2017 Penn Relays Preview #5/High School Relays

The boys’ squad from legendary Calabar High School arrives at this year’s Penn Relays with a record-setting performance at the Jamaican Champs earlier this month, hoping to pick up victories in the hotly contested 4x100 and 4x400 relays when the meet gets under way later this week at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.

Calabar won Champs in 39.43 and 3:08.76 with an imposing lineup that includes Christopher Taylor (10.55, 20.59, 45.27), Anthony Carpenter (46.53) and Michael Stephens (10.44, 20.93). If it wins the 4x4 on Saturday, it would become the winningest school in Relays history in the Boys 4x400, with eight victories, vaulting it past Bishop Loughlin (Brooklyn, N.Y.). Loughlin’s last win in the event, in 1949, came a quarter century before Calabar’s first, in 1976.

At the other end of the spectrum is Hydel, a Jamaican school with an outstanding girls’ squad this year and winner of the Champs 4x4 in 3:35.15, defeating such traditional powers as Holmwood Tech (3:36.60), St. Jago (3:36.47), Vere Tech (3:40.29) and Edwin Allen (3:42.38). Hydel has never won a Championship race at Penn.

There are some solid American challengers in the high school sprint relays this year, including The Bullis School (Potomac, Md.), Union Catholic Regional (Scotch Plains, N.J.), Nansemond River (Suffolk, Va.), Western Branch (Chesapeake, Va.) and East Orange Campus (N.J.).
The Union Catholic girls’ team features the intermediate hurdler Sydney McLaughlin, who made the U.S. Olympic team last summer at age 16. She is bypassing the IH at the Relays to focus on the 4x4.

In the high school 4x800s, the Jamaican squads appear especially strong this year, led by St. Jago and Jamaica College for the boys and Edwin Allen and Holmwood Tech for the girls. The DMR favorites are the Patriot HS girls (Nokesville, Va.) and the Bellarmine Prep (San Jose, Calif.) boys. In the event’s 97-year history, no team from California has ever won the Boys DMR.

BOYS
4x100

Calabar’s Champs winning time of 39.43 is two-tenths faster than the Relays record of 39.63, equaled a year ago by Kingston College. Calabar’s stable for this race includes Stephens, Taylor, Xavier Angus (10.51), Rosean Young (10.68), Chadwick Stewart (10.69) and Collin Anderson (10.70). They have won the 4x1 at the Relays six times, two fewer than KC, its last win coming two years ago when it set the MR. (JC’s record of 39.72 in ’14 lasted just one season.) Calabar’s victory in 2015 was sandwiched between two second-place finishes when they broke 40 seconds yet lost, 39.89 a year ago to KC and 39.85 in ’14 to JC, the fastest losing time ever at Penn.

Calabar ran away with the championship at Champs, finishing far ahead of KC (40.07), JC (40.20) and Wolmer’s (40.68). KC, which has a seasonal best of 39.90, returns the 3rd and 4th runners from last year’s championship team, Jhevaughn Matherson (10.25, 20.66) and Tyreke Bryan (10.87, 21.12w), along with Carey McLeod (10.65) and Yashawn Hamilton (10.75).

Jamaica College, whose win in 2014 was its first in the 4x1 in 30 years, has Delano Dunkley (10.52, 21.30), Michali Everett (10.66, 21.44), Chislon Gordon (10.77) and Ryiem Robertson (21.42w).

No U.S. boys squad from the Northeast has broken 42 seconds yet this year, thanks in part to the cold, wet spring. The fastest time coming in is 42.04, by Western Branch, which won last month’s national high school indoor 4x2, in 1:26.96. WB is led by Micaiah Harris, who ran 20.77 in the 200 last summer and ran for the U.S. in the World Juniors, and Jahkwan Blackley (10.77w).   

