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The Weekend's Best Matchups: Friday at the Penn and Drake Relays

The Weekend’s Best Matchups: Friday at the Penn and Drake Relays

| On 29, Apr 2016

As I said on Tuesday, this weekend is chock full of great domestic track and field action with no fewer than seven top-level competitions. We’ll take the weekend one day at a time.

Today’s competitions are the Penn Relays and Drake Relays. Drake takes center stage tonight with its Rio Olympic Games Preview events.

Penn will be webcast live on Flotrack (subscription required). Drake will be webcast live at via their brand-new subscription service, an extension of the RunnerSpace Plus subscription service.

Below are today’s twenty-seven (!) best matchups. Of course there are further entries in each event than the ones I mention, but those are the ones I believe are contending for the win.

Today’s best matchup?

Kirani James (Grenada) vs LaShawn Merritt (USA)

Drake Relays Rio Olympic Games Preview men’s 400 meters
7:20pm local time/8:20pm ET | Startlist/results
This is one of the best rivalries on the pro circuit, and Merritt recently showed great form with a PR at 200 meters (19.78). At the very same meet, the Chris Brown Invitational in Nassau, James ran an excellent 44.36. The battle lines are drawn. Other entries include Liguelin Santos (Dominican Republic, #4 in the All-Athletics world rankings), David Verburg (USA, stalwart on the American relays) and Chris Brown (Bahamas, the veteran runner who organized the Nassau meet), but all eyes are on James and Merritt.

All the rest…

Penn Relays College men’s 400m hurdles Championship
9:00am | Start list/results
Sean Rowe (St. Augustine’s) vs Desmond Palmer (Pitt) vs Jussi Kanervo (South Carolina)
Palmer and Kanervo are picked 4th and 5th in the latest Track and Field News NCAA Championships formcharts, but Rowe, out of D-II St. Augustine’s, handily beat both of them at the Florida Relays four weeks ago.

Penn Relays College Women’s Triple Jump Championship
10:00am | Start list/results
Simone Charley (Vanderbilt) vs Marshay Ryan (Auburn) vs Natasha Dicks (South Carolina)
Charley and Dicks were second and third at the NCAA indoor championships, while Ryan was runner-up at last year’s NCAA outdoor championships.

Drake Relays men’s College/University javelin throw
10:00am local time/11:00am ET | Startlist/results
Matti Mortemore (North Dakota State) vs Bill Stanley (Ohio State)
Stanley was fourth at the NCAAs last year while Mortemore was seventh.

Drake Relays men’s College/University shot put
11:00am local time/12:00pm ET | Startlist/results
J.C. Murasky (Ohio State) vs Chuk Enekwechi (Purdue)
Murasky has the upper hand so far this year, beating his conference rival at the Big Ten (1st over 2nd) and NCAA indoor championships (3rd over 4th).

Drake Relays women’s College/University 400 hurdles
11:57am local time/12:57pm ET | Startlist/results
Ariel Jones (Texas) vs Symone Black (Purdue)
This is a rematch of the top two at the Texas Relays, and both are rated in the latest Track and Field News NCAA formcharts.

Penn Relays College women’s 4×100 Championship of America
1:00pm | Start list/results
Oregon vs Jamaica
The Oregon Ducks have never won this event at the Penn Relays, but they are running blazingly fast times so far this year. The Jamaican teams, UTech and G.C. Foster, might be their biggest threat.

