A Fan’s Guide to the 2016 Penn Relays: Brannon Kidder Leads Penn State Against Georgetown & Oklahoma St.; HS Studs in the Boys’ 4×400 & Drew Hunter in the DMR

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By LetsRun.com
April 27, 2016

If last week was all about marathons, with Boston and London both taking place, then this week is all about relays. The Penn Relays (in their 122nd year) and the Drake Relays (in their 107th year) are among the United States’ longest-running meets and the 2016 editions figure to be exciting as the track season heats up. We’re previewing the top events in both Philadelphia and Des Moines this week. Below you can find our Penn preview; Drake will come later in the week.

What: 2016 Penn Relays

Where: Franklin Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

When: Thursday, April 28 – Saturday, April 30

How to watch: NBC Sports Network will have coverage of the USA vs. The World events from Penn on Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET (and then Drake from 3-5 pm). The rest of the meet can be streamed live on Flotrack Pro.

Schedule * 2015 LRC coverage

Races to watch (in chronological order)

Thursday

Katrina Coogan anchored Georgetown to the win at NCAA indoors; can she do the same at Penn?

Katrina Coogan anchored Georgetown to the win at NCAA indoors; can she do the same at Penn?

College Women’s Distance Medley Championship of America (Thursday, 5:40 p.m.) * Entries
Villanova has won this event four straight years but is unlikely to extend that streak to five. The Wildcats didn’t even qualify a DMR squad to NCAA indoors, but it should be pointed out that the last time that happened (2012), Nova still won the DMR at Penn.

But with NCAA mile runner-up Angel Piccirillo redshirting, Villanova doesn’t have the talent to earn another wheel. Instead, the favorite should be NCAA indoor champs Georgetown. The Hoyas between Katrina Coogan (4:33 mile pb), Andrea Keklak (2:04/4:33), Sabrina Southerland (2:03), Sarah Schmidt (2:04), Heather Martin (2:04) and Emma Keenan (2:04), are spoiled for choice when it comes to the middle distances. Martin, who split 54.04 at NCAA indoors, is a more than capable 400 leg, making the Hoyas the team to beat. That depth means that Georgetown has an outside shot at pulling off the DMR-4×800-4×1500 triple, a feat last achieved by Villanova in 2014.

The only squad that figures to contend with Georgetown is Oklahoma State. The Cowgirls were ninth at NCAA indoors, but they didn’t run their ‘A’ team at NCAA indoors. They have the NCAA mile champ (Kaela Edwards) on anchor plus Savannah Camacho (2:02/4:17 1500) and Clara Nichols (2:04). Only Nichols ran on the team indoors. If they can keep it close through the first three legs, Edwards, who has been on fire in 2016, should be able to outkick Coogan on the anchor leg.

Potential lineups of top schools with pbs

12004008001600
Oklahoma St.Savannah Camacho 2:02Kaylee Dodd 56.49Clara Nichols 2:04Kaela Edwards 4:32
GeorgetownAndrea Keklak 2:04/4:33Heather Martin 54 (split)Sabrina Southerland 2:03Katrina Coogan 4:33

LetsRun.com Prediction: The DMR is all about the anchor and thus we aren’t betting against Kaela Edwards and Oklahoma State.

Friday

College Women’s 4×1500 Championship of America (Friday, 1:20 p.m.) * Entries
With defending champ Stanford electing not to make the trip east this year, Villanova, Georgetown and Oregon are the top teams entered here. We already ran through some of the personnel for Nova and Georgetown, so let’s take a look at Oregon. The Ducks don’t have a star on anchor like Coogan, but they do have four solid legs as Annie LeblancAshley MatonFrida Berge and Emma Abrahamson have all run 4:20 already this season (plus Alli Cash, who has a 4:16 pb). As the longest women’s relay on the track, the 4×1500 has the greatest potential to string out before the anchor leg. It may not be possible to drop Georgetown, who has three women at 4:21 or faster so far this year (not counting Coogan), but trying to force a fast pace on the Hoyas, some of whom will likely be doubling back from Thursday’s DMR, may be the best path to a Duck victory.

