Michelle Carter, University of Texas shot putter, will make her Penn Relays debut this year. She may be national high school record-holder and World Junior champion, but she's not as famous as her father, Michael.
Michael Carter won the college men's shot put at the Relays twice for SMU, in 1981 and 1984, and his winning mark from 1984, 68-4 1/4, remains the Relays record 21 years later. Carter was runner-up in last month's NCAA indoor for the Longhorns, putting a lifetime-best 58-7 1/4, but at Penn she will face the winner of that competition, Kim Barrett of Miami (59-8 1/4), Liz Wanless (58-4 3/4) of Florida and Candice Scott (57-11), also a Gator.
Barrett competed for Florida herself but now is concluding her collegiate career at Miami/Fla., where she is a graduate student. Barrett and Scott both represented Trinidad in last year's Olympic Games, Barrett in the shot and Scott in the hammer. Barrett, Scott and Wanless went 2-3-4 in last year's Relays, Wanless at the time representing Division III Bates College of Maine.
Last year's winner, Laura Gerraughty of North Carolina, also the winner in 2002 and 2003, is redshirting. Scott is also entered in the hammer, where she is defending champion. At last year's Relays she broke her own collegiate record. She will face Loree Smith of Colorado State, runnerup to Scott at this year's NCAA indoor weight throw.
Yet another Gator, Rachel Longfors, is in the discus. Last year she threw 188-7. She will face Billie-Jo Grant, ACC champion for Virginia this year as a freshman after transferring from Arizona. The top entry in the javelin is Brenda Grace-Hunt (Louisiana Tech), who threw 186-8 at the Texas Relays.
Tabia Charles of Miami defends her championship in the triple jump against the NCAA indoor champion, Gisele de Oliveira of Clemson, and runnerup, Erica McLain of Stanford. McLain jumped 45-7 1/4 this winter, de Oliveira 45-1 3/4.
Another NCAA indoor champion, Tianna Madison of Tennessee, is the favorite in the long jump. Madison, a sophomore, jumped 22-3 indoors.
In the high jump, Chaunte Howard of Georgia Tech will be going for her third Penn Relays championship. Howard is also reigning NCAA indoor and outdoor champion and was on last year's Olympic team.
She will face two jumpers she beat in this month's ACC meet, Sheena Gordon of North Carolina and Debra Vento of Duke, as well as Deirdre Mullen of Connecticut, last year's Relays runnerup.
Stacie Manuel of Arkansas defends her pole vault championship and will face this year's NCAA indoor champion, Amy Linnen of Kansas. After winning the Relays high school title 5 years ago for Mt. Sinai H.S. (Staten Island, NY), Linnen spent 4 seasons at the University of Arizona before landing at KU for her final eligibility.
Others in the field include a freshman teammate of Manuel's, Danielle O'Reilly, the Relays high school runnerup a year ago; a freshman teammate of Linnen's, Kate Sultanova, the Russian Junior recordholder, and Chelo Canino, an NCAA scorer last year for Princeton who will compete here as a graduate student at Florida.
On the track, the two straightaway races have deep fields. Although it will be hard to top last year's 100 field, this year's group includes the NCAA indoor 60-meter champion, Fana Ashby of Auburn; two other NCAA scorers, Marshevet Hooker of Texas and Sheri-Ann Brooks of Florida International, and three outstanding freshmen, Ashley Owens and Kelly-Ann Baptiste of LSU and Shalonda Solomon of South Carolina. Ashby and Baptiste both ran on Trinidad's Olympic 4x1 team last year in Athens.
In hindsight, last year's Relays women's 100 was unprecedented. The first four finishers went on to be Olympic finalists: Lauryn Williams of Miami, silver medalist in the 100; Veronica Campbell of Arkansas, gold medals for Jamaica in the 200 and the 4x1; Muna Lee, LSU, finalist in the 200, and Sherone Simpson of U-Tech, gold in the 4x1.
The 100-meter hurdle field includes the NCAA indoor runner-up, Priscilla Lopes of Nebraska, who ran for Canada in Athens.
Others in the field include Ebony Foster of North Carolina State and Ronetta Alexander of South Carolina, Relays finalists a year ago; Melaine Walker of Texas, a hurdle champion at the Relays in high school for St. Jago, Jamaica, as well as Tiffany Ross-Williams of South Carolina, Kasia Williams of Arkansas and Fatmata Fofanah of Georgia Tech.
Walker was 3rd in the intermediate hurdles last year for Essex County (NJ). In the intermediates, Shevon Stoddart, South Carolina senior, was Relays runnerup last year. Last summer, Stoddart ran for Jamaica in Athens.
Other contenders include Patricia Hall of Tennessee, Dominique Darden of Miami and South Carolina's Ross-Williams.
Duke will have top contenders in most of the women's distance races.
Liz Wort, recent winner of the ACC steeplechase for the Blue Devils, has the top time in that event, along with Barbora Kuncova of Oklahoma State.
Teammate Clara Horowitz was runnerup in the 3,000 last year. She will face Cack Ferrell of Princeton, 3rd in the NCAA indoor; Jemissa Hess of High Point (NC), 5th in the indoor mile, and Yale freshman Lindsay Donaldson, 4th in the indoor 3.
In the 5k, Duke's Paige Miller will defend her championship against Mary Cullen of Providence, Relays 3k winner 3 years ago.
-Written by Jack Pfiefer