PHILADELPHIA - Oregon’s powerhouse women’s sprint squad returns to the Penn Relays the last weekend of April, searching for more gold. They won three Championships of America a year ago and have entered the same events this year – the 4x100, 4x400 and sprint medley relay.
It’s already been a stellar season for them, as they have broken four collegiate records in the young season – the 4x1 twice, the 4x2 and the individual 800, by Raevyn Rogers, the reigning national champion in the event.
Oregon won last year’s 4x1 in 43.44 with the team of Danielle Barbian, Deajah Stevens, Hannah Cunliffe and Ariana Washington. With the exception of freshman Makenzie Dunmore’s replacing Barbian on leadoff, their lineup remains the same for 2017. And what a lineup it is – Cunliffe won the NCAA indoor 60 and last year’s Pac-12 100; Washington is merely double 100/200 NCAA outdoor champion, and Stevens is currently collegiate leader in both sprints (11.00/22.31) and made the Olympic team last summer in the deuce.
That group broke the collegiate record in the 4x1 at this year’s Florida Relays, by .02, running 42.34, then did it again at Mt. SAC, running 42.12. (They needed every inch of that, as LSU was 2nd at 42.14, also under the old record.) The Relays meet record is 42.59, by LSU in 2008, and the Franklin Field record 42.19, by Team USA in 2012.
The Ducks also set the collegiate mark at Florida in the 4x2, 1:28.78, an event they are not contesting at Penn.
In the 4x4, they also have the year’s leading collegiate mark, 3:26.07, one second off the Relays record of 3:25.05 set three years ago by Texas.
Rogers ran 1:59.10 at Mt. SAC to break Suzy Favor Hamilton’s longstanding collegiate record in the 800 by .01. She is expected to anchor both the 4x4 and SMR for Oregon.
The wealth is being spread evenly in the Ducks’ expected lineups, with Cunliffe (4x1, SMR), Washington (4x1, SMR), Stevens (4x1, SMR), Dunmore (4x1, 4x4) and Rogers (4x4, SMR) each penciled in for two events. The rest of the 4x4 squad is listed as Hannah Waller and Elexis Guster.
Oregon is also entered in the women’s 4x15. No team, men’s or women’s, has ever won the 4x1 and 4x15 at the same Relays, and just three women’s teams have won four watches in the same year – South Carolina (2005), Texas (1989) and LSU (2003, 2008).
There will be challengers, both from domestic and Jamaican teams.
From Jamaica there is UTech, G.C. Foster and MICO.
UTech won the 4x2 in 2015 and finished 2nd to Tennessee last year. Running third leg on the 2015 team was none other than Elaine Thompson, double Olympic sprint champion in Rio last summer. The Jamaican school also won the 4x4 in 2010 and ’11 and finished 2nd in ’13 and ’15. They were 3rd in the 4x1 in 2013. Their 4x4 squad this year is led by Junelle Bromfield (51.74 best). UTech also won the SMR in 2014.
G.C. Foster is entered in the 4x2 and 4x4, They were 4th in the 4x1 in 2015.
MICO has one of the top teams in this year’s SMR, anchored by 2:03 half miler Samantha James.
The leading domestic teams in the short relays include Auburn (43.94 this year), led by the Jamaican Jonielle Smith (11.08w); San Diego State (44.03), led by Ashley Henderson (10.96w); Houston (44.23), and Oklahoma (44.35).
In the SMR, others to watch include Penn State, anchored by freshman Danae Rivers (2:04 best); Clemson, with Ersula Farrow (2:04), and Middle Tennessee, with Agnes Abu (2:02).
The collegiate record in the sprint medley is 3:41.78, set at the Relays by Tennessee 13 years ago. Oregon’s individual times show that this mark is within their reach.
In the 4x4, challengers include South Carolina, Stanford and Duke. Oregon finished 2nd in the event to Texas A&M in 2012; defeated A&M and UTech a year later in setting a meet record, then lost in ’14 to Texas as the Longhorns took back the meet record.
Florida State is the defending champion in the shuttle hurdle relay. Top seeds for 2017 are South Carolina and San Diego State. San Diego has never won a Relays championship. Although it has two sub-13-second hurdlers, Oregon is not contesting the event.