Relays weekend is here! Penn & Drake have for eons ruled the end of April. This year, they have new competition from the collegiate sector.
The new kid on the block is National Relay Championships in Arkansas (title courtesy of the go-big-or-go-home crowd). Purists might not be so welcoming, but Razorback coach Chris Bucknam says there was a need for a meet that didn’t focus so much on high schoolers or pros.
“We feel like we’re filling a void in making the college teams the focus this weekend,” he says. “It also gives us an opportunity to bring a major national meet to Fayetteville and showcase our facilities and our university.”
The competition is loaded, with entries from Baylor, Florida, Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, Miami, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Stanford, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin.
While Penn & Drake each may see a few showers, overall the weather forecasts for all three meets are great. So without further ado, 3 types of relays we are looking forward to:
1. Penn’s USA vs. The World
These competitions, all set in the TV window, will feature U.S. national teams taking on squads from the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Trinidad, among others, over the 4×1, 4×4 and sprint medley. Any of these races has the potential of being very exciting. But, they could also be duds. If we knew the actual relay personnel—information that hasn’t so far been forthcoming—we would have something to go on.
For now, we’re thinking that simply based on past USAVTW events, we’re probably going to get some fine races. We’re just not going to say which.
2. Any Relay With Sydney McLaughlin
Kentucky is spoiling us this year, with great headlines every couple of weeks. The key, it seems, is the frosh who hasn’t hurdled yet in Kentucky colors. We simply don’t know where she will show up, but with recent headlines of 11.07w, 22.39 and 50.07, we can be sure it will be interesting.
And it’s not like McLaughlin is the only star out there. The quality on the Wildcat squad is so good that any of their foursomes are likely to be very, very fast. BY keeping everyone guessing, coach Edrick Floréal has captured the interest of many fans.
3. Any Close Relays, Period
Whether in Des Moines, Philadelphia or Fayetteville, we may not know lineups yet, but like most track & field fans, embedded in our DNA is the love of any well-fought baton battle. With the typical rabbited distance race, we often decide if a race is good only after looking at the clock. With a relay race, when we see a dramatic anchor leg come-from-behind, we simply revel in it, and times are an afterthought…
… Which leads us to the non-relays worth watching.
1. Drake’s Women’s 2-Mile
Jenny Simpson is a beloved figure in Des Moines but that doesn’t guarantee her the win over this extremely rare distance. She’ll be facing a solid field that includes Brenda Martinez, Shannon Osika and Alexa Efraimson. If anything, the bulk entries’ résumés tilt more to the 1500 than the 5000, so it will be interesting to see who can shine over double their usual distance.
The last time an outdoor 2M of note was run in the United States for grownup women was the ’14 Pre Classic.
2. The Grant Holloway Record Chase
After his 13.16 two weeks ago, the Florida soph indicated that he really wants to break Renaldo Nehemiah’s Collegiate Record of 13.00 in the 110H. Though there’s no Ruebin Walters to push him this time, at Arkansas, but Holloway has shown he can sometimes do amazing things even if he’s all alone.
3. The Return Of Andre De Grasse
The Canadian sprint star hasn’t raced since his hamstring strain just before London last summer. He’ll be taking on a field at Drake that includes 6 other sub-10 performers.
Will he be the one to challenge Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin for Usain Bolt’s crown? He is downplaying expectations, saying, “I’m not looking for a specific time or anything. Just looking to get my legs under me, get the rust off, see what I can do and go from there.”
4. The Penn Women’s Mile
Got to like Ajee’ Wilson at twice the distance. She has a PR of 4:33.57 but there are plenty who feel that should be faster. She’ll be racing training partners Charlene Lipsey and Angel Piccirillo as well as Danielle Aragon and collegiate 1500 leader Rhianwedd Price-Weimer of Mississippi State.
5. Drake’s Other Individual Events
Many fields are loaded as Des Moines continues to bolster the quality of its pro fields. WR holder Kendra Harrison will be facing a 100H field in which the slowest PR is 12.81. Dalilah Muhammad, Olympic 400H champ, will be racing bronze medalist Ashley Spencer. And both Sandi Morris and Sam Kendricks are making their outdoor vault debuts against great fields. Jenn “semi-retired” Suhr will also be there, busier than ever.
6. The Fayetteville Men’s Triple Jump
Going out on a limb here, but we’re guessing that a competition with 6 of the top 7 collegiate jumpers in it could turn out to be good. The women’s 100 hurdles will be nearly as good, with 6 of the top 11.
7. The LSU Invitational
When the hosts welcome fellow SEC powerhouse Texas A&M into town, you just know that something of note will eventuate.□