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 119th time this 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.
Girls Invite Mile
Breakdown: What will it take to tackle the mile? If the field stacks up well, it could very well be very quick. The top seed comes down from Canada, as Jaimie Phelan of Ontario holds a 4:30 1500m to her name, as well as a 4:53 full 1600m. As for talent on the homefront, New York's Catherine Maloy of Holy Names (4:39.63) and Nevada's Sydney Badger of Centennial seem to be the swiftest so far this season, currently at US #13 and #14 for the 1500m. With that said, there are plenty of athletes who have been waiting to pop a big performance. Maddie Berkson of Classical, RI took a relaxed third place at the New York Relays in the 3000m this past weekend, but proved to be a substantial threat indoors with her 4:50 season best. Also always dangerous are the hometown heroes Sara Sargent, Kennedy Weisner, and Marissa Sheva of Pennsylvania. Weisner is the top performer from last year, claiming 5th in 2012 with her 4:53.71. Sarah Gillespie of Northwest Catholic, CT went 4:52.53 indoors, and has proven capable of capturing big races, as is Reagan Anderson of Tatnall, who took home the Manhattan Invitational way back in XC. Depending on race ready shape, Laura Leff of West Genesee is another contender for the title. All things considered, look for a sub-4:52 mark to take home the title, and the coveted golden watch.
Girls Invite 3000
Breakdown: A very solid collection of athletes hovering around the sub-ten spot for their personal records, however, one name does stick out. New Yorker Bella Burda of Arlington reigned supreme indoors at US #3 in the 3000m, with her very smooth 9:33. She may sneak up on some athletes who hadn't seen her on the national scene, as having pulled out of NBIN with some calf tightness. There should be a clear battle for second if the sophomore comes in top racing form, as Sophie Chase of Lake Braddock, VA, is the fastest this season, with a 9:49.73, which sits at US #4 currently. Katie Lembo, Margaret Drazba, and plenty more have all also gone under ten minutes as well, and could challenge the leader at any point in the race. Two girls out of the home state also hover around the 9:50 mark, with Tessa Barrett and Courtney Smith clearly able to take the lead at any point in the race.
Girls Invite 4x800
Breakdown: It is an interesting to see what can affect a relay. The Jamaican force that reigned supreme last year has been hit with a case of the chicken pox, and many top athletes can't attend. However, barring health issues, their top squad has a solid 15 second lead on the field, as they did last year. As for the US, the second fastest team in the winter (US #2 Garden City) has lost two girls to lacrosse and will not be competing, and US #3 Warwick Valley is trying their hand at the DMR. Likewise, US #9 Suffern would be the top seeded mark here, but one of their stronger legs is an 8th grader, and will have to wait until next year to compete. That doesn't mean the race will go slow, however, as there is top talent still involved. Neenah, Wisconsin is the wildcard here, as they return their whole squad that went 9-flat in 2012, albeit much later in the season. Holy Names and Bronxville are the top teams from NY, both with the ability to dip under 9:10. While top NJ seed Lenape is opting for the DMR as well, Red Bank Catholic can put together a quality team to represent the Garden State. How this race will play out may come down to who is doubling in the invitational events, and it will be interesting as ever to watch it play out.
|Team||Edwin Allen||Neenah, WI||Academy of the Holy Names||Bronxville|
|Meet||JA Champs||States - 2012||Millrose Games||New Balance Collegiate|
Girls Invite DMR
Breakdown: If you want excitement, here is where you'll find it. It is the top two teams that will fight the good fight, as they were US #2 (Cardozo, NY) and US #3 (Lenape, NJ) indoors. But Cardozo looks to be killer so far, as Sabrina Southerland is coming off a 4:26.05 mark in the 1500m just hours after committing to Georgetown next fall, and Deajah Stevens has all but proven she is still in 54second shape for the quarter. After speaking with their coach this past week, the goal was clear: Southerland wants her 1600m split to convert to faster than the winning time in the Invite Mile. She sure looks more than ready to accomplish it, and records beware if her whole squad has that same push. West Morris Mendham of NJ were US #8 indoors, and again are not ones to underestimate. This should be a tough battle, and one of the best races to watch all day.
|Top Teams Breakdown|
|Team||Benjamin Cardozo||Lenape||WM Mendham|
|Meet||New Balance Indoor Nationals||Easterns||Easterns|