Penn Relays College women’s 4×1500 Championship of America
1:20pm | Start list/results
Oregon vs Georgetown vs Villanova
The Penn Relays’ own preview:
In the women’s version of the race, the 4 by 1,500, Villanova also has entered a team, but it will be missing the senior Angel Piccirillo, the winner of eight Relays watches so far in her career. Piccirillo, runner-up in the NCAA indoor mile, is redshirting the outdoor season.
Coach Gina Procaccio’s squad will be up against fine squads from Oregon and Georgetown. Stanford, the defending champion, is not competing at the Relays this year.
Oregon, winners of the event in 2012, plan a lineup of Lilli Burdon (4:24 best), Ashley Maton (4:20), Alli Cash (4:16) and Annie Leblanc (4:15). Georgetown has Andrea Keklak (4:17), Katrina Coogan (4:13), Samantha Nadel (4:17) and Audrey Belf (4:43 mile). Belf, a freshman from Birmingham, Mich., is making her Relays debut. Coach Mike Smith’s Hoyas have never won the event at the Relays.

Penn Relays College women’s High Jump Championship
1:45pm | Start list/results
Jailah Mason (Morgan State) vs Deandra Daniel (Coppin State) vs Erika Hurd (Cincinnati)
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rivals Mason and Daniel are both All-Americans, as is Hurd.

Penn Relays College men’s Long Jump Championship
2:00pm | Start list/results
Jonathan Addison (NC State) vs Damarcus Simpson (Chadron State)
Addison was the NCAA indoor runner-up by a mere two centimeters, and Simpson is the defending NCAA D-II outdoor champion.

Penn Relays College men’s Distance Medley Championship of America
2:35pm | Start list/results
Penn State vs Villanova vs Oklahoma State
This is THE race at the Penn Relays, the one race teams want to win more than any other. Penn State has significant depth across a range of middle distances, which is what the event is all about, but Villanova always seems to find a way. Oklahoma State dominated the distance relays at Drake last year and are making their first appearance at Penn in a long time; they last won a “big wheel” trophy in 1954.

Penn Relays College men’s Shuttle Hurdles Championship of America
3:10pm | Start list/results
South Carolina vs Houston
The Gamecocks, the defending champions, look like they have the best depth. Houston may be their best competition.

Penn Relays College women’s Shuttle Hurdles Championship of America
3:25pm | Start list/results
Florida State vs Auburn vs South Carolina
The Seminoles are the top seed, and the Tigers and Gamecocks are the last two champions.

Penn Relays High School Boys’ Distance Medley Championship of America
5:55pm | Start list/results
Loudon Valley vs record book
The meet record is 9:59.66, by South Lakes (Reston, VA) in 2001 when Alan Webb anchored in 4:04.7. Loudon Valley has Drew Hunter, who broke Webb’s national high school indoor record two months ago.

Drake Relays Rio Olympic Games Preview men’s high jump
6:00pm local time/7:00pm ET | Startlist/results
Derek Drouin (Canada) vs Michael Mason (Canada)
This is the only “Rio Olympic Games Preview” events whose entries didn’t get a big press release, and that’s because it’s easily the weakest of the pro fields. The only two jumpers that are favorites to actually be on their Olympic team are the two Canadians, Drouin and Mason, who are currently 3rd and 13th respectively in the world rankings.

Drake Relays Rio Olympic Games Preview men’s pole vault
6:15pm local time/7:15pm ET | Startlist/results
Shawn Barber (Canada) vs Sam Kendricks (USA)
This is a reprise of the special indoor competition held Wednesday in the Capital Square atrium. Barber is the reigning World outdoor champion, and Kendricks beat him at last month’s indoor Worlds while winning silver. A handful of other US Olympic teams contenders are also entered.

Penn Relays College women’s Sprint Medley Championship of America
6:25pm | Start list/results
Oregon vs U Tech
The Oregon Ducks have a great lineup available in the sprint medley and have reigning NCAA champion and sub-2:00 runner Raevyn Rogers on anchor, but Jamaica’s University of Technology has their own sub-2:00 anchor in Simoya Campbell.

Drake Relays women’s University 4×200 relay
6:30pm local time/7:30pm ET | Startlist/results
Texas vs Purdue vs Ohio State
The Longhorns would have no peer in this race if they line up their full array of sprint talent, but if they save some of their biggest stars (Morolake Akinosun, Courtney Okolo, Teahna Daniels) for other events then it opens the door for challengers such as Purdue and Ohio State.

