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.