Great expectations for Jamaica as Penn Relays gets cracking today

Observer writer

Thursday, April 25, 2019

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PHILADELPHIA, USA – The Jamaican high schools taking part in the 125th Penn Relays Carnival that gets under way at Franklin Field in Philadelphia today will have large footsteps to follow after last year's historic and spectacular performances.

In over 50 years since the first Jamaican school took part in the longest running annual track and field meet in the United States, the last year's performances, including three stunning relay records on the final day by the indefatigable Calabar High teams, raised the bar to an astronomical level.

Just over 40 high school teams, male and female, from Jamaica are down to take part in the three-day event where they will be defending six Championships of Americas Relays titles as well as a handful of individual titles.

In addition to Calabar High winning the boys' 4x100m, 4x400m and 4x800m relays, the girls' events were won by Edwin Allen, Hydel High and Holmwood Technical, respectively.

Today will be busy for the high school girls who will get their campaign going with the prelims in the three relays as well as the finals of the 400m hurdles, the long, triple and high jumps, the discus throw, shot put and javelin events.

After their heroics at the ISSA Championships, a well-rested Hydel High team will be difficult to ignore in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.

Hydel skipped the Carifta Trials that were held a week after the gruelling five days of Champs and nearly a month's rest could see Corey Bennett's charges back to their brilliant best.

Edwin Allen's ace Kevona Davis also skipped the Carifta Games and also missed the relays at Champs, but should be back in action this week to lead her team in their defence of the 4x100m.

Seventeen Jamaican teams will contest the high school girls 4x100m, including former champions St Jago High, Holmwood Technical, Petersfield High and Rusea's High.

Hydel High will lead the 17 contenders in the 4x400m, including Petersfield High, Rusea's High, Holmwood Technical, Edwin Allen High, St Elizabeth Technical, Excelsior High and St Andrew Girls.

The four Jamaican schools that will contest the 4x800m relays are Holmwood Technical, Hydel, St Jago and Edwin Allen.

Newly minted Carifta Games Under-20 400m hurdles champion Shaquena Foote of Petersfield High and runner-up Johnelle Thomas of St Catherine High will hope to start the Carnival off on a good note when they compete at 10.20 am.

Six Jamaicans are down to take part, Holmwood Technical's Danielle Brissett, St Jago's Rosealee Cooper, Lashana Graham of Edwin Allen and Alpha Academy's Shenell Tucker.

Thomas placed ninth last year and Brooke Jaworski of Wausau West in Wisconsin is the favourite to win ahead of Vanessa Watson of Spencerport in New York who was sixth last year.

The high jump could see another battle between Edwin Allen's Janique Burgher, last year's winner and runner-up Lamara Distin who was at Vere Technical then.

Distin, who is at Hydel High, beat Burgher at Champs and went after the National Junior Record 1.88m and it should be an interesting battle between two talented jumpers.

Burgher won at Carifta Games last weekend and Herbert Morrison's Daniella Anglin, who was second in the Cayman Islands and who finished 12th here last year, will hope to improve.

Alpha Academy's Danielle Griffiths, Camperdown's Ramona Hylon and Vere Technical's Annishka McDonald will also compete.

Excelsior's Shantae Foreman, who was third in the high jump last year, is the favourite to win the high jump this time around and will be accompanied by Edwin Allen's Annia Ashle, who was the best-placed Jamaican in third place last year, Rusea's High's Nia Robinson who was sixth, Holmwood Technical's Susan Francis who won back to back ISSA Class 1 gold medal are expected to be part of what could be a competitive event.

Alpha's Aaliyah Lindsay and St Jago High's Dayshanae Hall are also down to take part.

Edwin Allen's Ackelia Smith finished second to teammate Lotavia Brown in the triple jump last year, but is favoured to win today while the defending champion is ranked third with Alissa Braxton of Commack in New York ranked number two.

Rhianna Phipps is also expected to vie for a top-three spot.

Jamaicans have dominated the discus throw the last few years and Rusea's High's Shamella Donaldson, who was sixth last year, is the favourite after her big 50.70m fling at Champs.

Vere Technical's Marie Forbes, Edwin Allen's Kimone Reid and Holmwood Technical's Cedricka Williams, fresh from the Carifta Games, Aliesha Shaw of Rusea's, Excelsior's Adrienne Adams and St Jago's Shania Scott will all line up in the discus.

Immaculate Conception's Danielle Sloley, Rusea's Leonie Samuels and St Elizabeth Technical's Sherene Williams will contest the shot put, while St Catherine High's Ashley Duffus is the only Jamaican in the javelin throw.

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