Rivalries to be renewed at Penns
A record number of Jamaican high schools are down to compete at the 127th staging of the Penn Relays, scheduled to take place between Thursday to Saturday next week at the Franklin Field Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the United States of America (USA).
Edwin Allen and Hydel girls look set to continue their excellent performances coming off great rivalries at the recent ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships (Champs), where the Ferry-based Hydel upset the nine-time champions by two points to win their first Games Mistress Association Trophy.
Their rivalry will be showcased this year on Friday and Saturday, the days the larger crowds are expected, with the boys competing on Thursday and Friday. Last year, with Edwin and Hydel performing on the first two days, they produced record-breaking performances in the Championship of America 4x100 and 4x400 metres relays.
Both went sub-44 seconds last year in the 4x100 metres relay when Edwin Allen included twin sisters Tia and Tina Clayton and won in 43.18 seconds, their third time under the 44 seconds barrier at the meet. Hydel, who included Briana Lyston and Kerrica Hill, finished second in 43.69 seconds for their first sub-44 seconds.
Hydel will be hoping for their first victory in the 4x100 metres this year, and with the outstanding Alana Reid, who clocked a national junior record of 10.92 seconds to win the Class One 100 metres at Champs, they have beaten Edwin Allen on all three occasions they have met so far this season. Team captain Oneika McAnnuff, Aaliyah Baker and Shemonique Hazel should join Reid.
Edwin Allen, who lost narrowly to Hydel at Champs, were without an injured Serena Cole, the Under-20 World Championships 100 metres silver medallist, who suffered a hamstring injury during her Class One 100 metres semifinal.
She is expected to return for the Penn Relays, and with Class Three top sprinter Theianna-Lee Terrelonge to be inserted and join vastly improved Kacian Powell and Toniann Forbes, another pulsating finish is expected, as Edwin Allen seek their 10th title.
Hydel will be hoping to make it three wins in a row in the 4x400, but Edwin Allen look set to dethrone them after an impressive 3:31.79 minutes at Champs to win with the second-fastest time ever in high school history. Edwin's time is much faster than Hydel's last year's record at Penns of 3:32.77.
Locally, Edwin Allen have been best this season in the 4x800 with 8:51.61 minutes at Western Champs and Gibson/McCook Relays. They are the defending Penns champions.
Eleven-time champions Holmwood Technical will be hoping to deny them, but their biggest test could come from top-seed Union Catholic out of Scotch Plains, New Jersey.
Last year, Union defeated Edwin Allen in the preliminary round before finishing third in the final after one of their athletes fell. Union finished second in 8:48.68 minutes at the New Balance Indoor meet in Boston in February. It was the second fastest indoor time ever by a high school in the USA.
DISAPPOINTED Jamaica COLLEGE
Jamaica College (JC), after their disappointment at Champs, where they finished a distant second to Kingston College (KC) for the overall title, could have some redemption at Penns, as they could walk away with three titles.
JC won the Championship of America 4x800 metres relay in 7:28.38 minutes last year and are the top seed this year with 7:35.08 at the Gibson/McCook Relays. They will be led by the versatile Kemarrio Bygrave and look set to turn back KC and eight-time winners St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS).
It should also be smooth sailing for the Old Hope Road-based JC in the 4x100 and 4x400 metres events.
In the 4x100, JC's Gibson/McCook Relays Class One winning time of 40.01 seconds is joint first with the Champs win of KC, who suffered a setback after injury to Bouwahjgie Nkrumie at the Carifta Games in The Bahamas. This should pave the way to victory for the Malique Smith Band and Hector Benjamin-led JC, as sub-40 seconds is on the card.
BRIAN LEVELL RETURNS
JC's biggest test could come in the 4x400 metres, where they should be strongly challenged by the defending champion KC, STETHS and Edwin Allen, who will welcome the return of their outstanding athlete Brian Levell, who has been out of action for the majority of the season because of a hamstring injury.
Without their top quarter-miler Smith Band at Champs, JC stopped the clock at 3:09.31 minutes, the fastest this season. With Smith Band expected to run at Penns, they look set to go even faster, seeking to end the meet on a high.
Over 50 athletes, led by Calabar High's Kobe Lawrence in the boys' shot put Cedricka Williams of Holmwood in the girls' discus and St Jago High's Jade-Ann Dawkins in the girls' triple jump, will be involved in field events over the three days.