All roads continue to lead to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania today and tomorrow for the 116th Penn Relay Carnival at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field Stadium. And, as in past years, Caribbean die-hards, particularly the Jamaicans, as well as others who just want to experience the thrill, are journeying to Philly by train from across the country or flying to the New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia tri-state area from as far away as their Caribbean homeland. They’re coming to witness the world’s fastest man, Usain ‘Lightning’ Bolt, anchor one of Jamaica’s two sprint relays against archrival USA in the Visa Championship ‘USA vs. the World’ Series tomorrow afternoon, the final day of the Relays.
According to USA Track & Field report, events at this year’s ‘USA vs. the World’ include the Nike men’s 4x100m, the Visa women’s 4x100m, the Visa men’s 4x400m, the Nike women’s 4x400m, the men’s distance medley relay and the women’s sprint medley relay. The 12 countries down to compete in both the women’s and men’s events in this segment include Australia, Bahamas, Canada, Dominican Republic, Great Britain, Germany, Jamaica, Kenya, Morocco and Russia, Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) and the USA.
This year, Jamaica's
pool of male
sprinters has enough depth to run two 4x100m relay teams: Jamaica Black and Jamaica Yellow.
Jamaica has never been able to field any of its senior 4x1 relay teams at full strength, even though it has managed to cop a win here. This year, however, the men’s pool of sprinters has enough depth to run two teams: Jamaica Black and Jamaica Yellow. One will be anchored by double world-record-holder Bolt, the other by former world-record-holder Asafa Powell.
The word is that Bolt's team will include his Racers Track Club teammates Yohan Blake and Marvin Anderson. Powell’s will include his MVP Club teammates Nesta Carter and Michael Frater. The two other runners to fill the remaining spots will be chosen from Mario Forsythe (Racers), Dwight Thomas, Lerone Clarke and Steve Mullings. As always, the US will run two: USA Red and USA Blue. Their pool to pull from is made up of Walter Dix, Travis Padgett, Darvis Patton, Shawn Crawford, Ivory Williams, Rae Edwards, Mark Jelks, Leroy Dixon, Mike Rodgers and Ryan Bailey.
But don’t count out T&T, the 2008 Olympic and 2009 World Championships silver medal team from the eastern Caribbean. The twin-island republic is very much in the mix again, and if any of the two top guns slip, T&T will be right there to capitalize. They will feature 2008 Olympic 100m silver medalist Richard Thompson, Marc Burns and Emmanuel Callender, Keston Bledman and Darrel Brown – all with Olympic or World Championships experience.
If Jamaica is victorious, it would be only the island’s second win in the 11 years of the men’s USA vs. the World 4x100m relay at Penns. A 1-2 finish would be history. Victory in the event first came in 2008, when Marvin Anderson, Michael Frater, Nesta Carter and Dwight Thomas, in that order, won the race, beating a fancied USA Red team.
The Jamaican women also have an awesome squad. Their single-entry line-up includes reigning 2008 Beijing Olympic and 2009 Berlin Worlds 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser; Beijing and Berlin 100m silver medalist Kerron Stewart; Beijing 100m silver medalist Sherone Simpson; and Simone Facey, who led off the gold-medal 4x100m with Fraser and Stewart during last year’s World Championships in Berlin.
Jamaica has been triumphant in other ‘USA vs. The World’ relays. Last year, Sheri-Ann Brooks, Rosemarie Whyte, Moya Thompson and Kenia Sinclair set a sprint medley relay meet record of 3:34.56 secs. In 2005, the island took the men’s 4x4 race with the gutsy and now retired Davian Clarke on anchor.
In 2002, victory for the Jamaican women’s 4x200m relay team was so close, all Jamaicans were tasting it until anchor runner Tayna Lawrence fell just inches away from the finish line, after maintaining the one-meter lead she got when she took the baton. The USA Blue anchor simply stepped by the fallen Lawrence to snatch victory in 1:30.87.
The high school segment is another story with an excitement of its own. In addition to the more-than-three-dozen Jamaican schools down to compete, there will be a number of schools from other Caribbean territories: six from the Bahamas, three from Barbados, six from T&T, one from the Turks and Caicos, and three from the Virgin Islands. Schools from Namibia, Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom will also compete.
Jamaican high schools will defend five Championships of America relay titles this year. Last year, Edwin Allen Comprehensive girls won the 4x400m and 4x800m and Vere Technical won the 4x100m. Calabar High School set a new meet record 39.91 secs in the boys' 4x100m and St. Jago High retained its 4x400m title.
In previous years, several Jamaican athletes were denied US visas to travel to Penns and then granted the documents at the last minute. This year, a number of athletes from several top-performing schools were again denied visas as late as two days before the start of the Relays and might have to reconfigure their teams. If, however, the problems have been thoroughly ironed out, Jamaica could see as many as five/six of its teams in some relay finals. But early season kickers Benjamin Cardozo High School from New York could be the worries of Jamaica’s 4x4 teams such as Holmwood Technical, Herbert Morrison and Edwin Allen Comprehensive. Like many of the US colleges Cardozo has Caribbean athletes on its team.
With Jamaica’s strong showing in the field events at the recent CARIFTA Games in Cayman, the young discus and shot put throwers as well as jumpers should be forces to be reckoned with.