Close behind in that indoor 4x2 was Bullis, an all-underclassman team that features three brothers, Ashton, Austin and Eric Allen, along with Bryce Watson. Eric Allen, a junior, ran 21.33 indoors this winter; Austin, a sophomore, ran 22.39, and Ashton, a freshman, has already run 21.83w outdoors. Watson, a junior, ran 6.50 indoors for 55m. Bullis ran 1:27.17 in the 4x2 and has run 42.67 so far outdoors in the 4x1.
Other domestic schools in the picture include Imhotep (1:27.55i), of Philadelphia; Phoebus, Va. (1:27.74i); Wilde Lake, Md. (42.64), and Seton Hall Prep, N.J. (42.75).

In addition to the fine Jamaican squads – there are 24 Jamaican entries in this year’s boys’ 4x1 – there are teams from the Caribbean and Africa, including La Rochelle, from South Africa; Grootfontein Agricultural, from Namibia; St. Vincent Grammar and Thomas Saunders, from St. Vincent; St. Croix Education, from the Virgin Islands; Christ Church, from Barbados; Fort Wellington, of Guyana; Clement Howell, from the Turks & Caicos; Fatima and the Queen’s Royal College, from Trinidad, and North Andros, Tabernacle, Bishop Eldon, St. Augustine’s and St. John’s, from the Bahamas. Performances for these teams for the 2017 season are not available.

From Jamaica, in addition to Calabar, Jamaica College and Kingston College, there are outstanding entries from St. Jago (2017 best of 40.41), led by Andre Morrison (10.46); Wolmers’ Boys (40.67), led by Domonique Gray (10.52) and the 16-year-old Xavier Nairne (10.58, 21.15); Excelsior (40.28), Camperdown (41.21), Greater Portmore (40.99) and St. Catherine (41.09), led by Ashanie Smith (10.50). Camperdown has won the event a record eight times, though not since 2006. Camperdown and Kingston College have won the 4x1 at Penn eight times each, Calabar seven. Calabar’s first victory in the event at Penn came in 1979, when it ran 41.63 with the team of George Wolcott, Richard Wilson, Richard Lee and Kenneth Thompson.

Jamaican schools have now won the event 12 years in a row, dating to the victory in 2004 by Glenville (Ohio). In the 71 years since the end of World War II, beginning with the 1946 Relays, Jamaican schools have now won more than half of the Boys 4x1s – 36 – compared with 33 by American schools and two by Trinidad. They did not surpass half until KC’s victory a year ago. During the string of 12 victories, seven different Jamaican schools have recorded victories – Calabar, KC, Wolmers, JC, Jago, Camperdown and Holmwood Tech.

Calabar is now the winningest Jamaican boys’ school at the Relays, with 15 championships over the last 40 years. St. Elizabeth Tech and St. Jago have won 11 each, Kingston College and Camperdown 10 apiece. The most boys’ championships ever won at the Relays is 21, by Bishop Loughlin, followed by Boys (now Boys & Girls), of Brooklyn, with 18. Calabar is 3rd.

4x400
Calabar’s fine 3:08.76 is just .04 from the historic 20-year-old Relays record held by Muir (Pasadena, Caliif.). The Jamaican school has a formidable lineup of Carpenter (46.53), Taylor (45.41 seasonal best), this year’s Carifta Games champion at 45.97 and the World Youth champion in 2015; Shemar Chambers (47.44), and Evaldo Whitehorne (47.55).

St. Elizabeth Tech, known as STETHS, was 2nd in 3:09.97 at Champs, led by Ouekie Wright (47.69) and Leonardo Ledgister (48.11). Other Jamaican squads include St. Jago (3:11.00), Jamaica College (3:11.77), Kingston College (3:12.01), Excelsior (3:13.76), Petersfield (3:13.59), Edwin Allen (3:13.14) and Rhodes Hall (3:16.40).

The top domestic candidates to make the boys final include East Orange Campus (N.J.), national indoor champions at 3:16.09; Bullis, 3:17.68 indoors; Oxon Hill (Md.), 3:18.46; Egg Harbor Township (N.J.), 3:18.45, and some excellent squads from New York including Elmont (3:19.99), Newburgh (3:20.07) and Huntington. Huntington returns two members of last year’s top-ranked American team nationally, at 3:10.93, Lawrence Leake (49.00) and Kyree Johnson (47.75).

