Penn Relays Press Conference - April 25

Dave Johnson on USA vs. The World roster –

“You’ll notice several gold medalists on the list, including Justin Gatlin and Sean Crawford, the Americans who won the 100 and the 200 last year in Athens.”

Johnson on the Penn Relays participants –

“As I mentioned a week ago, we have more than 930 high schools participating, about 240 colleges, numerous local junior high schools, middle schools and Philadelphia elementary schools. We had the road race two Sundays ago and we kick off the Relays tomorrow morning at 10:00 with the decathlon and at 11:00 with the heptathlon.”

Johnson on the weekend forecast–

“Weather forecast looks like it is supposed to be in the low to mid 60’s throughout the rest of the week, possible showers tomorrow and it looks like there were possible showers for a very brief time on either Friday or Saturday. It doesn’t look too breezy.”

Dave Johnson on John McDonald of Arkansas –

“He’s the leading collegiate coach in any sport in terms of number of team championships won over the years. His first championship here was in 1984.”

John McDonald, head coach, Arkansas men’s and women’s track & field

Coach McDonald on his team’s strengths-
“We’re probably the strongest in the 4x200. It’s going to be the first time this year that we run the 4x200 but that should be a very good relay. And the 4x100, we’re probably as strong there as anywhere and of course the 4xmile, I think we may not be Michigan’s class this year but we will be in the chase. The distance medley, we’ll be in there. It will be interesting.”

On his teams 4x800 chances –

“Everybody on the team has run 1:50 or better, we should be in the chase there too. It all comes down to the anchor really.

On the competition -

“We are not going to roll over for Michigan or anybody else. We’re going to run, we’re a good team. Michigan has Willis on the anchor, but sometimes in the 4xmile or distance medley if you are strong enough up front you can cause some damage as well.”

On the differences between the 1984 team that won the 4x100 and 4x200 and this year’s team –

“Wallace Spearmon’s dad was on the team, so it’s a father son deal. It’s kind of ironic that the boy grew up to be on this team. This team on paper is better, now I don’t think they will win both races but they are capable.”

On competing in the Penn Relays –

“But the Penn Relays, that is our No. 1 meet of the year. We love that meet. The kids love it, the fans are fantastic. Anybody who doesn’t get motivated to run at the Penn Relays needs to get out of track and field. That’s the mecca of track and field and I hope it stays that way. We like to win the NCAA championships, don’t get me wrong, but as far as people in the stands and people who appreciate track and field, it’s unmatched.”

On why he thinks his teams have been so successful –

“At the Penn Relays the distance races for years and years have been a highlight and we’ve been really strong in those and we just like running track at the Penn Relays.”

Dennis Shaver, head coach, LSU men’s and women’s track & field

Shaver on his team concept in his first season as head coach –

“The concept of the team has not changed, but on the women’s side we graduated 61 of our 65 NCAA points from last year, so we are young, very young on the women’s side. So many of the athletes that are coming in on the women’s side are competing in their first Penn Relays and that makes me real nervous. But they have been performing well to this point.”

On how his team will get ready for the event –

“If you can focus and concentrate and stay on task in the rush-rush environment then you are going to be able to handle every other meet in your life. We are really looking forward to coming.”

On the youth of his team –

“I think when you are coming with the young athletes that we have, I do think it is a little different for them. If they are not careful they can get caught up in the rush rush aspect. And of course we are primarily talking about the preliminary events and that’s it. But their excited about going and are looking forward to it.”

On any previous experience of his women’s team –

“None of the 4x100 team members have been to the Penn relays before and have no concept or idea of what they are going to be like. That’s been the real challenge. I think that after the first day if we can get through that we will be ok.”

On his men’s team –

“The men have some experience. They’ve been there and know what it is all about and communicate well. They’re a pretty solid group and been performing pretty consistently right around 39 flat in all kinds of weather conditions.”

On his field performers –

“Regina Harris is returning on the women’s side in the long jump. She’s been doing a steady job for us, she’s looking for a little more consistency, especially in her first three jumps. On the men’s side we are a little thin. We graduated some of the great jumpers that we had. Willy Gravis is returning but he has had a hip problem he hasn’t jumped as well this year as he would like to, but he is looking forward to coming and jumping.”

On his throwers –

“I don’t know that we brought any throwers last year but we are bringing a few of our throwers this year. They’re looking forward to it. Many of them have met the regional qualifying marks but they haven’t performed at a high enough level to be NCAA caliber.

Curtis Frye, head coach, South Carolina men’s and women’s track & field

Frye on team strength -

“We’re simpler. I think we can win a championship of America and I think our goals are to be in five championships of America on the women’s side –shuttle hurdles, 4x100, 4x200, 4x400, sprint medley are some of the events. There are a lot of great teams that are in. The University of Tennessee can be a team that can keep Dennis and [LSU] from sweeping. I think it’s a lot more balanced with Tennessee, ourselves and the University of Texas women. I don’t think that anybody is a threat or strong enough to do what LSU has been doing.”

