Penn Relays | Professionals prepare for London 2012
Early-season Relays a chance for Olympic hopefuls to run in high-stress environment
April 25, 2012, 3:33 am · Updated April 28, 2012, 12:33 am·
The Penn Relays are not the Olympics, but they do feature some of the same athletes. And unlike international competition, it’s right on Penn’s campus.
On Saturday, the final day of Penn Relays, the pros will take to the track as they build up to the Olympic Trials in June.
Several American athletes currently vying for a spot on the Olympic team will be competing at the event, including Sanya Richards-Ross, Leo Manzano, LaShawn Merritt and Bernard Lagat.
In the women’s 4×100-meter relay, Team USA’s sprint team will feature Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter, both aspiring Olympians this year. They will be joined by Francena McCorory, Jessica Beard and Bianca Knight. All five represented the United States at the World Championsips in Daegu, South Korea last year on a team that took home gold in the 4×100m and 4×400m relays.
Team USA will face challengers from Jamaica and Great Britain. Jamaica’s team will feature Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (the defending Olympian champion in the 100m), Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson in the 4×100m (a fourth runner is yet to be determined). All three medaled at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Shericka Williams and Novlene Williams-Mills will be running in the 4×400m and Kenia Sinclair will be in the 800m.
Merritt, whose ban for failing a drug test recently expired, specializes in the 400m and 4×400m relay — he won both in Beijing. He is trying to become just the second male to defend his 400m title on the Olympic stage.
Joining Merritt on the track for Team USA will be Walter Dix, Angelo Taylor, Justin Gatlin and Bershawn Jackson.
Bernard Lagat, at 37 years old, is one of the oldest pros around. A middle and long-distance runner, the Kenyan-turned-American holds the North American records in the 1500m, 3000m and 5000m outdoors.
“I run the 1500, so it’s neat to see someone who’s a professional in the race I run,” said Connor Jaramillo, a freshman on Penn’s cross country team.
Jaramillo will also get a chance to see Manzano, one of the United States’ youngest distance stars. Primarily a 1500m runner, Manzano also ran in Beijing and will represent the United States in the distance medley relay on Saturday. A five-time NCAA champion, he has already won several international races.
The U.S. medley team, anchored by Lagat, will also sport Jeshua Anderson, Khadevis Robinson, Nick Symmonds and Russel Brown, as well as Manzano.
The hurdles will feature David Oliver, who took home bronze in Beijing in the 110m hurdles event, and who holds the U.S. record in that event. Oliver is no newcomer to the Relays — in 2008, he and three others broke the 4×120m shuttle hurdles world record.
Richards-Ross, like Merritt, is a 400m and 4×400m runner who took home gold in the latter and bronze in the former in Beijing. She’s also won a plethora of other gold medals at World Championships dating back to 2003, and this will be her second straight year competing at the Relays.
Jaramillo said being there to watch professionals compete would be a unique experience.
“It’s something to aspire to,” he said. “It’s not just some story you hear, like some guy ran some time. You actually see it [and know] that’s what it takes.”