The Penn Relays are upon us, which never fails to bring out some of the best runners in the world at all levels. Here are a few top competitors to keep an eye on.
Edward Cheserek, freshman distance runner, Oregon
Cheserek’s Penn Relays ended in disappointment last year, as his St. Benedict’s Prep (N.J.) distance medley relay team got off to a poor start and wound up finishing 10 seconds behind eventual winner La Salle College (Pa.). There won’t be a repeat of that this time around.
The freshman has taken the NCAA track scene by storm, winning the 2013 NCAA Cross Country Championship with a 10-kilometer time of 29:41.1, topping that off with an indoor national championship in the 3,000m with a time of 8:11.59.
Just last week, Cheserek won the 5,000m at the Oregon Relays, beating out teammate Eric Jenkins by just over two seconds.
“I was happy to run with my teammate,” Cheserek said after the race. “It was great. I said, ‘Let’s just run together. We don’t have to run crazy.’”
With the Ducks entering teams into both the men’s distance medley championship and 4x1-mile relays, expect to see a lot of Cheserek near the front.
Abbey D’Agostino, senior distance runner, Dartmouth
The Ancient Eight’s shining star at the Penn Relays may not hail from the Red and Blue, but rather the Big Green.
The 2013 NCAA cross country champion, D’Agostino is back for one final go-round on the Franklin Field track, where her 4x1500m team finished fourth in 2012.
Though the Big Green didn’t send any female runners to the Relays last year, D’Agostino didn’t miss a beat, winning the outdoor NCAA championship in the 5,000m.
“I would have laughed out loud if you would have told me I’d be here right now, four years ago,” she said in an ESPN.com profile. “But I think it’s one of those things. I think as I started to gain confidence, and the fact that running is a gift that I’ve been given — I really feel that way — and every race is just an opportunity to use it. I’ve accepted this is a really important part of my life, a platform for me.”
D’Agostino will likely be a part of Dartmouth’s entries in the distance medley relay and 4x1500m relay, giving her two more chances to add to her legacy.
Keturah Orji, senior jumper, Mount Olive High School (N.J.)
Mark this name down if you haven’t heard of her yet — Orji is about to become a household name in the world of track and field.
Orji enters the Penn Relays just over a month removed from the best performance of her career, a 44 foot, two inch mark in the triple jump at the New Balance Nationals that was second-best in U.S. indoor history. Add that onto the long jump national championship that she won the previous day, and you have a recipe for greatness.
“I’m much happier with the triple jump than I was with the long jump [the day before],” Orji said after the meet. “An indoor PR is good, even though I was going for the national record.”
Bound for Georgia next year, which typically does not compete at the Penn Relays, this year may be the last chance to see Orji compete at Franklin Field for a long time.
Better get your cameras ready.