East Orange features Akeem Lindo (50.32), Willesley Lindo (49.41), Immyari Etienne (49.32) and the outstanding intermediate hurdler Cory Poole (47.82). EO wound up the 2016 season as the 5th-ranked American team, at 3:12.83. The top-finishing domestic team in last year’s Championship of America race, T. C. Williams, of Virginia (3:13.55), lost its top two runners, Noah and Josephus Lyles, to graduation. Noah Lyles later narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team in the 200.

A New Jersey school has not won the Relays Boys 4x4 since Winslow Township in 2004, New York since Uniondale in 1982.
In the 71 years since the end of World War II, U.S. teams have won the Boys 4x4 44 times, Jamaican schools 27. After Kingston College’s breakthrough win in 1965, Jamaican schools did not win again for a decade, until Calabar won its first championship, in 1976. That team, of Paul Wynter, Everett Giscombe, Herb McKenley, Jr., and Mike Barnes, beat Mt. Vernon (N.Y.) by four tenths, 3:13.4 to 3:13.8, as both teams broke the meet record.

Jamaican schools have won the past nine 4x4 championships, dating back to Long Beach Poly’s historic victory a decade ago, in 3:09.89. Five different schools have won those nine titles – Jamaica College, Calabar, St. Jago, Munro College and Wolmer’s.

4x800
The Boys 4x8 has been a back-and-forth affair in recent history. Jamaican schools dominated the 2016 race, as St. Jago, St. Elizabeth Tech, Green Hope and Kingston College went 1-2-3-5. STETHS had won in ’15 and Calabar in ’14. That broke a five-year string of wins by the Americans, from New Jersey, Virginia, New York and California.

This year, on paper at least, the Jamaican teams again look powerful, led by St. Jago, which returns its entire winning team from a year ago, when it ran 7:33.71, the 4th-fastest time in Relays history and just three seconds from the historic meet record of 7:30.87, set eight years ago by Albemarle (Charlottesville, Va.), at the time a national high school record.

Already this spring, Jago has posted a time of 7:32.76, with a lineup of Anthony Cox (1:53.64), Keenan Lawrence (1:52.66), Joel Jean-Pierre (1:52.75) and Leon Clarke (1:51.11).

Not far behind are Jamaica College (7:35.53), led by Ken Reyes (1:52.52) and Digion Blackman (1:53.22); Kingston College (7:42.26), with Tarees Rhoden (1:52.53), Colin Rowe (1:52.56), Aryamanya Rodgers (1:54.44) and Kristoff Darby (1:54.13); Calabar (7:48.86), with Javon-taye Williams (1:52.71) and 15-year-old Kimar Farquharson (1:51.26), and St. Elizabeth Tech, which has run 7:42.95 but clearly can go faster with Dwight Mason (1:55.92), Shemar Salmon (1:52.44), Jauavney James (1:50.27) and Rayon Butler (1:50.24).

The top domestic teams include Old Bridge (N.J.), led by Rey Rivera, 7:49.96; Egg Harbor Township (N.J.), 7:48.92; Wadsworth, the Ohio state champions, 7:52.67; Xavier (NYC), 7:50.84; Central Bucks West (Pa.), 7:51.22; St. Benedict’s Prep (N.J.), 7:50.48, and State College (Pa.), 7:51.31.

The U.S. leader so far in 2017 in the event, Bellarmine Prep, of California, is running the DMR.

DMR
Bellarmine ran 10:03.67 to win at Stanford. They are expected to choose from among Tommy Rocha (51.30), Benjamin Micallef (49/45, 1:54), Alex Scales (1:50.64), Meika Beaudon-Rousseau (4:18) and Dylan Doblan (4:20).

Carlisle (Pa.) broke the national high school indoor record last month, running 9:56.18 at the New York Armory, but since then their anchor runner, Noah Affolder, has been on the shelf. His younger brother, Sam, also runs a leg, joined by Isaac Kole and Jared Griffie. Noah Affolder ran 4:07 to win the Millrose Games high school mile this winter, while Sam has run 4:09 as a sophomore.