Potential lineups of top schools with pbs

VillanovaSammy Bockoven 4:23Nicole Hutchinson 4:44 mileKaleigh Hughes 4:55 mileSiofra Cleirigh Buttner 2:03/2:49 1k
GeorgetownAndrea Keklak 4:18Samantha Nadel 4:17Audrey Belf 4:43Katrina Coogan 4:13
OregonLilli Burdon 4:24Ashley Maton 4:20Alli Cash 4:16Annie Leblanc 4:15
Creese (far left) and Kidder (second from left) at Penn in 2013

Creese (far left) and Kidder (second from left) at Penn in 2013

LRC: We aren’t picking against Georgetown twice. Hoyas FTW.

Friday

College Men’s Distance Medley Championship of America (Friday, 2:35 p.m.) * Entries
Edward Cheserek and Oregon have won this event at the past two Penn Relays and NCAA Championships, but the Ducks have raised the white flag in 2016 and are bringing just one male athlete (hammer thrower Greg Skipper) to Philly this year, so we’ll have a new champ. Oklahoma State, who ran the #3 NCAA time ever indoors and finished fifth at NCAA indoors (tops among teams in this field) are the favorites on paper, but the Cowboys will be without the services of indoor leadoff man Chad Noelle, the defending NCAA 1500 champ, as he is out of eligibility. But with 3:59 miler Matthew Fayers taking his place, OK State should be all right. And they’ve still got 3:58 miler and Big 12 1000/mile champ Josh Thompson on anchor.

Villanova, with Rob Denault and Penn Relays hero Jordy Williamsz, was sixth at NCAA indoors and has a proud history in this event, with 24 Penn DMR titles, nine more than the next-closest school. But Denault doesn’t have outdoor eligibility, which will make winning a 25th title difficult. Georgetown, who was last at NCAA indoors after leadoff man Michael Lederhouse fell, should also be very dangerous. Indoors, they had four men (Lederhouse, Ahmed BileCole Williams and Amos Bartelsmeyer) sub-3:59 and have an 800 stud in 1:46 man Joseph White.

The team to beat, however, is Penn State. Brannon Kidder is a beast. He has 1:45 800 speed and beat Thompson, NCAA mile fifth placer David Elliott and 3:53 miler Sean McGorty at last week’s Stanford Twilight meet over 1500 meters. And Kidder didn’t just win, he destroyed the field; his 3:40.11 time was 1.77 seconds ahead of runner-up Thompson. With 3:39 man Robby Creese and Big 10 indoor 800 champ Isaiah Harris (1:46 pb) in the fold as well, the Nittany Lions are the favorites here.

Potential lineups of top schools with pbs

12004008001600
Oklahoma St.Matthew Fayers 3:59Tyler Jackson 47.25Tre’Tez Kinnaird 1:47Josh Thompson 3:58
VillanovaBen Malone 4:00 mileHarry Purcell 47.82Ville Lampinen 1:48Jordy Williamsz 3:36
GeorgetownCole Williams 3:57Daniel Anderson 48.64Joseph White 1:46Ahmed Bile 1:48/3:57
Penn St.Robby Creese 1:48/3:39Alex Shisler 46.96Isaiah Harris 1:46Brannon Kidder 3:57
What will Drew Hunter do for his next trick?

What will Drew Hunter do for his next trick?

High School Boys’ Distance Medley Championship of America (Friday, 5:55 p.m) * Entries
The latest episode of the Drew Hunter show will come at Franklin Field, where Hunter’s Loudoun Valley (Va.) squad will go for the DMR title. Hunter’s accomplishments this year (3:57 mile, 7:59 3k) are well-documented, and he showed on Friday that he’s still fit right now by running a 3:42.42 1500 for third at Princeton in his outdoor opener. Hunter “only” needed a 4:04 anchor leg to lead Loudoun Valley to the DMR title at New Balance Nationals Indoor last month and though runner-up River Dell (N.J.), who finished just .56 behind Loudoun Valley indoors, will compete here as well (in fact, the top five from NBNI are all in the field), it’s hard to imagine any of them overcoming Loudoun Vally with Hunter on the anchor. A win for Loudoun Valley would also complete a unique triple for Hunter as he’s already won the 3000 (2014) and mile (2015) at Penn.

