by Jack Pfeifer
There are a lot of contenders for the Championship of America in this year’s boys 4x400 at Penn Relays – teams from Jamaica, Jersey, Philly, D.C. and, in a new twist, New York City.
That team is Transit Tech, of East New York, which is actually a neighborhood of Brooklyn. Transit was the fastest team in the country this indoor season, running 3:15.72, one of the fastest times ever indoors. They won the National Scholastic 4x2 and 4x4.
What’s unusual is that a team from NYC hasn’t won the boys’ 4x4 at Penn in 34 years, so long ago that in 1972, when Boys ran 3:15.2, the race wasn’t a 4x400, and Boys High, well, didn’t have girls. (Of course, it was the mile relay then, and Boys is now Boys & Girls, of Brooklyn.)
It wasn’t always this way. New York teams used to dominate the event. From 1944 to 1959, teams from the Empire State won the mile relay 15 times, missing only 1952. Bishop Loughlin of Brooklyn won it 4 times, Boys 3, plus victories by Cardinal Hayes, St. Augustine’s, Mt. St. Michael, St. Francis Prep, Andrew Jackson, DeWitt Clinton, and suburban New Rochelle.
The 1972 Boys team had Andre Sherrill, Waymond Carey, Royd Lake, and a 1:51 halfmiler, Bill Dabney. They also won the 440 relay that year, in 41.8. (St. Joseph’s of Buffalo swept the 4x8 and DMR, giving the state all four championships.)
The last New York state team to win the 4x4 at Penn was Uniondale, a Long Island school, in 1982.
Transit is led by Clemore Henry, who has run 47.68.
The 2nd-place team indoors behind Transit was DeMatha Catholic, a Maryland team in the Washington suburbs, in 3:17.14. Earlier in the season DeMatha ran 3:16.39 to set a national Catholic record, matching their achievement a year ago at Penn when they claimed the outdoor version of that record, running 3:12.40 for 3rd place in a spectacular race that saw Wolmer’s (3:12.07), Long Beach Poly (3:12.35) and DeMatha finish a few feet apart. It was the first win ever in the event at the Relays for Wolmer’s, of Jamaica.
It’s also been a long time since a Catholic school won the mile relay at the Relays – and the answer intersects with the earlier history here, because it was a New York City Catholic school, St. Francis Prep of Brooklyn, 48 years ago. The Terriers ran 3:17.5 April 26, 1958. It was the first time a team had broken 3:20 at Penn, and established a national high school record, the last time the boys’ mile relay record was set at the Relays. (The team was Frank Hegarty 50.5, Joe Armstead 48.7, Doug Tynan 48.7 and Les Pinder 49.6.)
St. Francis is no longer boys-only, and no longer in Brooklyn. The school has since moved to another New York City borough, Queens.
(The record St. Francis broke that day was 3:17.9 by Lee, of Baytown, Tex., from 1955. The St. Francis mark lasted less than a year, because Andrews, Tex., ran 3:16.4 the following spring.)
Jamaican teams have dominated the event in recent years, and this season could be no exception to that. In a controversial finish, Camperdown won this year’s Boys’ Champs in 3:11, with St. Jago, anchored by the brilliant 16-year-old newcomer Yohan Blake, close behind. Kingston College had finished between those two teams, but KC was disqualified after its anchor runner impeded Blake on the final straightaway.
KC is led by Leford Green, who won the Champs 400 in 45.82 and also finished 2nd in the IH in 50.81.
Holmwood Tech, Ardenne, Wolmer’s and Jamaica College also have broken 3:20.
Other domestic contenders could include Old Bridge, N.J., and Simon Gratz, of Philadelphia, both of which broke 3:20 indoors.
California high schools are not attending the Relays this year.
Camperdown also won the Champs 4x1, running a meet-record 40.37, breaking Jamaica College’s 4-year-old record of 40.46. C’down went 1-2 in the 100 with Remaldo Rose (10.30) and Kimour Bruce (10.55). Blake set a meet record of 10.34 in the Class II 100 for Jago, which ran 40.96 for 3rd. KC was 2nd, in 40.91.
There’s also Calabar, which set records in Class II (41.24) and Class III (43.61) as well as finishing 4th in Class I (41.11). In addition, Wolmer’s has run 41.23, Holmwood Tech 41.37, Jamaica College 41.38 and St. George’s 41.54.
It’s difficult to gauge domestic contenders in this event, but Deep Creek (Chesapeake, Va.) has an early-season 41.63.
The 4x8 and DMR have plenty of contenders.
