Jamaican teams seek redemption and dominance at Penn Relays Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

PHILADELPHIA, Pennysylvania: Jamaican high school athletes will be trying to regain a clean sweep of the 4x100m, 4x400m, and 4x800m relays at the 128th staging of the Penn Relays Carnival, which begins on Thursday at Franklin Field on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus.

Over the past seven renditions of the world’s oldest and largest annual track and field carnival, Jamaican high schools have clinched victory in all six Championships of America relays they contested on five occasions, with exceptions occurring in 2016 and 2023. In those instances, it was the 4x800m relay teams that thwarted Jamaican aspirations for a complete sweep.

In 2016, Jamaican high school boys dominated the 4x100m and 4x400m relays, while also triumphing in the 4x800m relay. However, the girls’ team secured victories in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays but fell to third place in the High School Girls’ 4×800 Championship of America, trailing New York’s Shenendehowa High School.

Similarly, in the previous year, Jamaican high school boys narrowly missed achieving a clean sweep when Kingston College’s (KC) Ainsley Campbell was edged out at the finish line in the High School Boys’ 4x800m Championship of America by Ryan Beegle from Chatham High School in New Jersey. Beegle secured the gold for the Americans in a school-record time of 7:47.66, just .02 of a second ahead of the Jamaicans. Meanwhile, Edwin Allen High School finished second behind Union Catholic in the High School Girls’ 4x800m Championship of America, as they aimed to complete a sweep after Hydel High School had secured victories in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.

The schedule of events has reverted to its original format, with the girls competing first, unlike last year when the boys took the field first.

Jamaicans should prepare for chilly conditions as the weather forecast indicates a high of 56 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hydel High will aim to defend the High School Girls’ 4x100m and 4x400m Championship of America titles.  

The Corey Bennett-coached team won the High School Girls’ 4x100m Championship of America title for the first time last year. The quartet of Alana Reid, Oneika McAnnuff, Shemonique Hazle, and Alliah Baker combined for an impressive time of 44.16 seconds, marking the fifth-fastest time in the history of the Penn Relays.

Jamaica has historically dominated this event, with Vere Technical leading with 15 titles, followed by Edwin Allen (9 titles), St Jago High, and Holmwood Technical High (four each), and Camperdown (three). The last American high school team to win the event was Polytechnic High School in 2012.

Hydel High will go for a third consecutive title in the High School Girls’ 4x400m Championship of America. They lead the event with their impressive 3:33.80 performance at the ISSA/Grace Kennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships, where they defeated Edwin Allen, who finished second in 3:35.06. The last American high school team to win was Eleanor Roosevelt in 2008, defending the title they won in 2007.

Jamaican high schools are anticipated to dominate the High School Boys’ 4x100m Championship of America on Saturday. The last American high school team to win was Glanville High of Ohio in 2004.

Jamaica College (JC) are the defending champions, triumphing in 2023 by defeating St Elizabeth Technical High School. Excelsior High could emerge as strong contenders this year, boasting a formidable Class Two contingent, positioning the Mountain View-based school to potentially secure its first Championship of America 4x100m title.

Kingston College (KC) are expected to excel in the High School Boys’ 4x400m Championship of America on Saturday. They lead the event with notable performances at the Gibson McCook Relays, clocking 3:09.46, and at the ISSA/Boys and Girls’ Championships, where they improved to 3:07.65. On both occasions, they outpaced JC. The North Street-based school will be aiming for a third consecutive title.

Meet director Aaron Robinson is anticipating an exhilarating event. “The high-school boys 4x400m is going to be unbelievable!” exclaimed Robison. “Five teams have run 3:10 or faster, four of those are Jamaican, and then you’ve got Bullis High School with Quincy Wilson on the anchor; I’m telling you, that story is going to write itself.”

Robison spotlighted Wilson from Bullis High School, whose remarkable performance at the Florida Relays, timing at 45.19 seconds, has sparked excitement leading up to the Penn Relays. Wilson’s impressive anchor leg last year, clocking a 45.06 split, underscores his extraordinary talent and determination.

“He is one of those kids that has this fire,” Robison remarked. “If he takes the baton as the anchor and he is in third or fourth, we’re going to see something special as all four or five of those teams come through. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see three or four teams run 3:05. It’s going to be crazy.”

Thursday’s opening day, featuring action among the girls, will be highlighted by the preliminary round of all three relays. The opening day will also include the discus throw, high, long, and triple jumps, and shot put.

Action is set to begin at 8:00 am Jamaica time with the heats of the High School girls’ 4x800m. The finals of all three High School Girls’ Championship of America relays will take place on Friday’s second day when the boys will begin their action.

This year will see the newly added Global Relays, bringing in national relay teams around the world, including Jamaica, competing in the 4×100 and 4×400 metre relays for both men and women ahead of the Olympic Games in Paris this summer. 

“We are honoured to build on the rich history by providing an opportunity for international relay teams and individuals to compete as they prepare for the World Relays and Olympic Games this year,” Steve Dolan, the Frank Dolson Director of Penn Relays said in a press release.

USA Track and Field has opted not to assemble a team for the Global Relays, redirecting their attention to the World Relays in The Bahamas, slated for May 4-5. Instead, prominent American athletes participating will compete in individual events.

The Global Relays have become possible through a partnership with World Athletics, the global governing body for track and field. This collaboration is expected to facilitate the return of prominent athletes to Franklin Field, five years after the popular USA vs the world races ended.

The most iconic rendition of USA vs the world took place in 2010. The 4x100m relay saw a Jamaica team touting Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, defeat the rest of the world in one of Penn Relays’ greatest moments in its 128-year history. 

But the world’s greatest are not coming to Penn Relays to solely entertain the crowd. Rather, Penn Relays now provides higher stakes in terms of international ranking and competition.

On March 11, World Athletics officially elevated Penn Relays to Silver status for the Olympic Development events and Global Relays. Now, athletes will get more World Athletics points for their performance throughout the weekend. These points are crucial for not only world ranking but also for Olympic Games qualification.