Frye on mindset entering Relays after winning 4x400 last year –

“Our goal is to win the 4x400 every year at Penn Relays. I don’t know how many times in the last nine years that we haven’t had a chance of winning it...That’s our major focus, to be strong in the 4x400. I wouldn’t say the mindset is different.”

Frye on the 4x100 vs. the 4x400 -

“The 4x100 has a lot of timing involved and anything can happen. Blocks are important, lane draws, curve in the middle of the track, and early heats in the morning are all tough, so you can’t predict a lot of that. But the 4x400 you get a lot of chances to make up for mistakes. So it gives us a better chance for our kids to deal with the stress of a phenomenal meet like the Penn Relays with the great crowds. I think the crowd helps you more in the 4x400.”

Frye on track athletes going pro –

“I would hope our sport has become popular enough that our kids are getting opportunities that they can have professional careers. I mean real professional careers where they make much higher than six and a half figures per year over for years and companies would pay for the extension of their education. Academically they are set to continue to do well. On the women’s side, I don’t see it particular as a bad thing. We try to encourage our kids to do as well as they can academically and prepare themselves for a lucrative future. Very few times can you start out as a college graduate making $150,000...I don’t think you can say that’s a thing of the future...But as long as these shoe companies are willing to pay for these kids to finish their degrees, I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”

Frye on athletes to watch –

“Jason Richardson is a strength and Rodney Martin, a kid that was third indoor 200 meters in 20.38...Our two strongest races are the 4x100 and the 4x200 and to reach the Championship of America in both of them would be a highlight of our season at this point. Our strength is the short relay.”

Charlie Powell, head coach, University of Pennsylvania men’s track & field

Powell on men’s mile –

“A few people you should be keeping an eye on. James Kangogo from Elite Sports Management is quite a fantastic young runner. You may have seen some of his performances last summer. He’s already run approximately a 3:55 or 3:56 in the mile. He’s hoping to do quite the number here at Penn Relays. Tom Parlapiano from Villanova is coming in with expectations of trying to keep the Villanova mystique and tradition going. James Thie from the New York AC will be coming here right off of his training session in the mountains. James is trying to finally knock off that four-minute mile. He’s run quite a bit faster equivalencies for the 1500 meters but hasn’t really popped one yet. Joseph Koskei from New Balance is a very seasoned veteran and outstanding miler. And we’ve got some fun ones for you folks. A guy by the name of Sam Burley who was the NCAA 800 meter champion right here at the University of Pennsylvania. Sam will be running his first serious mile here. We also have a young man, Aaron Lanzell from Navy, who has kind of slid his naval career off to the side for a couple years. He made the finals of the Olympic trials last year and was second or third last year in the mile and is going to try and come back and win it this time.

Powell on the University of Pennsylvania men –

“One of our grads, Brian Chaput, will be throwing in the open javelin. This past weekend he threw 80”45’ which is the number two javelin throw in the world right now. We will put together a pretty strong 4x100 relay. It will feature a young man who will also be running the 100m, Grafton Ifill. Grafton has already qualified for the NCAA Regionals. He was a finalist at the World Junior Championships last year. He ran 10:36 last year and has already run 10:40 this year. We just can’t wait to get a little warmer weather and turn Grafton loose, he’s in outstanding shape. Also in the hurdles we have another freshman, a young man by the name of David Whitehurst from New Jersey. David last weekend at Princeton ran 14.20 to win the hurdles there and qualify for the NCAA Regionals and you might remember David’s name from a lot of basketball games. David is actually at national class hurdler. He made the finals of the National High School Championships last year and finished fifth or sixth I believe.

Besides our 4x100, we will be running two Championship of America relays. We’ve got an outstanding middle distance squad and we’ll be going after a distance medley this year, not a 4x400, but the distance medley with Steve Hayes, Ryan Fleming, Courtney Jaworski, and Nolan Tully. Our 4x800 we think is one of the best in the country. That will have Scott Sebens, Carson Schmiett, Tim Kaijala and Courtney Jaworski. Jaworksi was our League champion in the 800m and 1:47.4 his best time. He also made the Olympic Trials and NCAA Finals.

On the field, I have a couple of quality young men, one of them Neal Wojdowski vaulted, last year 16’11” and this year he has vaulted 16’6”. We’ll see what the weather brings because if it does, we’re going to turn loose [long jumper] Pete Habegger who was close to 25 feet indoors this year.

Powell on the 4x800 and Tim Kaijala –

“The most fun will be the 4x800 with Tim Kaijala. The guys were talking about what it’s going to be like on Saturday running a 4x800 in front of 50 or 60,000 people. Tim’s great quote was, ‘I don’t know if I’ve been to any place that had 50,000 people in it.’”

Powell on Kyle Calvo –

“We’ve got to take it easy with a couple of our guys this week because next week is the Heps Championships. So Kyle will probably be doing the shuttle hurdle relay and may be doing another field event. Because of all the work he’s going to be doing next week, we’ve got to lay low on that.