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.

Season Heating Up for Penn Track

Senior distance runner Megan Powell gives us an inside look at the Quakers' upcoming meet at the Larry Ellis Invitational in Princeton. 

The Quakers are coming off of an exciting two weeks, which included hosting athletes from Cambridge and Oxford last week, and competing at George Mason for one of the biggest collegiate invitationals this past weekend. Before the Brits came to Philly, they lost a dual meet in which Penn teamed up with Cornell in to take the win. Great performances were had, with one of the most significant being Conner Paez’s return race after over a year and a half of intense PT and training following an accident that left him in recovery at the start of the 2011 school year.

Both teams enjoyed the great opportunity to get to know the Brits, which was especially interesting since Penn hosted athletes from the University of Birmingham in England just last year. Next year, Penn and Cornell will hold a dual meet against each other to form a team that will then go overseas to be hosted in return.

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Weekend Wrap

While most of Penn's campus engaged in activities relating to Fling, some of the school's spring athletes were not as fortunate over the weekend. With the Ivy League season in full swing for most sports this time of year, this weekend included a number of contentious matchups, including several against ranked opponents. For recaps of all of the action from the past few days, here's this week's edition of Weekend Wrap:

Baseball:

Entering its first division action of the conference season, the Penn baseball team looked to get off to a good start against arch-rival Princeton. The Quakers, however, gave up seven runs to the Tigers in each of the four weekend contests. Although Penn salvaged a split of Saturday's games, Princeton swept Sunday's doubleheader.

No seventh heaven for Penn baseball

 

Men's Tennis: 

Despite starting the Ivy League season 0-3, the Penn men's tennis team returned to Philadelphia this weekend after a five-game road trip. Against No. 70 Dartmouth on Saturday, freshman Blaine Willenborg saved the Quakers by winning his singles match in three sets to give Penn the 4-3 victory. On Sunday, the Red and Blue dropped a heartbreaker to No. 19 Harvard, 4-3.

Penn men's tennis splits thrilling Ivy weekend series

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Video from the Ms. and Mr. Penn Bodybuilding Contest

In case you missed it, here are a couple of videos from Wednesday night's Ms. and Mr. Penn Bodybuilding Contest. The first is of the Men's Short Class  posing as a group. Note women's track coach and organizer Tony Tenisci saying as he calls out the poses, "Let's show them what a diet can do."

Mr. Penn Short Class

The second video features the top three women of the Ms. Penn Tall Class, including the winner of the Tall Class title, Stephanie Green.

Ms. Penn Tall Class Top 3

Robert Pless and Erin Beck took home the titles of Mr. and Ms. Penn at the end of the night.

For more on the competition and the winners, check out my article in today's paper.

Powell joins Track & Field Academy in Geneva, OH

A day after men's track and field coach Charlie Powell announced his retirement from coaching at Penn, it was announced that the SPIRE of Track & Field Academy will hire Powell to oversee its programs.

SPIRE, which is located in Geneva, Oh., is an indoor multi-sport complex, that includes an artificial turf field, an aquatics center and 8-lane 300 meter Benyon track.

Powell will supervise the track and field events at SPIRE, which in the past has hosted a number of invitationals for Div. I and II.

SPIRE released a press statement today announcing the addition:

“I can’t wait to get started on this new challenge and new chapter of my life,” said Coach Powell. “SPIRE is breaking new ground as the ultimate training, education and competition facility in the country for not only elite athletes and Post Graduate athletes, but also for high school, collegiate, professional, Paralympic and masters level athletes. The unique presence of the Michael Johnson Performance Center and one of, if not the, best track & field complexes in the world, allows all athletes to re-vitalize and re-think the road to success. I am honored to become involved in such an endeavor.”

In the past Powell has served as the director of Penn Relays Distance Night, which is held the Thursday night of the carnival. In addition he has been  member of the Penn Relays Planning Committee since 1984. He has also served as a member of the Penn Relays High School and College Championship Committees.

Marathon Man: Penn Alum Mike Cassidy qualifies for Olympic Trials

You can add one more to the list of Quakers competing in the various U.S. Olympic Trials.

Last Sunday, Mike Cassidy, a Penn alum from 2007 and a former track and cross country member, finished 11th on Sunday at the California International Marathon to qualify for the U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials.

The 26-year old Cassidy, who races for Greater Racing New York, finished the 26.2 mile course in 2 hours, 18 minutes, 52 seconds, just eight seconds under the 2:19 cutoff mark. He will join 150 marathoners from around the country on Jan. 14 in Houston with the top three finishers moving on to London 2012.

Cassidy had a rather unremarkable college career with his most notable race a 30th place finish in the 10,000 meters at the 2005 Penn Relays. However his results in marathons don't lie. He is now one of the top road racers in the country and will look to run in the 2:12-2:14 range in six weeks time.

He will join current Penn swimmer Shelby Fortin and current assitant wrestling coach Matt Valenti who are also competing for spots on the U.S. Olympic Swimming and Wrestling teams, respectively.