Michael Morrison has already had many successes in track and field: New Jersey state and national championships while at Willingboro High School; an SEC title for the University of Florida, an NCAA relay championship. One thing he doesn't have is a Penn Relays individual victory. This year he has another chance. Actually, two.
Now a sophomore at Florida, Morrison is entered in the high jump and long jump. (He is also expected to run legs on several relay teams for the Gators. In last year's NCAA championships, as a freshman, he ran a leg on the 4x4, on the winning 4x1, made the finals of the HJ and the finals of the LJ.)
At last year's Relays, Morrison was 3rd in both jumps. He has gone 7-4 1/2 in the high jump and 25-9 1/2 in the long jump. He will face Andra Manson of Texas, the reigning NCAA and Penn Relays champion, in the high jump. Manson has a best of 7-7. Also entered are two 7-3 3/4 jumpers from Nebraska, Aaron Plas and the NCAA runnerup indoors, freshman Dusty Jonas.
In the long jump Morrison will face Australian Fabrice LaPierre (25-11) of Texas A&M, Jamaican Wilbert Walker (25-10 3/4w) of U-Tech and IC4A champion Jade Ellis, a Duke freshman from Minnesota.
Walker will also be in the triple jump along with Willie Bradley (54-5 1/4) of LSU and Estonian Jaanus Uudmae (53-10 1/2) of Arkansas.
In the pole vault, Brian Mondschein, a junior at Virginia Tech, will try for his family's first Penn Relays college championship since 1947. Brian won the high school event in 2001 for Hershey, Pa., as did his uncle Mark for Haverford (Pa.) High School in 1970. In 1947 Brian's grandfather, the legendary Irv (Moon) Mondschein, placed first in the high jump and long jump for New York University.
Also in the pole vault is Donovan Kilmartin of Texas, the runnerup in this year's NCAA indoor heptathlon.
In the throws, the favorites are:
Hammer -- Spyridon Jullien of Virginia Tech, the reigning NCAA champion.
Javelin -- Eric Brown of Arkansas, 3rd in last year's NCAA. He threw a PR of 248-5 this month.
Shot put -- Jeff Chakouian of Kentucky, 5th at the Relays last year. He won the high school division for Seekonk (Ma.) High School in 1999 and was the college champion in 2002.
Discus -- Vikas Gowda of North Carolina, the ACC champion. Gowda won the high school division for Frederick (Md.) H.S. in 2000 and competed in the Athens Olympics for India.
Lerone Clarke (Lincoln/Mo.) will return to defend his championship in the 100 meters against a formidable lineup of NCAA champions.
Tyson Gay won the NCAA 100 for Arkansas last year, when he ran 10.01w. His teammate Wallace Spearmon was the 200 champion; he recently ran 19.97 in that event, the fastest time in the world this year.
Kelly Willie, traditionally a quartermiler, has been running the 100 well this season. He was NCAA runnerup to Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner for LSU last season and won a gold medal as a member of the U.S. 4x4 team in Athens.
Rodney Martin (South Carolina) and Rubin Williams (Tennessee) were both finalists in the indoor 200 at last month's NCAA.
Clarke, a Jamaican, was NCAA Division III 60-meter champion this winter for Lincoln. Last year he had a 100 best of 10.12w.
The high hurdles will feature the defending NCAA champion, Josh Walker (13.32) of Florida, and NCAA finalist Aries Merritt (13.47) of Tennessee. They were 3-4 at last year's Relays.
They will face two Olympians, Richard Phillips (13.39) of George Mason, who ran in Athens for Jamaica, and Nenad Loncar (13.74) of Nebraska, who ran for Yugoslavia.
The intermediate hurdles feature Kerron Clement of Florida, runnerup at last year's Relays who went on to be NCAA champion as a freshman and later last summer was World Junior champion, running 48.51. At last month's NCAA indoor, he broke the world indoor record for the flat 400.
He will face teammate Dwight Ruff, who won the high school division for Camden (N.J.) H.S. in 2001, and freshman Jason Richardson of South Carolina, who ran 49.79 for Cedar Hill (Texas) H.S. last year, .02 slower than Clement's high school best.
The top returnee in the steeplechase is Steve Zieminski of Florida, who was 4th last year and placed 5th at the NCAA championships. He has a best of 8:47.32.
The 5,000 meters will be the Penn Relays debut of Josh McDougal, a freshman at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. McDougal placed 5th in the NCAA indoor 3k, running 7:55.70. McDougal is from Peru, N.Y., but never ran at the Relays in high school because he was home-schooled.
-Written by Jack Pfeifer