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The Week's Best Matchups: Penn and Drake Relays

The Week’s Best Matchups: Penn and Drake Relays

| On 26, Apr 2016

No, that’s not a typo in the headline. This is the week’s best matchups.

The weekend has a huge amount of competition:

the Penn Relays, featuring the best high school, college and pro relays and nearly 100,000 fans;
the Drake Relays, featuring Diamond League-level fields in eight events and a 51st consecutive Saturday sellout;
the LSU Invitational, a seven-team scored meet featuring five of the top eight men’s teams and four of the top six men’s teams in the latest USTFCCCA rankings;
the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford, drawing most of America’s top distance talent,
rivalry dual meets between USC and UCLA and Arizona and Arizona State;
and the USATF Half Marathon Championships in Columbus.

And that’s just the weekend.

Since there is so much happening this weekend, some of it bleeds over into the weekdays. It starts tonight with the Grand Blue Mile road race in Des Moines. These are the eight matchups you should be following over the next three days.

Kempf vs Sifuentes

Women’s Invitational Championship race, Grand Blue Mile
Downtown Des Moines, IA
Tuesday, 7:15pm local time (8:15pm ET)

The championship races are organized by the Drake Relays, and as of yet the only entries announced are Heather Kampf (ASICS/Team USA Minnesota) and Nicole Sifuentes (Saucony/Canada). Kampf is the defending champion and the most successful road miler in America, while Sifuentes is a stalwart on Canada’s international teams.

It does not appear that there will be any video coverage of the races, but I’m sure that the Drake Relays twitter account will give live updates.

Manzano vs Brannen

Men’s Invitational Championship race, Grand Blue Mile
Tuesday, 7:30pm local time (8:30pm ET)

The featured entries — and again, as of last night the only announced entries — are another USA vs Canada showdown. Leo Manzano (Hoka One One/Austin Track Club) won silver in the 2012 Olympic 1500 meters, while Nathan Brannen (Saucony/Canada) holds four Canadian records.

Barber vs Kendricks

Men’s competition, Pole Vault at Capital Square
Capital Square, downtown Des Moines
Wednesday, 6:00pm local time (7:00pm ET)

The pole vault competition used to be held in a mall, which was the coolest venue for a pole vault competition I’ve ever seen. Last year it was a street vault, and this year it will be at the state capital square. The two featured athletes in the men’s competition are the two rising stars of pole vaulting, Shawn Barber (Nike/Canada) and Sam Kendricks (Nike/USA). Barber won last year’s World Championships gold medal, while Kendricks won silver at this year’s World Indoors.

Morris vs Stefanidi

Men’s competition, Pole Vault at Capital Square
Wednesday, 6:00pm local time (7:00pm ET)

World indoor champion and world record holder Jenn Suhr is injured at the moment, which means Sandi Morris (Nike/USA) and Katerini Stefanidi (Nike/Greece) are the world’s best right now. They won silver and bronze at the World Indoors last month.

Wertman vs Okwelogu

College Women’s Shot Put Championship, Penn Relays
Moon Mondschein Throwing Complex, Philadelphia PA
Thursday, 11:30am

Cassie Wertman (Tennessee) and Nikki Okwelogu (Harvard) were 2nd and 3rd at the NCAA indoor championships, and two more entries — Valentina Muzaric (Auburn) and Rachel Fatherly (Penn State) — are rated as top-ten NCAA putters by Track and Field News. The throwing events at the Penn Relays are held a block away from the main event. It means that they don’t get the 50,000 screaming fans, but what they do get is the full attention of the spectators who are there.

Villanova vs Georgetown

College Women’s Distance Medley Championship of America, Penn Relays
Franklin Field, Philadelphia PA
Thursday, 5:40pm

Georgetown won this event at the NCAA Indoor Championships, but Villanova is the four-time defending champions and this meet is every bit as important to the Wildcats as the national championships. The expected anchor legs — Kaela Edwards for Oklahoma State, Angel Piccirillo for Villanova, and Andrea Keklak for Georgetown — finished 1-2-4 in the mile at the NCAA indoor championships.

Minnesota vs Utah vs Eastern Michigan

University/College Women’s 4×1600 meter relay, Drake Relays
Drake Stadium, Des Moines IA
Thursday, 4:40pm local time (5:40pm ET)

Based on season’s best times, these are the three teams I expect to fight for the win. Utah has the fastest runner (Andrea Chavez), Minnesota has the best depth, and Eastern Michigan is the underdog.

Wisconsin vs Minnesota

University/College Men’s 4×1600 meter relay, Drake Relays
Thursday, 5:05pm local time (6:05pm ET)

Again, based on season’s best times it looks like these are the teams to beat. That their rivalry runs deep will make this race even better.

Come back on Friday morning for the weekend’s best matchups — about fifty of them!

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