Everything about the Penn Relays is huge – from the crowd, the numbers of athletes, to the tradition. The 118th Penn Relays features 33 hours of competition and an average of one race every five minutes.
Here is a closer look at 10 of the top high school storylines this week at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field.
The Boys Distance Medley Relay: This has the makings of a classic, with two sensational New Jersey teams going at it. Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft, N.J.), the consummate team (2011 NXN champion), led by senior George Kelly, is trying to become the first U.S. repeat champion since Bishop Loughlin’s four-year run from 1949-52. Meanwhile, St. Benedict’s has Foot Locker champion Edward Cheserek on the anchor leg, a prospect that throws CBA’s title defense into serious doubt. St. Benedict’s won the New Balance National Indoor title, with Cheserek going 4:07.4 on the anchor. A third New Jersey team, Piscataway, could be a factor with Tim Ball on the anchor leg.
The Girls Mile: On the face of it, Olympic Trials hopefuls Ajee Wilson of Nepture, N.J. and Mary Cain of Bronxvile, N.Y., are the headliners. They faced one another in the 800 meters at New Balance Nationals Indoor, with Wilson taking the title. Wilson ran 2:05.28 for 800 meters last week at Princeton. Cain is the sophomore class record holder in the indoor 1,500 and is coming in off a 2:05.90 800 meters at the New York Relays. But the homestate girl, Angel Piccirillo of Homer Center, cannot be overlooked. She is a two-time defending champion in this event and will do all she can to defend her turf. This fast lineup also includes Kelsey Margey of Friends Academy (N.Y.), a future teammate of Piccirillo’s.
The Boys Mile: This one could be a blockbuster, too. Cabell Midland (Ona, W.V.) standout Jacob Burcham is the top returnee after placing third last year as a sophomore. But this race could have everything to do with closing speed, and Ben Malone of Pascack Valley (Hillsdale, N.J.) and Drew Magaha of Upper Moreland (Willow Grove, Pa.) have shown raw speed. Malone ran 1:49.94 to win the NB Nationals Indoor title. Magaha is the hottest runner in the country right now, coming in off a 1:48.82 last week. How sweet would a win at Penn be for him? Magaha is a University of Pennsylvania recruit and Franklin Field is about to become home. Also, Millrose and U.S. Open champ Zavon Watkins (Liverpool, N.Y.) could be in the mix when the big push begins.
Boys 4x800 relay: Can Chariho (Wood River Junction, R.I.) or Boys and Girls (Brooklyn, N.Y.) win another big championship? One of the biggest surprises of New Balance Nationals Indoor was Chariho, which won the 4xMile. B&G, meanwhile, won the 4x800 national indoor title. Challenges will come from Cabell Midland (W.V.), Pennridge (Perkasie, Pa.) and Jamaica’s Holmwood Tech.
Girls Distance Medley Relay: Two of the top distance programs in the U.S. go head-to-head with lineups chocked full of Division I talent. The Tatnall School (Wilmington, Del.) boasts Haley Pierce, the reigning Penn Relays 3,000 champ, and talented junior Reagan Anderson. North Shore counters with the one-two punch of Samantha Nadel, coming back from an injury, and Brianna Nerud.
Girls 4x100 relay: Defending champion Long Beach Poly (Calif.) is the only U.S. school to break the Jamaican hold on this event going back to 1982. Poly also won in 1995 and 2003. If there is another U.S. contender, it may be Wakefield (N.C.), which has senior anchor Ariah Graham and owns the US#1 4x200 (1:35.98).
Girls 4x800 relay: The reigning DMR champions, Fayetteville-Manlius is pushing its chips into the event it won at New Balance Nationals Indoor. The quartet of Katie Sischo, Jillian Fanning, Heather Martin, and Katie Breslin ran 8:58.18 at the Armory in March.
The 4x400s: There are hour upon hour of 4x4s, a spectacle unto itself. The girls from Vere Tech in Jamaica have won the event 10 times but could be pressed by U.S. teams from Wakefield, N.C. and Long Beach Poly (Calif). The boys event could be dominated by Jamaica yet again. Munro College has run 3:12.32 this season already. Calabar won the Jamaican championships with 3:10.19. Boys and Girls (N.Y.) and St. Peter’s (N.J.), featuring Najee Glass, are the top U.S. contenders.
Boys 3,000: This event doesn’t have a lot of marquee names, but there is an opportunity here for someone to seize a big moment. Adam Visokay of Albemarle, Va. has run 9:00.06 indoors for two miles and will face competition from Connor Rog (Ct.), Sam Parsons (Del.), Tom Awad (N.Y.) and Eric Holt (N.Y.).
Boys Shot Put: For four years in a row, Nick Vena won the boys shot put for New Jersey’s Morristown High School. This year, Vena will vie for his first college title at Penn (against the likes of Ryan Crouser), opening the door to a new high school champ. Braheme Days of Bridgetown, N.J. threw 70-8 indoors, won the national indoor title, and looks like the heir apparent to the Penn title.