Overview: To some, winning a Penn Relays Gold Watch is a goal just as, and even sometimes moreso important than winning a national championship. Watches are awarded only to the overall American winners in Championship of America events at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, kicking off for the 118th time next Thursday at Franklin Field. In some cases, most notably the sprints, it is harder to win a spot on the top of the medal stand than it is to win a national championship. This fact is because of the international draw the relays bring to Philly; currently, there are 62 schools registered that are not from the United States, with Jamaica the most represented foreign country with 32 individual schools. For some, winning a watch means beating the world.
While the main events remain the short relays, specifically the 4x100m and 4x400m, the distance relays and open events are available on an invite basis. And with the the high quality meet comes a high caliber field in each of the 4 invitational distance events. We broke down the competition to help you see where the action may take place.
Boys Invite Mile
Breakdown: On the surface, it looks to be a battle between Jacob Burcham (4:07 PR) and Zavon Watkins (4:13 Indoor PR). Watkins had a slew of Invite Mile wins at both Millrose and the US Open, but it seemed that he was never really challenged. Watkins' might have that challenge with West Virginia's Burcham, who placed 3rd at Indoor Nationals. Most notably, Burcham ran with junior standout Edward Cheserek and ultimate winner Brad Nye. The defining moments of the race played to Watkins' detriment, as it would seem that Watkins' sit and kick strategy may not work against this competition. Ben Malone, of Indoor 800m fame, comes into the race with a 4:16 PR, but after the 800m where he went under 1:50, you can expect that PR to be broken at Franklin Field. Also in the mix is North Carolina's Craig Engels, who has a solid 4:13.7 to his name as well. Finally, Sean McGorty clocked 4:13.8 at Nationals as well, and can never be counted out. With Brucham leading the pack, his fast pace may pull the trailing runners with similar PR's to a very close race. UPDATE: Drew Magaha of PA went 1:48.8 over 800m this weekend, proving he can also be quite the contender.
Boys Invite 3000
Breakdown: Four runners stand out from the pack in the boys 3000 meter run. Leading the field is Adam Visokay, who placed second overall at the Indoor Nationals 2 Mile Run. Visokay also has a 8:35.26 to his name over 3000 meters, and looks to be the top seed. Along with Visokay, Sam Parsons of Delaware rounds out the top three for the Americans. Parsons holds a personal record of 8:44 over 3000 meters, and comes from a very strong distance program in Tatnall. Separating the pair is Jamaican Orane Wint, who as recently as April 9th, went 15:27.05 in the 5000 meter run. Kevin Bishop of California is also in the mix, with his strong 8:44 for 3000 meters. Behind the top four is a trio of very strong Southern New Yorkers. Thomas Awad is currently state leading in the 2k steeple, and holds a PR of 9:09 over 3200m. Adam Holt of Carmel, All-American in the Indoor 2 mile, has clocked a strong 8:58.11 over the 3k distance. Rounding out the group is New York State Champion Kris Moran, who clocked 9:08.57 in the 3200m to nab the state title.
Boys Invite 4x800
Breakdown: It seems that the 4x800 is much like the 4x400: Boys and Girls looks to be leading the charge against the Jamaicans. In the 4x400, they will have a much harder time, as their 3:15.12 is bested by the top 3 Jamaican teams, with a 2:10.9 (Calabar) , a 3:12.64 (Kingston College), and a 3:13.64 (Jamaica College). However, Boys and Girls may get their revenge in the 4x800, where they are currently the top seed. However, B&G are not alone in the higher seeds, as Indoor National Runners' up Cherokee and Pope John XXIII are right behind them. Also remember, the Kingston College 4x800 times were compiled from open events at the Jamaican Champs, and don't represent the final lineup. Anything can happen at Penn Relays, and this is one spot where anything just might.
|Top Teams Breakdown|
|Team||Boys and Girls||Cherokee||Kingston College|
|Meet||NBIN - 3/11||NBIN - 3/11||Jamaican Champs - 3/31|
|1||Richard Rose - 1:54.97||Collin Merrigan - 1:55.52||Alex Saunders - 1:53.47|
|2||Darryl Williams - 1:57.3||Drew Viscidy - 1:55.52||Chad Miller - 1:56.63|
|3||Javaun Grant - 1:59.4||Ross Staudt - 1:56.61||Miguel Morrison - 1:58.7|
|4||Robert Rhodes - 1:51.61||Shawn Wilson - 1:55.99||Sanj Powell - 1:53.17|
Boys Invite DMR
Breakdown: There seems to be any number of combinations here that could take the crown. The top 6 teams, at least, are only within 2-4 seconds of each other. At the top of the pack is New Jersey's CBA, as well as Jersey's St. Benedict's Prep. Coming in with the fastest seeds times, each team has their strengths: CBA has more balance, while St. Benedict's Prep has their killer 4:02-miler Edward Cheserek. However, they are not the clear winners. Pistcataway rounds out the New Jersey trio, followed by a threesome of New York squad's all in striking distance. Stuyvesant and Arlington both went 10:12 Indoors at Nationals, and Monsignor Farrell has recently hit 10:10 out at Arcadia. Expect this race to be the closest battle for the boys, as it is literally anyone's race.
|Select Top Teams Breakdown|
|Team||St. Benedict's Prep||CBA||Monsignor Farrell|
|Meet||NBIN - 3/11||NJ Varsity Classic||Arcadia - 4/8|
|1200||Darien Edwards - 3:11.6||Tim Gorman - 3:09||Alex Lo Presti - 3:05.9|
|400||Naija Omari - 49.9||Theo Foster - 49.6||Rob Kesicki - 51.8|
|800||Kalonji Foster - 2:01.1||Clark Mangini - 1:57.9||John Bentivegna - 1:56.9|
|1600||Edward Cheserek - 4:07.4||George Kelly - 4:11.9||Dan Galford - 4:15.6|