In the 4x8, Jamaica brings 3 excellent teams, Holmwood Tech, Claude McKay (7:47.56) and St. Jago. Holmwood is led by Stafford McFarlane (1:51.63) and Melvin Weller (1:53.58).
Domestically, the lone sub-7:50 team this year has been Warwick Valley, N.Y., winner of the National Scholastic Indoor in 7:48.42. Warwick is led by Michael Mark, who has a 1:51.5 relay carry.
Other sub-7:55 teams include Pleasantville, N.J. (7:52.77), Shaker (Latham, N.Y.), 7:52.63; Fordham Prep (Bronx, N.Y.), 7:51.16 in finishing 2nd to Warwick Valley, and North Penn, 7:53.52. Shaker was runnerup a year ago.
In the DMR, Xaverian Brothers of Westwood, Mass., will try to give the Bay State victories two years in succession. When Newton North won a year ago, it was the first relay victory at Penn by a Massachusetts school since Rindge Tech won the mile relay in 1952. Xaverian is led by 4:11 miler Mark Amirault, runnerup in this year’s Millrose mile.
The other leading contenders are Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (10:09.37), winner of last fall’s national cross country championship; Monsignor Farrell (Staten Island, N.Y.), 10:14.99, winner of the Arcadia Invitational in California; Ridgewood, N.J. (10:18.57), anchored by 4:14 miler Byron Williams; Fayetteville-Manlius, N.Y., and CBA (Lincroft, N.J.), 10:21.19. Guilderland N.Y. will be anchored by 4:13 miler Brian Rhodes-Devy.
The mile favorite is Dan McManamon (Shenendehowa, Clifton Park, N.Y.), who ran 4:10.72 indoors and won Millrose and National Scholastic. His leading challengers include Sandy Roberts (Broughton, Raleigh, N.C.), who ran 4:08.7 for 1,600 meters last year; Craig Miller (Manheim Twp, Lancaster Pa.), 4:07.19 in 2005; Anthony LaMastro, a 1:53 halfmiler from Pope John XXIII (Sparta, N.J.), and Andrew Perkins (Watertown, Wis.), who set a national freshman record last year of 4:15.07.
A Wisconsin runner has won the boys mile at the Relays: Gabe Jennings, who attended Madison East H.S., won in 1996 and 1997.
Craig Forys (Colts Neck, N.J.) is a heavy favorite in the 3,000. Forys, a junior, ran 4:09 indoors in the mile this winter and had several 1,600-meter splits under 4:06. Also in the race are Jeff Perrella (Westfield, N.J.), 3rd last year, and Matt Centrowitz (Broadneck, Annapolis, Md.), whose namesake father Matt Sr. ran at the Relays in the 1970s for Power Memorial, N.Y.C.
Two Jamaican runners are the favorites in the 400 hurdles. Josef Robertson of Wolmer’s broke the meet record in winning this year’s Boys Champs in 50.24, with KC’s Green close behind. Also in the field is one of the nation’s finest high hurdlers, Carrington Queen (Chichester, Pa.), who has run 13.72 in the highs.
Michael Morrison (Great Bridge, Chesapeake Va) is the favorite in what may be the best pole vault field ever assembled for the Relays. Morrison has cleared 17-0, a foot above the Carnival record of 16-0 ½. It makes him the 2nd Great Bridge 17-footer, in the footsteps of Lawrence Johnson, who won the Penn high school championship in 1992.
Casey DiCesare (Irvington, N.Y.), last year’s runnerup, has gone 16-5, Josh Dominguez (Ponchatoula, La.) 16-3 and Casey’s twin brother, Scott, 15-6.
The long jump should be between Jamaicans Alain Bailey of KC and Julian Reid of Wolmer’s. Bailey, a 25-foot jumper, was upset by Reid at the Boys Champs.
In the TJ are two more Jamaican jumpers, Robert Peddlar of Wolmer’s and Nicholas Gordon of Calabar. Peddlar has gone 49-4 ¼, Gordon 48-5 ½.
In the throws, Josh Hostetler (Selinsgrove, Pa) has the leading javelin throw, 205-11, and Sharif Small of Jamaica College tops the discus field, 166-9.
One high school competitor, Walter Henning of St. Anthony’s (Long Island, N.Y.), will be competing in the Open division. Henning will compete in the hammer throw, for which there is no high school section. Henning, a junior, has already set numerous records in the event. He has thrown the 12-pound hammer 237-5 and the 16-pound, which he will throw here, 180-9. Seven years ago under identical circumstances, Jake Freeman, a Rhode Island schoolboy, competed in the Relays Open hammer and threw it 216-2, setting a national record that still stands.
Freeman, who has since matriculated at Manhattan College, will be in the field this year as well.