Drake Relays Rio Olympic Games Preview women’s long jump
6:30pm local time/7:30pm ET | Startlist/results
Tianna Bartoletta (USA) vs Brittney Reese (USA)
This is a truly Diamond League-quality field, featuring six of the top eight or so jumpers in the world, but Bartletta and Reese are well above the others when jumping their best. Reese won basically every championship for eight years before falling into an injury-plagued slump for the last two seasons, but broke out of it with a big win at the World Indoors. Bartoletta is the reigning World Champion. These two account for five of the last six World Championships gold medals.

Drake Relays Rio Olympic Games Preview women’s shot put
6:30pm local time/7:30pm ET | Startlist/results
Michelle Carter (USA) vs Jillian Camarena Williams (USA) vs Cleopatra Borel-Brown (Trinidad & Tobago)
Carter won gold at the World indoor championships last month — was it really only a month ago? — while Camarena Williams and Borel-Brown battled for fourth and fifth.

Drake Relays men’s University 4×200 relay
6:45pm local time/7:45pm ET | Startlist/results
Texas vs Purdue vs Ohio State
The Longhorns are the favorites, but the Boilermakers have upped their game recently and could challenge and Ohio State has decent depth too.

Penn Relays College men’s Sprint Medley Championship of America
6:50pm | Start list/results
Florida vs BYU
Florida is as strong in the long sprints as any team in the nation, and they anchor with Andres Arroyo (1:45.78 PR). BYU will almost assuredly be behind at the last exchange, but they have the fastest anchor in the nation in Shaquille Walker (1:44.99 PR).

Drake Relays coed special shuttle hurdle relay
7:03pm local time/8:03pm ET | Startlist/results
Innovation vs gimmickry
The pros who will be racing the high hurdles on Saturday are running a one-of-a-kind race on Friday, a coed shuttle hurdle relay. Is it a gimmick? Is it innovation? Whichever way you see it, I think it’s going to be fun. And it’s going to be fast, because the teams are made up of top-tier talent.

Drake Relays Rio Olympic Games Preview men’s 400 meters
7:20pm local time/8:20pm ET | Startlist/results
Kirani James (Grenada) vs LaShawn Merritt (USA)
See the top for a detailed breakdown.

Drake Relays Rio Olympic Games Preview men’s 400 hurdles
7:32pm local time/8:32pm ET | Startlist/results
Jeffrey Gibson (Bahamas) vs Bershawn Jackson (USA) vs Johnny Dutch (USA)
Gibson and Dutch are currently 1st and 2nd in the world rankings, but Gibson was third at the Chris Brown Invitational two weeks ago and Jackson has yet to open his outdoor season. Dutch is the current world leader and might be in the best form of the three.

Drake Relays women’s University 4×800 relay
7:48pm local time/8:48pm ET | Startlist/results
Texas vs Iowa State
This is the first event in the Hy-Vee Cup, the team-scored competition over six relay events. There are a lot of teams that could compete for the win, but I think Texas has the most talent and Iowa State will have the support of the crowd.

Drake Relays Rio Olympic Games Preview women’s 1500 meters
7:56pm local time/8:56pm ET | Startlist/results
Jenny Simpson (USA) vs Brenda Martinez (USA)
Simpson is simply the best American women’s miler since the heyday of Mary Slaney, and Martinez is one of the few Americans who can challenge her. Beware Heather Kampf, who won the Grand Blue Mile on Tuesday night and is race-sharp.

Drake Relays men’s University 4×800 relay
8:19pm local time/9:19pm ET | Startlist/results
Minnesota vs the field
The Golden Gophers have four sub-1:50 runners this season while no other entry has more than two.


  1. Appreciate the article. Very excited about the Kirani v LaShawn. However, gotta call foul on calling Simpson the best miler since Slaney. A certain American record holder, Shannon Rowbury might beg to differ also.

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