Last year, four high-schoolers won individual events: Jamaica College's K'Don Samuels set a then national junior record of 4.80m as the first Jamaican to win the pole vault; St Elizabeth Technical's Peter-Gay Reid kept her high jump title; Reid’s teammate Rochelle Farquharson won her first triple jump event and St. George's College's Kimarki Absalom won the high jump.
Calabar’s Chad Wright and Travis Smikle will be there to continue their discus rivalry after Wright’s record-breaking throws at Champs 100 and CARIFTA.
Jamaica’s University of Technology (UTech) ladies are the first Jamaican college team to win an event. Christine Day, Stephanie McPherson, Kaliese Spencer and Aneisha McLaughlin combined to take the 4x400m.
Barring inclement weather, Caribbean athletes are expected to perform at a high level. But don’t be mistaken; the US institutions, whether they run Caribbean athletes on their teams, won’t make it easy for those from the Jamaicans and others, who will have to pull out all the stops.
Here’s a look at the tentative Caribbean and US pools for the ‘USA vs. The World’ segment. The final line-ups will be determined tonight.
4x100: Jonathan Davis, Rodney Greene, Adrian Griffith, Jamial Rolle, Brunell McKenzie
4x400: Chris Brown, Ramon Miller, Nathaniel McKinney, Andrae Williams
4x100: Rashan Brown, Shaketa Henfield, Jernise Saunders, Katarina Smith, Tavannia Thompson
4x400: Shaketa Henfield, Sasha Rolle, Crystal Strachan
SMR: Katrina Seymour, Ivanique Kemp, Hughnique Rolle
4x400: Gustavo Cuesta, Alvin Harrison, Kelvin Herrera, Arismendy Peguero, Tayron Reyes, Yoel Tapia
4x100: Marvin Anderson, Kenroy Anderson, Yohan Blake, Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Xavier Brown, Nesta Carter, Mario Forsythe, Michael Frater, Dwight Thomas, Steve Mullings, Lerone Clarke
4x400: Dwayne Barrett, Ricardo Chambers, Jermaine Gonzales, Edino Steele
4x100: Shillonie Calvert, Simone Facey, Shelly Ann Fraser, Sherone Simpson, Kerron Stewart
4x400: Davita Prendergast, Rosemarie Whyte, Shericka Williams, Novlene Williams-Mills
SMR: Kenia Sinclair
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
4x100: Aaron Armstrong, Keston Bledman, Darrel Brown, Emmanuel Callendar, Richard Thompson
4x100: Ayanna Hutchinson, Michelle Lee-Ahye, Josanne Lucas, Sasha Springer, Reyare Thomas
4x400: Melissa De Leon, Jessica James, Sparkle McKnight, Josanne Lucas, Sasha Springer
4x100: Darvis Patton, Mike Rodgers, Walter Dix, Travis Padgett, Rae Edwards, Mark Jelks, Ryan Bailey, Shaw Crawford, Leroy Dixon, Ivory Williams
4x400: Kerron Clement, David Neville, Angelo Taylor, Jamaal Torrance, Bershawn Jackson, Justin Gaymon, LeJerald Betters, Xavier Carter, Ryan Bailey, Jordan Boase
DMR: Nick Symmonds, Will Leer, Leo Manzano, Jacob Hernandez, David Torrence, Duane Solomon
4x100: Carmelita Jeter , Alexandria Anderson, Allyson Felix, Mikele Barber, Lisa Barber, Rachelle Boone-Smith, Virginia Powell, Tiffany Ofili
4x400: Sanya Richards, Allyson Felix, Debbie Dunn, Natasha Hastings, Dee Dee Trotter, Lashinda Demus, Sheena Tosta, Ebony Collins, Nicole Leach, Shana Cox, Ebony Floyd
SMR: Christin Wurth Thomas, Anna Willard Pierce, Alysia Johnson.
DMR: Collis Birmingham, Nick Bromley (Alternate), Ryan Gregson, Jeff Risley, Sean Wroe
4x100: Richard Adu-bobie, Seyi Smith, Hank Palmer, Brian Barnett, Anson Henry, Justyn Warner, Tyrone Halstead, Sam Effah, Jared Connaughton
DMR: Andrew Ellerton, Quin Ferguson, Matthew Lincoln, Gary Reed
4x400: Carline Muir, Ammon Nelson, Esther Akinsulie, Adrienne Power, Kimberly Hyacinthe
SMR: Victoria Barr, Joey Duck, Christine Ohuruogu, Nicola Sanders, Jemma Simpson
4x100: Marius Broening, Robert Hering, Martin Keller, Alexander Kosenkow, Sven Knipphals
4x100: Anne Mollinger, Marion Wagner, Mareike Peters, Cathleen Tschirch, Verena Sailer
4x400: Stephen Kamolo, Moses Kertich, Jonathan Kibet, Julius Kirwa, Vincent Mumo
DMR: Alex Kipchirchir, Asbel Kiprop, Mark Kiprotich Muttai, Josephat Kithii (Alternate), Alfred Yego.
DMR: Hicham Bellani, Mouhcine Elamine, Marouane Elmaadadi, Sidiayyoub Elmandilo, Amine Laalou
SMR: Ekaterina Efimova, Yulia Katsura, Oxana Spasovhodskaya, Ksenia Vdovina, Lilia Zubkova.