Other teams in the running include Germantown Friends, of Philadelphia (10:12.55), anchored by the 4:08 miler Nick Dahl; Princeton (N.J.), 10:19, and CBA (N.J.), 10:22. CBA won this championship in 2011, Germantown Friends in ’08.

GIRLS
4X100

Three Jamaican schools have run under 45 seconds this spring – Edwin Allen, 44.50 to win Champs; Hydel (44.80), and Holmwood Tech (44.90).

The Jamaican Champs 4x1s are run as Class races, meaning that lineups can be reconfigured, using younger runners, for the Relays.
All of the leading teams could be affected by this. Edwin Allen, for example, returns its entire lineup from last year’s championship team – Kasheika Cameron (11.49 100 best), Patrice Moody (11.49), Shellece Clark (11.60) and Khamoy Farquharson (11.78). They may be hard-pressed, however, to omit their brilliant new 15-year-old, Kevona Davis, who has run 11.43/23.07, or even 14-year-old Gabrielle Matthews (11.73/23.47). (Even with Matthews and Davis on the team, EA was beaten in the Class 3 (13- and 14-year-olds) 4x1 by Excelsior, 45.54 to 45.82.)

Hydel, which has never won a race at the Relays, is led by Ronesha McGregor (23.19) and Gabrielle Matthews (11.73).

Holmwood Tech has multiple younger runners, including Michae Harriott (11.50), Shanette Allison (11.50) and 14-year-old Sashieka Steele (11.50). Holmwood won the Class 2 (15-16 ages) 4x1 in 44.90 over Hydel’s 44.99.

St. Jago (45.34) has Aneka Brissett (11.41), Kimone Shaw (11.40) and the spectacular Brianna Lyston, a 12-year-old who has run 23.72. Lyston, however, is not likely to run this year because the Relays does not allow youngsters younger than 9th grade to compete.

Vere Tech (45.60) has Britany Anderson (23.33w), who has run 13.04 for the 100 hurdles.

Other top Jamaican schools include Excelsior (45.54), St. Catherine (45.57), St. Elizabeth (46.21) and Wolmer’s Girls (46.18).

There are a number of excellent domestic squads, led again by Bullis. The Marylanders went to Texas Relays, got some warm weather and ran 45.90. The 4x1 squad is led by junior Ashley Seymour (11.72w) and sophomore Lauryn Harris (24.90).

Other leading American teams include Elizabeth Seton (Md.), 47.19; Paul Robeson (Brooklyn), 47.32; Bloomfield (Conn.), 48.04; North Penn (Pa.), 48.30; Frederick (Md.), 48.54); Nansemond River (Va.), 48.48, and C. H. Flowers (Md.), 48.49.

The last Eastern school to win this race was Willingboro (N.J.) in 1981.

4x400
Three teams broke 3:40 in the Jamaican champs – Hydel (3:35.15), St. Jago (3:36.47) and Holmwood Tech (3:36.60). Edwin Allen, defending champions at the Relays, has run 3:42.38, Vere Tech 3:40.29.

American teams did well a year ago and figure to play a major role again. Four domestic teams finished in the top seven in 2016 --–Union Catholic (N.J.) was 3rd, Nansemond River (Va.) 4th, Bullis 5th and St. John’s College (D.C.) 7th.

Of those, Bullis has made the biggest mark in the 2017 season, winning the national high school indoor meet in 3:39.70, becoming just the second school to break 3:40 indoors.

They have a young, powerhouse lineup that includes Masai Russell (55.68), Shaniya Hall (55.56), Leah Phillips (56.35) and Sierra Leonard (57.49). They have already run 3:41.78 outdoors this spring, at Texas Relays.

Nansemond River went to Florida Relays and ran 3:43.90.

