The Penn Relays are on tap this weekend, and while the focus is on the return of Usain Bolt to Penn and the USA v World events the collegiate competition could be the most exciting with high powered programs from Florida, Oregon, LSU, Florida Sate and Texas A&M on hand.
The whole concept of “USA v World” is great in theory but has not lived up to that billing. For the most part it has been a showcase for US squads as we’ve dominated most of the events over the years. Recently it has become “USA v Jamaica” in the 4x1, but historically neither country has put its best team on the track. Jamaica has had ongoing issues with the MVP track club while the US works too hard at trying to balance our squads. The result is that we don’t get the squads that we would see either country enter at Worlds or the Olympics. So it’s USA v Jamaica, but not at either’s best.
Bringing in Bolt as the headliner should help with the excitement of the 4x1 however – regardless of what group takes the track with him because this year Jamaica will be running two squads as well (Black & Gold) and adopting the US “balance” approach by separating Bolt and Asafa Powell as each will anchor a squad. While I know that that is the US plan (balance) I would really like to see us put our best squad on the track. Right now I think that would be a team of Ivory Williams to Wallace Spearmon to Tyson Gay to Ryan Bailey. Williams has been our best starter indoors and is at 9.95 already. Spearmon looked good in anchoring his team in Texas and a relay veteran. Tyson is fit and a superior turn runner. And Bailey is #2 American on the clock in the 100 and a superb closer – and he and Bolt together on anchor could be a preview of the future. Unfortunately the relay pool doesn’t have either Tyson or Wallace so that grouping won’t happen – and we lose an opportunity to get our best together. Something we can’t afford to keep doing given our recent history in major championships.
Reportedly our pool consists of Darvis Patton, Mike Rodgers, Walter Dix, Travis Padgett, Shawn Crawford, Mark Jelks, Rae Edwards, Ryan Bailey, Ivory Williams and Leroy Dixon so I say we go with Dix and Crawford on the interior and give it a go with a squad of Williams to Dix to Crawford to Bailey. Dix has tremendous acceleration on the straight and Crawford is a turn veteran who is second only to Bolt and Gay. I’m guessing that Bolt will run with a Racers Lions Club squad of Mario Forsythe to Yohan Blake to Marvin Anderson to Bolt. While we could see a pairing of Dwight Thomas to Michael Frater to Nesta Carter with Powell anchoring – pairing together MVP club mates. With the Jamaican squads having some passing history between them we could get a time somewhere in the 37.50 – 37.75 range – taking down the meet record of 37.92, and finally giving Penn a respectable 4x1. So putting the best available in our pool together will be imperative if we are to have a shot at winning this weekend. Balance will not win it for us.
It’s also time to make an assault on the 4x2 record. Tyson Gay (19.58), Wallace Spearmon (19.65), Walter Dix (19.69) and Xavier Carter all have 200 PR’s that say a record attempt is possible. While it’s too late for this year, If we could ever get them together at Penn the WR of 1:18.68 could possibly take a beating. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a really fast 4x2 at Penn, yet the 4x2 was once one of Penn’s hottest events. The meet record of 1:19.11 was a WR when set at Penn in ‘92, and 5 of the 8 fastest times ever were run at Penn. We’re overdue for another big run! Perhaps a squad of Walter Dix, Darvis Patton, Shawn Crawford and Ryan Bailey could get under the 1:20.00 barrier. Patton and Crawford have been there before, and Crawford just keeps churning out 19.8’s every year like clockwork. Dix certainly has the potential. And Bailey is improving rapidly and is the best 200 man available in the pool.
Best Ever 4x2’s
|1:18.68||SMTC (Marsh, Burrell, Heard, Lewis)||Mt SAC||4/17/94|
|1:19.10||World All Stars (Drummond, Mitchell, Bridgewater, Regis)||Mt SAC||4/17/94|
|1:19.11||SMTC (Marsh, Burrell, Heard, Lewis)||Penn||4/25/92|
|1:19.16||USA Red (Crawford, Clay, Patton, Gatlin)||Penn||4/26/03|
|1:19.38||SMTC (Everett, Burrell, Heard, Lewis)||Koblenz||8/23/89|
|1:19.39||USA Blue (Drummond, Crawford, B. Williams, Greene)||Penn||4/28/01|
|1:19.45||SMTC (Deloach, Burrell, Lewis, Heard)||Penn||4/27/91|
|1:19.47||Nike (Brokenburr, A. Harrison, Greene, M. Johnson)||Penn||4/24/99|
Since I’m talking about things I would like to see at Penn, I would also like to see an invitational 100 and mile – the 100 could even be a 100 “yard” dash to make it different and exciting. These are two of the biggest headline events at any meet and bringing in stellar fields in both would certainly help to spice things up.
This year, though, I think the spice just might come from the colleges. Florida’s men’s team has already entered the all time top 10 collegiate lists in the 4x2 (1:20.38, =9th) & 4x4 (3:00.31, 8th), and last week had an “A” 4x1 run 39.06 while the “B” team went 39.31! Florida is a threat to go under 39.00, 1:20.00 AND 3:00.00 this weekend, weather permitting. The Penn Records are 38.68 (TCU, ‘01), 1:19.67 (TCU,’00), 3:01.10 (Florida, ‘04) – the 4x2 mark also being the national college record.
On the women’s side Texas A&M has last year’s collegiate record setting 4x1 foursome back and healthy. They’re a threat to run better than their 42.36 mark at some point this year. And given that the squad ran 1:30.28 last year in the 4x2, there is the possibility of a sub 1:30.00 run by this group – the collegiate record is 1:29.78 by LSU.
Throw in squads from schools like Texas A&M, Baylor, LSU, Florida State, and TCU and the college events should be both fast and deep. Including the distance oriented relays. Last year Tennessee’s women went nuts with a CR & AR of 8:17.91 in the 4x800 and a WR of 17:08.34 in the 4x1500! So as usual there will be much to cheer about when Penn opens the gates. Should be another stellar event.