Mel Pender and the 1968 4x100m Relay

Tomorrow, we'll be running a story about Dr. Mel Pender and his godson Kyle Webster who is a sophomore on the Penn Track team. Pender, who set world records in the 50-yard, 60-yard, and 70-yard dashes, competed in the Olympics twice. Here is footage from the 4x100-meter relay where he along with Charles Greene, Jim Hines and Ronnie Ray Smith won gold and set a world record of 38.24 meters. The U.S.A. is running in lane two and Pender ran the second leg.

Jamaica, United States set to take center stage at Relays

With Penn Relays drawing nearer, fans and spectators of track and field are prepared to once again be treated to one of the fiercest rivalries in sports.

Unfortunately for the rest of the sporting world, the matchup between the United States and Jamaica on the track is also one of the most underrated.

Though the world takes note every four summers when runners like Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay take part in the Summer Olympics, the rivalry between two of the greatest track and field teams goes far beyond the spectacle of the world’s greatest two-week sporting event.

However, the casual sports fan may not realize that the United States and Jamaica do battle every single year in Philadelphia at Penn Relays.

Yet as athletes from across the globe descend on Penn’s campus for this year’s Relays, teams comprised of Americans and Jamaicans will once again be out in full force.

While both the men’s and women’s side of the college- and Olympic-level events have seen dominant performances from various athletes of a variety of nationalities, the United States and Jamaica are, without a doubt, the most dominant forces that consistently participate at Penn Relays.

Never is that as evident as when both nations field teams in the annual “USA vs. The World” races at Penn. Always competitive, the Americans and their friends from the Caribbean have put on quite a show of late.

In 2012, the United States swept the “USA vs. The World”  races for the first time in the century-long history of the event. While dominant, the Americans were pushed to the brink by the Green and Yellow.

Last year, the American women’s quartet of Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter completed the 4x100-meter race in 42.19. Though the American ladies captured the victory in the race, the top force from the Caribbean was not far behind.

Led by two-time Olympic 100 champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the Jamaicans finished second in the race by just over a second, clocking in at 43.31.

If the Americans are going to have an opportunity to replicate their perfect feat this weekend, both the men and women will need strong performances against tough Jamaican foes.

Fans in attendance this weekend are in luck, as a majority of the athletes comprising the two major powers in 2012 will return for the 2013 edition of the Penn Relays.

Additionally, this year’s spectacle will feature an equally intriguing high school lineup.

The Jamaican high school squads at Penn Relays are coming into the event with plenty of momentum. At the ISSA Jamaica Boys and Girls Championships, both sides finished with strong times that, if replicated at Franklin Field, could result in record-breaking marks.

Historically, the Jamaicans have dominated the High School Boys’ 4x100 Championship of America. Of the top 10 fastest times in the history of the event, a Jamaican team holds nine of those marks — the fourth-fastest time comes from a school from Trinidad and Tobago.

Regardless, the American boys have consistently combated the Jamaicans’ dominance with strong times of their own in the 4x400 championship.

With California’s John Muir High School and Long Beach Poly and Maryland’s Northwestern High School participating, this weekend is sure to feature a dramatic contest between the United States and Jamaica.

Now is the time for the casual sports fan to forget about the Olympics and embrace the American-Jamaican rivalry for what it is: a recurring sports gift based on passion and national pride that never fails to provide entertainment, especially at Penn Relays.

Liveblog: Penn vs Fairfield (W. Hoops)

After a 65-60 win over Howard on Thursday, Penn women's basketball team faces Fairfield in the second round of the Women's Basketball Invitational tonight at the Palestra. The win over the Bison was the program's first postseason victory, and the squad is looking to keep its season alive for at least one more game.

Three Up, Three Down: Princeton Edition

Three Up Three DownIt's rare for the Penn-Princeton matchup to have no Ivy title implications. That said, both teams still have pride on the line: the Quakers (9-21, 6-7 Ivy) are looking to salvage a disappointing season by improving to a .500 record in conference play, while the Tigers (16-11, 9-4) will try to bounce back after suffering defeats on the road against Yale and Brown that ended their Ancient Eight championship hopes. When the two teams meet for what ESPN calls one of the greatest rivalries in college basketball Tuesday night at the Palestra,  who will be up and who will be down for Penn basketball?

Three Up-

Tony Hicks: It's hard to be "up" much more than averaging 23.8 points per contest over his last four games, but Hicks to continue his great play against the Tigers. Last time the teams met, Hicks was the lone bright spot for Penn, putting up 16 points in the defeat. Princeton has no defender quick enough to keep up with Hicks, who has only gotten better since their last meeting. The rookie guard is much improved from the free throw line, as he has made 40-for-45 (.889) from the charity stripe since the last Penn-Princeton matchup. With his quickness and shooting prowess, Hicks will likely put up 16+ points against the Tigers Tuesday night.

