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.
Girls Invite Mile
Breakdown: Don't look for a Millrose Mile-style race here, with one athlete dominating the field. Instead, you have a tri-state matchup that looks to highlight the individual races for the girls. Top seed looks to be returning champion Angel Piccirillo of Homer Center PA. Piccirillo won in 4:48.83 last year, but it looks like she will have to find another gear to pull out a win in 2012. Her 4:44 Indoor PR from this year may just be that gear. Looking to challenge Piccirillo is a rematch of the NBIN 800m final, as Mary Cain of Bronxville NY and Ajee' Wilson of Neptune NJ look to challenge for the win. Despite being a sophomore, Mary Cain has run 4:48.9 indoors, with an even more impressive 4:17.2 1500m last years outdoors as a freshmen. Cain recently gave an extensive radio interview, found here, where she outlined her expectations for the spring season. Dropping that 1500m time to the Olympic "B" standard is high on that list, and Penn is the perfect opportunity to run with a high quality field. As for Wilson, who bested Cain at 800m indoors, she comes in with a PB of 4:43.92, which she ran outdoors last year.
Girls Invite 3000
Breakdown: With a softer field for NY'ers in the 3000m, It looks like Virginia has two quality racers who are vying for the lead. Senior Sophie Chase has gone 9:44.5 over the rarely contested event at last years' NBON. Tori Gerlach out of PA went 9:40.79 in the same race at Penn last year, which makes her this years' fastest returner. Also in the mix is Megan Lacy of Cherokee NJ, who has clocked 9:53.39 over 3000 meters. As a sleeper pick, the slowly improving Gianna Frontera of Newburgh Free Academy had a breakout post-season in NY, which led to a 9:59.34 over the 3k distance indoors.
Girls Invite 4x800
Breakdown: In what looks to be the distance relay that signifies Penn Relays, it is USA's finest against Jamaica's fastest. New Balance Indoor National Champs, running #4 All-Time over the distance, Fayetteville-Manlius have chosen a trial by fire by electing to run the 4x800 over the DMR, in which they set the meet record in 2011. In an effort to improve through superior competition, the girls of FM will be facing off against the returning 2011 Penn Relays Champs Edwin Allen of JA. For those who don't remember, Edwin Allen ran an unthinkable 8:39.22 last year. However, Edwin Allen graduated their superstar 2:03 leg Ristananna Tracey, who is now a PUMA sponsored athlete. Two of those 4x8 members return for 2012, with the addition of two more. With the Jamaican National (Outdoor) Boys and Girls Champs being run only a couple of weeks ago, it allows for a brief glance into Jamaica's top talent. The below times are the 4 fastest open times from Edwin Allen, who theoretically will make up the relay at Penn. It demonstrates an opening for the Stotans, and looks to provide the closest race of the meet. Strath Haven PA and Holy Names NY are never to be discounted, as they ran well with FM at NBIN, as well as the unknown factor of the top seeded small school Holmwood Tech of Jamaica. Lenape and Red Bank Catholic are also dangerous, and it looks to be a tight race for all.
UPDATE: Actual Seed Time for Edwin Allen has been released at 8:56.45
|Team||Fayetteville-Manlius||Edwin Allen (JA)|
|Meet||New Balance Indoor Nationals 3/11||Jamaican Boys and Girls Champs 3/31|
|1||Heather Martin - 2:18||Asshani Robb - 2:17.42|
|2||Katie Brislin - 2:11||Sanikee Gardner - 2:16.04|
|3||Jillian Fanning - 2:13||Desreen Montaque - 2:13.16|
|4||Katie Sischo - 2:14||Marleena Eubanks - 2:10.44|
Girls Invite DMR
Breakdown: The girls DMR looks to be an interesting race to predict. Season bests don't foreshadow much, as the top three teams haven't run the event since early season Winter, for one reason or another. The top seed North Shore has directed their attention away from the relay event as senior Samantha Nadel cut her season early to nurse a tightness in her upper calf. However, in Nadel's wake, Brianna Nerud exploded to a stellar post season, as well as some very fast early season outdoor times. Tatnall appears to be North Shore's top competition, as their early season time was right on the backs of North Shore's. Tatnall found success at the Indoor Nationals in the 4xMile, where senior acnhor Haley Pierce solidified the win with a 4:55. That is far off Pierce's 1600m PR, which resides around 4:41. Tatnall also boasts a fast 400m leg, with 59.4 giving Tatnall much needed seconds. And that is what it might come down to, as the two exchange strengths and weaknesses. Where Tatnall makes up seconds in the shorter distances, North Shore makes up for with Nerud's 1200m. That leaves it to a battle in the mile, and the question comes down to essentially how well has Nadel recovered. Nadel went 4:46 to win the Millrose Mile handily, with the reported tightness in her calf to boot. With someone like Tatnall's Haley Pierce pushing her, 4:41 is not unheard of for the Georgetown-bound senior. Right on the outskirts of the top two resides Saratoga Springs, who has seen some travel in their early season. This lead to some impressive times in a 3200m outdoor cross country-style race in North Carolina, where the girls fared quite well, as well as a very strong 20:12.28 4xMile in Florida. What they can do in the DMR is left unknown after their race at Yale, but they should never be counted out. Update: Benjamin Cardozo looks to have a formidable relay as well, as anchor Alexis Panisse continually flirts with sub-4:45. Panisse, with fellow distance runner Sabrina Sutherland, and the always fast Lateisha Philson, look to also be right in the mix.
|Top Teams Breakdown|
|Team||North Shore||Tatnall||Saratoga Springs|
|Meet||Marine Corps Classic 12/27||Yale Track Classic||Yale Track Classic|
|1200||Brianna Nerud - 3:31.9||Rebecca Salter - 3:40.7||Ellery Bianco|
|400||Lea Farrell - 64.1||Lindsay Voltz - 59.4||Taylor Driscoll|
|800||Liz Caldwell - 2:20.0||Reagan Anderson - 2:14.8||Keelin Hollowood|
|1600||Samantha Nadel - 4:47.02||Haley Pierce - 4:48.9||Estella Smith|