LRC Prediction: We’ve always wanted to see a DMR where a stud ran the first and last leg. Hunter might be good enough to pull that off here. Loudoun Valley FTW.

College Men’s Discus Throw Championship (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.) * Entries
We don’t talk about the discus much at LetsRun.com, but we have to make an exception for Sam Mattis. The Penn senior, the 2015 NCAA champ, threw a then-world-leading 67.45 meters (221′ 3″) on March 19 (it’s currently the #3 mark in the world), the fourth-best throw in NCAA history. Normally world leaders in March don’t last long, but Mattis’ mark would have put him #4 on the world list in 2015 and would have been enough for the gold medal at Worlds. It was also the longest toss by an American in five years; not bad for a guy who just turned 22 in an event traditionally dominated by older guys (he actually threw his 67.45, plus additional tosses of 67.21 and 66.51 on his 22nd birthday).

Mattis told the Daily Relay after the competition that he’s been throwing 67-68 meters in practice (although he didn’t realize it, more on that later) and that with he “wasn’t feeling physically great” during the meet, so an even bigger performance could be in store for the home fans on Saturday. The collegiate record is 68.16 by UCLA’s Julian Wruck in 2013.

That being said, the event also interests us at LetsRun.com on an intellectual level. Some on the messageboard are questioning whether the 67.45 mark was legitimate and we must admit they raise some interesting points. We’ve been conditioned over the years to be skeptical of virtually every performance that seems too good to be true. Does that apply here?

The same Daily Relay article reveals that in addition to Mattis not “feeling physically great” that there also was no quartering wind (which helps a lot in the discus) and it was snowing during the meet where Mattis threw 67.45. Hardly conditions where you’d expect people to throw out of their mind. Yet that’s what basically every one of the top competitors in the field did.

Of the top six placers in the season-opening meet, only one of them has surpassed what they threw in the meet in the snow in March.

PLACENAMEYEARTEAMMark (m)Next Best Mark
(m)
Diff.
1Mattis, SamSR-4Penn67.4565.12-2.33
2Kennedy-White, NoahJR-3Penn56.3253.68-2.64
3McGriff, DavidSO-2Lafayette54.7153.15-1.56
4Cioffi, WillJR-3Penn49.3846.6-2.78
5Warning, LucasJR-3Lehigh49.3343.56-5.77
6Kaplan, SamJR-3Penn45.2341.44-3.79
7Lassiter , EllerySO-2Penn42.4244.56+2.14
8Pierce, StephenFR-1La Salle39.9434.64-5.30

(Those marks are in meters and 1 meter = 3.28 feet)

And then there is this quote from Mattis himself:

I honestly thought that my first throw was somewhere between 62 and 63 meters; turns out my training partner, Noah Kennedy-White, and I had done some serious mis-measuring when we originally marked off the field a few weeks ago and have been underestimating our throws by 3-4 meters.

Is it possible they were measuring it correctly and the meet was mismeasured? Perhaps. Update: LetsRun.com has been told that the mark was measured three times, first by laser, then by tape then by laser again. 

Or maybe there was just something really weird going on with the weather. When Bob Beamon set his ridiculous long jump world record in Mexico City in 1968, it was done just before a thunderstorm came in. Perhaps the snowy conditions had something to do with it. The stats certainly seem to indicate that the Philadelphia College Classic is the discus throw equivalent of the 2011 Boston Marathon – nearly everyone did amazing.

LRC Prediction: No PR for Mattis. We hope to be proven wrong though.

USA vs. the World Men’s 4×100 and 4×200 (Saturday, 12:38 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.)
Full entries haven’t been announced for these events yet, but the U.S. squads should be strong. Justin Gatlin, who ran a wind-aided 9.90 two weeks ago in his first individual race of 2016, is the headliner, and he’ll be joined by 2015 USA 100 champ Tyson Gay, World Championship finalist Mike Rodgers and 2015 USA 200 runner-up Isiah Young. We don’t know yet whether they’ll all be on the same team or be split up (the relay pool for the 4×100 and 4×200 is the same) but whatever happens, it should be entertaining.