Darien Nelson-Henry: Despite Princeton sporting a lineup full of trees (no starter for the Tigers stands under 6-5), Nelson-Henry outweighs all of his opposing starters by at least 40 pounds. Combine that with soft hands and developing skills in the post, and the freshman center is in for a good night while carrying the load inside for Penn.

Attendance: A down year for Penn basketball has left the student section at the Palestra relatively empty on many occasions this season. However, a significant uptick in student attendance can be expected against Princeton. If nothing else, students will attend to wear their "Puck Frinceton" shirts and shout epithets at their rival school.

Three Down-

Three-point shooting defense: T.J. Bray buried the Quakers in January by burying six three-pointers on his way to a 23-point performance. Overall, the Tigers knocked down 11 treys while shooting 50 percent from distance. With Ivy League Player of the Year candidate Ian Hummer attracting attention inside the three-point line, the Penn defense will be distracted and end up chasing the ball around the perimeter. The Tigers, who lead the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Ancient Eight in assists, will succeed in making the extra pass and finding the open man.

Miles Cartwright: The junior guard struggled to find the bottom of the net against the Tigers last time around, converting just 1-for-7 from the field, and there is no reason to believe anything has changed for him since then. Unlike Hicks, Cartwright does not have the craftiness and agility to create his own shot and slice his way through the Princeton zone defense, and his three-point shooting has rarely been reliable this season. All signs point to Cartwright shooting well below 50 percent once again, though he can give Penn a chance to win by distributing the ball  and limiting turnovers.

Turnovers: Over the last three games, Penn has averaged just 13.7 turnovers per contest — a significant improvement from the poor ball handling earlier in the season. Additionally, Princeton ranks second-to-last in steal among the Ivies, which should help the Quakers maintain possession of the ball.

Avery Johnson to visit Penn tomorrow

— via NY Daily News

— via NY Daily News

Avery Johnson, a former NBA coach and ESPN analyst, will be speaking Monday night at Penn as part of a discussion on "The Business of Basketball."

The event is being put together by the Undergraduate Sports Business Club, Black Wharton and MUSE, the undergraduate marketing club.

Johnson, who was fired by the Brooklyn Nets late last year, spent the two years before his most recent coaching gig working for ESPN. He began his coaching career as an assistant for the Dallas Mavericks in 2004 before being hired as head coach the following season until 2008, which included a stint as head coach of the All-Star Game in 2006. His daughter, Christianne, is a sophomore at Penn.

The former NBA player, who jumped between different professional teams from 1988 to 2004, though he spent the majority of his career on the San Antonio Spurs, will be taking part in the discussion beginning at 6 p.m. in Huntsman Hall.

Scouting Report: Brown Edition

Familiar Foe: A month ago, Penn picked up its second Ivy League victory against these same Brown Bears at the Palestra. Miles Cartwright led the way with a career-high 28 points, while Tony Hicks added 15 as the Quakers won 71-48 in a rout.

Since We Last Met: After the loss to Penn, Brown was struggling, as the squad had started out 2-4 in Ivy play. And it didn’t get much better soon after, as the Bears proceeded to lose two of their next three, including a close three-point loss to Cornell. But coach Martin and the Bears have turned it around, having won three straight heading into the matchup with Penn in Providence. The first two wins, which came against Dartmouth and Cornell, came by a combined 28 points, but Brown needed a little more work for a road victory against Columbia at Levien Gymnasium. After a late Lions rally tied the game at 58, the Bears inbounded near midcourt with 1.1 seconds remaining. They ran a play that looked to be designed for junior guard Sean McGonagill to get the final shot, but instead set a back screen for Tucker Halpern to hit a buzzer-beating three pointer to sink Columbia.

Leading the Charge: So if Brown is playing well, the question becomes, thanks to who? The Bears are heavily reliant on their starting five since the team only played eight players in its recent road trip to Cornell and Columbia. That starting five – McGonagill, Halpern, Rafael Maia, Cedric Kuakahmensah, and Matt Sullivan – have been the keys to Brown’s winning streak, each averaging over 25 minutes a game on the season. McGonagill, who is fourth in the Ivies in points and assists per game, has been strong in the three-game stretch, averaging 11.7 points and 3.3 assists per contest. Halpern had a game-high 22 points against Cornell and Sullivan has put up at least 16 points in each of the three wins. Maia and Kuakahmensah have been strong in the post, averaging 9.3 and 6.6 rebounds per contest, respectively.

