J'cans ready to leave mark on PennsThursday, April 23, 2015
BY HOWARD WALKER Observer senior reporter
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania -- A myriad of Jamaican teams and fans are expecting to make their presence felt as the 121st staging of the prestigious Penn Relays runs off today here at Franklin Field on the University of Pennsylvania campus.
Action is set to start at 10.00 am (9:00 am Jamaican time) with the College Women's 400-metre hurdles Championship in which Janieve Russell of University of Technology (UTech), Rushell Clayton of University of the West Indies (UWI) and GC Foster College's Ronda Whyte are set to be the first Jamaicans on the track.
Jamaican high schools, universities and track and field clubs are among the more than 22,000 entrants from 60 countries that will compete at the Relay Carnival that will be completed on Saturday.
The meet, which actually started on Tuesday with the College Men's Decathlon and Women's Heptathlon, saw Austin Jamerson of Cornell University leading the decathlon while Latesha Bigby of Northern Illinois is ahead in the heptathlon. No Jamaican schools are involved.
But they are expected to be unleashed today where they will start the defence of the eight Championship of America titles as well as the Olympic Development Women USA versus the World 4x100m crown won last year.
The University of Technology (UTech) had three victories in the Men's 4x100m (38.71 seconds) and 4x200m (1:20.07 minute) while their females took the Sprint Medley in 3:47.14 minutes. Edwin Allen Girls were double winners, capturing the 4x100m and 4x400m relays in 44.70 seconds and 3:34.76 minutes, respectively.
Jamaica College (JC) are the 4x100m champions, while St Jago High will defend their 4x400 crown. Calabar High are the 4x800m champions. All three will be hard pressed to retain their championship plaques.
Jamaicans also won seven individual events as Jaheel Hyde of Wolmer's Boys and Andrennette Knight of Vere Technical, now at St Jago, won the 400m hurdles. Christoffe Bryan won the boys' high jump for Wolmer's, as did Krista-Gay Taylor of Alpha Convent of Mercy in the girls' equivalent. Clayton Brown of JC was the triple jump champion, while the Edwin Allen pair of Claudette Allen and Rochelle Fraser took the long jump and discus titles, respectively.
This year, the high school relays will once again take the spotlight, but Boys Championships winners Calabar High received two major setbacks. Star runner Michael O'Hara, who was expected to lead the charges in the 4x100 and 4x400m relays, is barred from competing for the school at the event.
Edward Clarke is also not eligible after exhausting his four-year limit at Penn Relays, severely hampering the C'Bar 4x100 team that clocked a record 39.08 seconds last month. The Michael Clarke-coached boys from Red Hills Road clocked a record 3:06.76 in the 4x400m without O'Hara, who had a 45.74 seconds relay split last year, and will have to do it once again without their talisman and captain.
JC will be defending their 4x100m title, having established the meet record of 39.72 last year, and could very well be successful in doing so, having run 39.79 this season. But with Wasim Williams injured, it will be a tall order. St Jago High with a sub-40 clocking this season of 39.80 seconds, will be in the thick of things, while Kingston College (KC), providing their top runners are fit, could surprise with rising quarter-miler Akeem Bloomfield on anchor, having run 40.40.
The 4x400m relay will be equally intriguing with Calabar, KC, St Jago and St Elizabeth Technical all in with a decent chance. Calabar (3:06.76) held off KC (3:08.40) without Bloomfield, and his coach Neil Harrison believes his team with a rested Twayne Crooks can go very fast. Both Calabar and KC have dipped below the existing Penn Relay record of 3:08.72 minutes. St Jago with Nathon Allen, Martin Manley and Ivan Henry should improve on their 3:09.71 clocking. What an intriguing race the 4x400m is shaping up to be!
KC, who broke the 4x800m record at the Gibson McCook Relays in February, will start as favourites to dethrone Calabar, but will have to be aware of St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS). KC with the likes of Crooks, Delano Rochester, Chad Miller and Miguel Morrison could improve on their 7:33.87- minute clocking, while STETHS, who did 7:34.78 minutes, will be right there at the death, and so too Holmwood Technical. Calabar cannot for one moment be taken lightly.
Meanwhile, the Edwin Allen girls could very well successfully defend their 4x100m and 4x400m titles, but will have to be at their very best to hold off a determined St Jago outfit that will enter both races as favourites.
St Jago's Knight will be chasing her second 4x400m championship, having won her first in 2013 while representing Vere. She will team with Natalliah Whyte, Shanice Reid and Genekee Leith. That combination has registered the fastest time this year of 3:35.78 minutes.
Vere will be dangerous contenders with the likes of Derriann Hill, who was on that winning team with Knight, Renee Medley, Shanice Clarke and young Shanique Walker. Head coach John Mair is quietly confident.
UTech, who boast a win over the Racers Club with Usain Bolt on anchor, have been showing good form and should retain their 4x100 championship with the likes of Julian Forte, Andrew Fisher, Kemarley Brown and Tyquendo Tracey. UTech will enter with the world-leading time of 38.23 done at the Gibson McCook Relay in February. That time is also below the Penn Relays record of 38.68 seconds, set in 2001 by Texas Christian University (TCU).
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