The other USA vs. the World events have attracted stars as well. U.S. indoor champ Vernon Norwood is in the men’s 4×400 along with 2004 Olympic champ Jeremy WarinerTianna Bartoletta and Olympic silver medallist Carmelita Jeter are in the women’s 4×100/4×200 pool and Sanya Richards-Ross, who announced this week that she is retiring after this year’s Olympics, will run in her final Penn Relays in the women’s 4×400.

Jamaica is bringing some of its biggest women’s stars as well. Two-time Olympic 100 champ Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and World Champs 200 silver medallist Elaine Thompson headline the squad, which you can view in its entirety here.

College Men’s 4xMile Championship of America (Saturday, 1:15 p.m.) * Entries
Villanova won this event in the race of the meet last year, as Jordy Williamsz took down Edward Cheserek in the final straight after the anchor leg turned into a jogfest. Oregon isn’t back to challenge Nova this year, and Nova has lost two of its four legs and should not be as competitive this year. Depending on how they split up their personnel, Penn State could be in the mix here (though it’s better suited for the 4×800 and DMR). Don’t sleep on Indiana (five guys at 3:46 or better so far in 2016) or hosts Penn, who have 3:43 man Chris Hatler and NCAA mile third placer Thomas Awad (though Awad was beaten badly last week in the Princeton 1500).

If Georgetown runs a full-strength team, it should be the favorites in the 4xmile. And if conditions are good, the college (16:03.24) and meet (16:04.54) records could be in jeopardy. Just look at their potential lineup (with indoor SB in parentheses):

Ahmed Bile (3:57.84)
Cole Williams (3:57.88)
Amos Bartelsmeyer (3:58.22)
Michael Lederhouse (3:58.42)

With four guys of that caliber, Georgetown’s best chance to win is to push the pace as no one else can match their depth. Every year, there’s talk of a sub-16:00 at Penn and though we highly doubt that will happen (wind and lack of rabbits make it nearly impossible), the collegiate record isn’t out of the question if all the stars align.

Potential lineups of top schools with pbs

4xmile
GeorgetownCole Williams 3:57Amos Bartelsmeyer 3:58Michael Lederhouse 3:58Ahmed Bile 3:58
IndianaOwen Skeete 3:46Matthew Schwartzer 3:43Joseph Murphy 3:46Rorey Hunter 3:40
PennChris Hatler 3:43Nick Tuck 3:46Clark Shurtleff 3:46Thomas Awad 3:57 mile

LRC Prediction: Georgetown FTW.

High School Boys’ 4×100 and 4×400 Championships of America (Saturday, 1:50 and 5:30 p.m.)
Jamaican schools have dominated these events in recent years but the U.S. has a chance to contend in both events thanks to the Lyles brothers of T.C. Williams (Va.) High School. Noah has run 10.17/20.48, while Josephus has run 45.94 for 400 this year (45.54 last year) plus 20.74. T.C. Williams was 5th in the 4×100 and 4th in the 4×400 last year and with both Lyles brothers graduating this year, this is the best chance for a U.S. school to return to the top in those events. For more on the Lyles brothers, we wrote about them in the Week that Was on April 13.

But winning either event will still be challenging, especially in the 4×400 where Jamaican powerhouses Calabar (2015 Penn champs) and Kingston College have a pair of ridiculous anchors. At Jamaica’s famed “Champs” meet last month, Calabar won thanks to a 45.2 split by 16-year-old World Youth Champ Christopher Taylor (45.27 pb) on anchor. Taylor beat out Kingston College, who got a ridiculous 44.5 split from Akeem Bloomfield (the Jamaican junior national record holder at 44.93) to take second.

The race has to be seen to be believed as the anchor leg was full of drama (we’ve cued it up to the final exchange below):

As good as the Lyles are, if Taylor and/or Bloomfield gets the baton near the lead, the 4×400 title will likely remain in Jamaica.