Sizing it up:

Scoring: PENN- Neither Penn nor Brown has been particularly impressive at putting the ball in the basket this season, ranking sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Ivies in scoring offense. And while Penn put up 75 points to beat Harvard last week and has the recent offensive surge of Tony Hicks, Brown has two of the top four scorers in points per game in the Ancient Eight while also having had its own 84-point outburst against Cornell. This one is pretty even, with a slight edge to Penn based on the 71 points the Red and Blue registered in the first meeting.

Rebounding: BROWN- While Darien Nelson-Henry looked strong down low against Harvard, the Quakers now face a much better frontcourt team than the Crimson. Maia and Kuakamensah are first and second respectively in rebounds per game in the Ancient Eight, and the Bears are second in offensive rebounds. Additionally, Brown is third in rebounding margin, while Penn is dead last.

Beyond the Arc: PENN- This is a close one statistically, as the two teams are within two points of each other in three-point percentage. But the Quakers displayed in the first meeting that they can hit treys very well, going 9-for-15 from three-point range. And the Quakers have weapons off the bench to make long-range jumpers, including Dau Jok and Patrick Lucas-Perry.

Bench: PENN- Speaking of the bench, this category is all Quakers. While the Red and Blue had just nine points off the bench against Harvard, their reserves can absorb a lot more minutes than Brown’s small three-man bench. With players like Jok, Lucas-Perry and Greg Louis, the Quakers can give their starters a spell while still providing quality minutes, something Brown doesn’t always get outside of their starters.

Defense: BROWN- The Bears have only allowed their opponent to score 70 points or more three times in conference play, and have held their past three opponents to 57.7 points per game. On the other side of the court, the Quakers have struggled defensively, ranking seventh in scoring offense, while allowing Harvard to drain 10 shots from beyond the arc Saturday.

Buy your Puck Frinceton shirt now!

27705_puckfrincetontshirt2fOrder your Puck Frinceton shirt by Sunday and you'll have it before the big game on March 12. Only $10.

Unlike last year, shirts can be ordered via mail so alumni and fans outside of Philly can get in on Pucking Frinceton too!

The Swami Speaks: Feb. 22-23 Edition

This is a big weekend in the Ivies, as Cornell must sweep to stay a float and Princeton vies to hold their positioning directly behind Harvard going into the home stretch.

Friday, February 22

Penn (6-18, 3-4 Ivy) at Cornell (13-12, 5-3 Ivy)

Were it not for a 5-seconds violation late in the game at the Palestra, it could be Penn, not Cornell who would have entered into the weekend still in the Ivy race. Cornell has a big match-up against Princeton on Saturday, and could very easily dismiss the Quakers, who hang around and take this one, 66-64, in a game they had no business winning.

Harvard (15-7, 7-1 Ivy) at Brown (9-13, 3-5 Ivy)

This smells like a blowout to me. A sweep would do huge things for Harvard, especially if Princeton falls to Cornell, and this one won't take two overtimes to determine an outcome. Harvard wins big, 75-57.

Princeton (12-9, 5-2 Ivy) at Columbia (10-12, 2-6 Ivy)

Columbia hung around last time, losing by just six, but the Tigers' sense of urgency will be fired up on all cylinders following last week's lost to Harvard. Princeton heats up early, and leaves Columbia in the dust, 68-58.

Dartmouth (6-16, 2-6 Ivy) at Yale (10-15, 4-4 Ivy)

Forget about the fact that Dartmouth won last time these teams faced off. Over the course of the year, we've seen that Yale's not terrible and Dartmouth is. The Elis win, 65-60.

Penn at Columbia

Penn beat Columbia at the Palestra, and while Miles Cartwright won't heat up like he did last time he faced the Lions, the Quakers' defense will come through and limit Columbia's Brian Barbour, just as they did a few weeks ago. It really depends on the outcome of Penn-Cornell, since the Quakers didn't bounce back well from their blowout loss to Harvard, but they take a close one, 60-57.

Princeton at Cornell

The biggest game of the weekend. The Big Red come in playing well, but after facing Yale, Brown and Penn in their last three contests, they haven't seen a team of Princeton's quality in a while. Cornell pushes a little too hard, fails to make its shots, and Princeton wins it, 68-60.

Harvard at Yale

Last time out, the Crimson had a tough time with the Bulldogs, but Harvard has surred up its defense since then, while its youthful offensive prowess only continues to develop. Harvard wins it, 70-60.

Dartmouth at Brown

In what may be the ugliest played basketball game in the Ivy this year, Brown takes it, if only because they're at home. The Bears win, 68-66.