LSU won the women's 4x100 and 4x200 at the 2004 Penn Relays, and a month later every member of those teams graduated.
The Lady Tigers, the winningest women's team in the history of the Penn Relays, returns in 2005 with a new head coach, Dennis Shaver, and with a roster filled with new, talented freshmen.
LSU has won either the 4x1 or 4x2 every year since 1993. It has been 15 years since the Tigers came away from the Relays without watches.
Coach Bev Kearney's Texas Longhorns return to Penn after a one-year absence, expecting to contend in all of the sprint relays.
They swept the 4x1 (43.25), 4x2 (1:31.97) and 4x4 (3:31.29) at their own Texas Relays early this month. With the departure of superstar Sanya Richards, they are led by homegrown sophomores Jerrika Chapple and Marshevet Hooker and junior Ashlee Williams.
Richards, who anchored the winning 4x4 here for Texas in 2003 as a freshman, turned professional after the 2004 season. She won a gold medal as a member of the U.S. 4x400 team in last summer's Olympic Games.
Hooker was 3rd in last year's NCAA 100 as a freshman, Williams 3rd in the 200 and Chapple 9th in the 400. Another member of the Longhorns' 4x4 is newcomer Melaine Walker, who ran at the Penn Relays for 2 years as a member of the Essex County (N.J.) team and before that as a Jamaican prep.
The other top contenders in the sprint relays are South Carolina, Tennessee and Miami. Coach Curtis Frye has added three outstanding freshman -- Shalonda Solomon, Amberly Nesbitt and Natasha Hastings -- to South Carolina's stable of great veteran sprinters, such as Erica Whipple, Alexis Joyce, Khalilah Carpenter along with 400 standouts Shevon Stoddart, Tiffany Ross-Williams and Stephanie Smith.
Solomon and Hastings, running here for the first time as Lady Gamecocks, are no strangers to the Penn Relays.
Solomon anchored two teams from Long Beach Poly to national high school records, in the 4x4 in 2003 and the 4x1 in 2004, despite losing last year's 4x1 to Vere Tech of Jamaica.
Hastings ran here on outstanding 4x400 teams from A.P. Randolph in New York City, including the only New York team to ever break 3:40.
Last summer Hastings teamed up with Smith to help the U.S. win the World Juniors 4x400 championship, setting a World Junior record in the process, while Solomon anchored the winning 4x1 in that meet.
Solomon also won the World Championship in the 200 (22.82), Hastings the 400 (52.04).
At this year's NCAA indoor, Smith and Stoddart both made the 400 final, Solomon and Whipple the 200 final, while Carolina took the 4x4 championship there in 3:30.01.
Last summer Stoddart, a native of Uniondale, N.Y., also represented her native Jamaica in the Olympic Games, in the 400 hurdles.
Coach J.J. Clark's Tennessee Volunteers, though heavily laden with freshmen, was surprise winner of last month's NCAA indoor team championship, led by sprinters Courtney Champion, LaTonya Loche, Cleo Tyson and Tianna Madison. All are freshmen but Madison, who is a sophomore. The Vols beat South Carolina in the Florida Relays 4x2 last month, 1:31.83-1:32.62.
At this month's SeaRay Relays, however, South Carolina swept the 4x1 and 4x2, in 43.82/1:31.64, events not contested by the host Volunteers.
Tennessee was 2nd to South Carolina in the NCAA indoor 4x4, running 3:31.76 with three freshmen.
The Vols won three events at last year's Relays -- the sprint medley relay, where they set a collegiate record; the 4x8, and the DMR -- their first victories at Penn in 10 years.
South Carolina is defending champion in the 4x4, an event the Gamecocks have won 4 of the last 5 years.
One of the challenges in that event is sure to come from Miami, led by quartermilers Wiande Moore, Ginou Etienne and Charlette Greggs and intermediate hurdler Dominique Darden, daughter of former Norristown (Pa.) star Tony Darden.
Miami's star sprinter, Lauryn Williams, who won the silver medal in last summer's Olympic 100, graduated early and turned professional.
Miami has never won a championship, men or women, at the Relays. They were 3rd a year ago in the women's 4x1 and 4x4, losing to LSU and South Carolina in both. At a home meet April 16, they ran 43.76 in the 4x1.
To repeat in the distance relays, Tennessee may have to do without the services of its star halfmiler, Nicole Cook, who has been injured. Cook anchored the winning 4x8 a year ago.
In Tennessee's absence, the 4x8 could be between Arkansas and a surprising Ivy League entry, Cornell.
Arkansas, anchored by the NCAA indoor 800 champion, Jamaican senior Aneita Denton, soundly defeated Stanford at the Texas Relays, 8:38.03-8:45.48.
At the recent SeaRay Relays, Cornell, led by 2:06 halfmilers Morgan Uceny and Jessica Brown, ran 8:38.21. (Tennessee ran 8:59.)
No Ivy League women's squad has ever won a Penn Relays championship. The last men's team to do so was the Penn shuttle hurdle relay team in 1974. The last victory by Cornell was in the men's 4x2 in 1956.
Brooke Novak and Cook return from last year's winning DMR. Challenging the Vols will be this year's NCAA indoor runnersup, Villanova; Stanford, North Carolina, Georgetown and Duke.
Duke is anchored by the indoor mile runner-up, Shannon Rowbury, while Villanova is anchored by Marina Muncan, who ran 4:13 in the 1,500 last year.
Villanova has not won a women's race at the Relays since 2000. The Lady Wildcats won the DMR eight times in the '80s and '90s.
The Stanford women won their first Penn Relays championship last year, in the 4x1500.
Duke's lone Penn Relays championships have been in the men's 4xmile in 1972 and the men's 4x1 in 1941.
Stanford returns with a strong entry in the 4x15, including three from last year's squad -- Katy Trotter, Sara Bei and Ari Lambie. They will be joined by Katy's twin sister, Amanda, both of whom ran on the winning DMR for Red Bank Regional H.S. (N.J.) in 2003. Lambie was high school mile winner and recordsetter here the same year.
They will be challenged by strong squads from North Carolina, Duke and Villanova. North Carolina is anchored by Erin Donohue, high school mile winner here in 2001 for Haddonfield Memorial H.S. (N.J.). Donohue was also a member of three winning Tarheel squads in 2002 and 2003.
In the SMR, Arkansas does not have an entry, leaving the race open to Tennessee, California and LSU.
Coach Chris Huffins's Cal Bears are anchored by a 2:05 halfmiler, Chloe Jarvis. California, one of the nation's legendary track and field programs, has never won a Penn Relays championship.
LSU's entry includes two of Coach Shaver's outstanding freshmen, Kelly Ann Baptiste and Deonna Lawrence. Baptiste led off Trinidad's 4x100 team at the Athens Olympics as a 17-year-old, and ran 11.04w in the Texas Relays 100.
Lawrence, a California prep a year ago, was a member of the World Juniors gold medal 4x4 team last summer.
In the short relays for LSU, Baptiste will be joined by another outstanding freshman, Ashley Owens, a Coloradan who was the nation's leading high school sprinter last year.
LSU's anchor in the SMR will be Tanya Osbourne.
South Carolina is favored in the shuttle hurdles. The Lady Gamecocks ran 54.00, oe of the fastest times ever, in the SeaRay Relays earlier this month. The team is comprised of Ronnetta Alexander, Chiquita Martin, Stoddart and Ross-Williams.
~Written by Jack Pfeifer