College Women’s 4×800 Championship of America (Saturday, 4:10 p.m.) * Entries
This might be the most compelling women’s distance relay as Oklahoma State, Georgetown and Oregon could all field loaded squads. As we mentioned earlier, the Hoyas have five women who have run 2:04 or faster. But will their depth be enough to overcome OSU (2:01 woman Kaela Edwards and 2:02 woman Savannah Camacho) and Oregon (1:59 woman Raevyn Rogers, 2:01 woman Annie Leblanc and 2:03 woman Brooke Feldmeier)? In an ideal world, Rogers and Edwards will be duelling it out on the anchor leg with the win and the collegiate record (8:17.45, or 2:04.36 per leg) on the line. Rogers was totally unstoppable during the indoor season, cruising to the NCAA title, but lost to Edwards at 800 in her most recent race at the Mt. SAC Relays. Can Rogers bounce back or will Edwards get the best of her again?

Potential lineups of top schools with pbs

Oklahoma St.Kaylee Dodd 2:06Clara Nichols 2:04Savannah Camacho 2:02Kaela Edwards 2:01
GeorgetownAndrea Keklak 2:04Sarah Schmidt 2:04Heather Martin 2:04Sabrina Southerland 2:03
OregonLilli Burdon 2:08Brooke Feldmeier 2:03Annie Leblanc 2:03Raevyn Rogers 1:59

LRC Prediction: Edwards beat Rogers a few weeks ago in California; can she do it again? This is one of the more interesting races as all three teams look good on paper.We’re tempted to give Oregon a win here but are worried about betting against Edwards. Oregon FTW.

College Men’s 4×800 Championship of America (Saturday, 4:40 p.m.) * Entries
Georgia Tech pulled off the upset last year, edging out Georgetown by .02, but the Yellow Jackets lost two of their runners from last year, including anchor Brandon Lasater. The heavy favorites here should be Penn State, who have a 1:45 guy (Kidder), a 1:46 guy (Harris) plus Jordan Makins (1:48) and Robby Creese (1:48). Assuming Penn State loads up for this race (and not the 4xmile three hours earlier, which they have a much smaller chance of winning), the Nittany Lions should win and it shouldn’t be particularly close.

The real question is could they possibly challenge Arizona State’s long-standing collegiate record of 7:08.96, which has stood since 1984? That averages out to 1:47.24 per man. The problem with Penn Relays is, like much of the East Coast during the day in the spring, it’s normally very windy. The good news is the weather forecast for Saturday shows only winds of 6 mph.

Still, we think a record is a long shot. The win is the goal and Georgetown could threaten if the Hoyas stack this squad, but their chances are better in the 4xmile earlier in the day. Middle Tennessee State has the NCAA indoor runner-up in Eliud Rutto plus Sampson Laari, who ran 1:48.01 earlier this month, but their next two guys in terms of SBs have only run 1:53 and 1:59. Expect Penn State to take its third win in five years.

The biggest threat to Penn State is probably Villanova. The Wildcats return a couple of men from last year’s third-place squad and can sub in 1:46 man Jordy Williamsz for the departed Pat Williams (who split 1:49.09 in 2015) and 1:48 man Ville Lampinen for Elliot Slade (who split 1:49.62). But if Williamsz runs the 4xmile instead, Nova’s chances in the 4×800 go way down.

Potential lineups of top schools with pbs

4×800
VillanovaJosh Lampron 1:49Ben Malone 1:48Ville Lampinen 1:48Jordy Williamsz 1:46
GeorgetownAndrew Ogle 1:51Charles Cooper 1:49Spencer Brown 1:50Joseph White 1:46
Penn St.Isaiah Harris 1:46Jordan Makins 1:48Robby Creese 1:48Brannon Kidder 1:45

LRC Prediction: Penn State wins but doesn’t break the record.

There are certainly other races at Penn that may be of interest. There’s a sprint medley relay (200, 200, 400, 800) with NCAA#3 Andres Arroyo running the anchor for Florida and NCAA #1 Shaquille Walker running for BYU but we’d assume Arroyo will be given the baton with big enough of a lead that he’d get the job done.

More: Talk about the meet on our messageboard: MB:Official 2016 Penn Relay Discussion Thread
*Why are Texas A&M, LSU, & the SEC skipping Penn Relays?

*Penn Schedule *Penn Relays Website’s Distance Preview


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