A number of other Eastern girls teams broke 3:50 this winter indoors, including Western Branch (Va.), 3:44.73; Franklin (Md.), 3:49.16; West Babylon (N.Y.), 3:49.86, and Penn Wood (Pa.), 3:49.25.    

On the Jamaican side, Hydel features Roneisha McGregor (53.25), Abigail Brooks (53.44) and eight others who have broken 58; Holmwood Tech has Nicole Foster (53.56) and 14-year-old Daniella Deer (54.80); St. Jago has Alesha Kelly (52.69), Kimara Francis (54.11) and 14-year-old Joanne Reid (54.29); Vere has Sanique Walker (53.01), who anchored Jamaica’s winning women’s 4x4 at Carifta, and STETHS (3:48) is anchored by Stacey-Ann Williams (52.68).

Union Catholic ran 3:50.82 indoors and cannot be counted out thanks to Sydney McLaughlin, who broke two national high school indoor records last month, 36.82 for 300 and 51.61 for 400. Last summer she ran 54.15 in the 400 hurdles, advancing to the Olympic semifinals.
Others of note include IMG Academy, of Florida, 3:51.11; St. John’s College, of D.C., 3:50.48; Cheltenham (Pa.), 3:51.06, and Winslow Township (N.J.), 3:51.49. 

With warm weather forecast, it may take 3:45 to make the final.

4x800
Three Jamaican teams have broken 9:00 this spring – Edwin Allen (8:47.71), Holmwood Tech (8:49.71) and Hydel (8:54.12). Vere ran 9:13.
EA, winners of this event in 2009, ’11 and ’12, has Kara Grant (2:10), Asshanni Robb (2:11) and Cemore Donald (2:08). Holmwood Tech, winner nine times, more than any other school, won most recently in 2015. They have two 2:09 runners, Chrissani May and Brittney Campbell. Vere has Sanique Walker (2:12) and Britnie Dixon (2:11).

There are some excellent domestic teams, including the defending champions, Shenendehowa (Clifton Park, N.Y.), and Ridge (N.J.), which upset Shen at the national high school indoor championships, running 9:01.64. Shenendehowa ran 9:00.79 to win a year ago over Mamaroneck (N.Y.) 9:01, Holmwood Tech 9:01, North Penn 9:02, Edwin Allen 9:03 and Western Branch (Va.) 9:03.

Shen has the year’s fastest U.S. time, 9:00.34 to win the New York state meet indoors, and is anchored by last year’s anchor, 16-year-old Hannah Reale (2:09). Their #3 runner, Julia Zachgo, also returns.   

Other top domestic squads include North Penn (9:03.35); Greenwich, Conn. (9:10.08); John Jay (N.Y.), 9:14.65; Niskayuna (Schenectady, N.Y.), 9:12.98, and Lake Braddock (Burke, Va.), 9:15.64. Lake Braddock has listed Kate Murphy, its star senior runner, on its squad for the meet. Murphy anchored the winning DMR team a year ago in a record 1600 split of 4:37 and later ran 4:07 for 1,500 meters, but her 2017 indoor season was curtailed by illness.

DMR
Even though it is defending champion and broke the national high school indoor record this winter, Lake Braddock (Va.) is not defending its championship here, in part because of the uncertain status of its anchor runner, Kate Murphy.

In Lake Braddock’s absence, another Virginia school – and the 2015 champions at the Relays – becomes the team to beat. Patriot HS (Nokesville, Va.), anchored by Rachel McArthur, ran a solid 11:56.12 indoors. (The winning team at indoor nationals, North Rockland (Thiells, NY), is not entered.) McArthur has run 2:06 for 800, 4:45 for a mile. She anchored Patriot’s winning team two years ago as a sophomore and was 2nd in the individual mile last year.

Contenders include North Hunterdon (N.J.), 12:00.45 at Eastern States; Ursuline School (N.Y.), 12:02.16; Randolph (N.J.), 12:03.72, and last year’s runnerup, Saratoga Springs (N.Y.), 12:03.92. No Jamaican school has won this event since Vere Tech’s win string ended in 1995. There are no Jamaican entries this year.