stellar times coming from Edwin Allen (46.14) and perennial Penn Relays winner Holmwood Technical (46.53) (I mean they are legit the cover for the brochure every year). Also on the American side are crowd favorites Long Beach Poly and Juniper Serra both from California and LBP won the event last year…
In the ladies’ 4x4 it will be harder for USA to pull out a steal here. For those unfamiliar with Penn, it is extremely hard to do this feat because it not only takes a low 3:40 time to get in but it takes around a 3:35 to win it later only hours later. This requires most teams to either have a girl that can split a sub 52 or two 53-54 runners. This race will be very interesting because Wakefield arguably is better at this event then the 4x1 and they have ran 3:43 in indoors this year! Not to mention they have a stud runner in Ariah Graham who ran 53.95 indoors, and when you get to the final turn at Penn with thousands of fans cheering who knows what can happen!? Juniper Serra having won Arcadia in 3:47 could also steal the show if they turn over well between events. On the Jamaican front it will most likely be either Vera (3:38.52) or Holmwood (3:38.50) as they already met and ran those times at The Gibson Relays in February, one can only imagine them improving.
On the guys 4x1 side it is a sad sad story, since Texas does not bring any of their top tier teams then USA will have to get really lucky. Once again for those unfamiliar with Penn, it takes a well below 40.00 time to win the Championship with the past few years seeing ridiculous times around 39.7! Not to mention in the past years Wolmer’s Boys (JAM) has produced mind blowing 41 second qualifying times on Friday without blocks from the inside four lanes! This year looks no different and it looks like our seven-year drought in this event will continue at least for another year.
In the 4x4 it will be something special. For the tried and true relays fan it will especially something great because not only is this team great this year but they also are the second winningest school in the event (5) and the record holder for most 4x1 wins at Penn with nine. This team of course is Boys & Girls of Brooklyn. This team has already run 3:15 in indoors and 3:17 so far this outdoor season, 3:15 cannot win it but if they can run that to qualify it all comes down to who wants it the most and everyone remembers Cal Poly in 08. Of course the Jamaicans will try and continue their dominance with Manchester (3:14.08), Kingston College (3:16), and Wolmer’s Boys (3:16.57) all running obviously stellar times at Gibson. But like I said, this race especially will come down to the last two legs and the epic turn to the finish. Though this may be optimistic and wistful wishing by a true USA fan, it is not folly to think the Red White and Blue can bring home the Plaque in more then one event.
In the 4x8s it will be Edwin Allen, though I could list many teams that have stellar seeded times it would just be pointless because Edwin Allen will run away with this. (hopefully I am wrong) On the guys side it looks like Boys & Girls may be leading a strong American lineup with multiple teams likely breaking 7:40. Jamaica too has some teams competing in this who are right there with Boys & Girls but I just can’t get myself to bet against USA when its this close.
Collegiately things get very close. Breaking down each event would be way to cumbersome and time consuming to explain so here are my predictions that you can take to the bank.
W4x1: Texas A&M, LSU, CFU
M4x1: Texas A&M, Florida, Auburn and expect a huge anchor from Florida (Demps)
W4x2: FCU (freshman can win it all, especially Octavia Freeman)
M 4x2: Texas A&M
W4x4:Texas, Texas A&M, Oregon
M4x4: Texas A&M (sense a trend?), Miss St, LSU (watch for Miss State with Tavaris Tate)
W SMR: since I cannot see any rankings for this I will say Arkansas
M SMR: Texas A&M, most teams don’t run their “A” runners on these relays but they are so deep @400 and with solid 800 legs they are unbeatable.
W DMR: Oregon
M DMR: Arkansas
Lastly, professionally it will be Jamaica winning the SMR, USA blue winning the DMR, USA (what ever color has Francena, Sanya, and Allyson) winning the Women’s 4x4 , USA winning the Men’s 4x4 with only one person splitting below 44.2. In the headline event it is going to be USA winning both the 4x1s! Though Jamaica may have some studs on their teams USA is ready this Olympic year to show that we are back on the world stage and are done dropping batons. Philadelphia will see a show for sure in these races.
Though this is just a quick summary of the relay events to come this week there is much more going on besides this. From middle school relays to individual events to crowd favorites such as the 75 and older 100 meter dash or even good ol’ Bill Cosby acting like he shot himself with the starter’s gun, there is much to be enjoyed. Track fan or not this next week all eyes will be on the festive environment that is the Penn Relays Carnival.