For a team that’s never won a race at the 115-year-old Penn Relays, the Oregon Ducks are getting a lot of attention this year. On the men’s side, they have entered the three distance relay races – the 4×800, distance medley relay and 4xmile. They have the horses to contend in all three.

Although they are relative rookies to the Relays, the Ducks have four runners who have experience at Penn:

  • Andrew Wheating, an NCAA champion and member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team at 800 meters, ran in the DMR and 4xmile for Oregon in the 2007 Relays. Oregon finished 7th in each race, running 16:28.52 in the longer race, 7 seconds behind winning Texas, and 9:40.49 in the DMR, 11 seconds behind the Longhorns, who won both races that year. Wheating, a senior, is penciled in to run all three races this year. He has lifetime bests of 1:45.03 for 800, 3:38.60 for 1,500 and 3:58.16 in the mile. He anchored the winning DMR at this year’s NCAA indoor, then was beaten by .01 by Robby Andrews of Virginia in the individual 800.
  • A.J. Acosta, also a senior, also was a member of those Oregon squads in the 4xM and DM in ’07, running the team’s fastest leg in the 4xM (4:01.5 2nd leg) and anchoring the DMR in 4:02.6 for 1,600 meters. (Wheating ran 1:51.1 for the 800 leg in the DMR and 4:08.4 as anchor on the 4-by-mile.) Acosta finished 4th in this year’s NCAA indoor mile. He has lifetime bests of 3:40.52 1,500, 3:58.08 mile.
  • Michael Maag, a graduate student, ran for Princeton until graduation last spring. Maag, an Oregon native, ran at the Relays for the Tigers as well as winning three Ivy League championships, in the 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000. His fastest time in the mile is 4:00.43. He is entered in the 4xmile here.
  • Matthew Centrowitz, a sophomore, ran at the Penn Relays as a student at Broadneck High School, in Annapolis, Md., winning the High School Mile in 2007 and the High School 3,000 in 2006, the only runner ever to win both those championships. Centrowitz, who was the Pac-10 1,500 champion last spring, has personal bests of 3:36.92 for 1,500 and 3:57.92 in the mile. Matthew’s father, Matt Centrowitz, ran at the Relays himself, while in high school at Power Memorial Academy in New York City and as a freshman at Manhattan College, running a leg on the winning 4xmile team in 1974. The senior Centrowitz then transferred to Oregon and thus did not run at Penn Relays again, as the Ducks did not attend the meet until recent years.

Oregon’s other potential runners in the men’s distance relays are:

  • Elijah Greer, freshman halfmiler from Lake Oswego, Ore. Greer ran 1:47.68 in high school and 1:47.33 this indoor season.
  • Travis Thompson, 400/800 runner with an 800 best of 1:49.11. Thompson ran the 800 leg on Oregon’s winning indoor DMR team last month.
  • Dale Mac Fleet, freshman miler from San Diego who ran 3:57.70 for the mile indoors this winter and has run 1:50.31 in the 800. Fleet was NCAA runnerup in the mile indoors.
  • Jordan McNamara, a senior who has run 3:41.13 for 1,500 meters but has been focusing on longer distances this season.
  • Ashton Eaton is Oregon’s fastest quartermiler, but he has not been entered here. Eaton won the NCAA indoor heptathlon this season, breaking the world record.

The other main contenders in this year’s men’s distance relays are expected to include Michigan, Villanova, Georgetown, Columbia, Virginia, Texas, Penn State and Duke.

  • Villanova, coached by Marcus O’Sullivan, will be without the services of the injured Australian Matthew Gibney, the anchor of last year’s championship DMR squad, the Main Line school’s first victory in the event since 2001. ‘Nova has won the DMR 23 times. At the Relays they are expected to choose from among 1:50 halfmilers Jason Apwah (Roxbury, N.J.), Chris Williams (NYC) and Cody Harper (Albuquerque) and New Zealanders Hugo Beamish (8:06 3k), Carl Mackenzie (4:00 mile) and Mat Mildenhall (4:03).
  • Texas, coached by Bubba Thornton, the head coach of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, has won seven distance relay races at Penn the past four years, including last year’s 4×800 and the distance triple the year before, when the miler Leo Manzano was anchor. This year’s Longhorns are led by Tevan and Tevas Everett, twin brothers from Bel-Aire, Kan., and Logan Gonzales, miler from Boone, Iowa. Tevan Everett, last year’s NCAA runnerup in the 800, has run 1:46.27.
  • Columbia, coached by Willy Wood, has become a factor ever since its surprise win in the 4×8 in 2007. The leadoff member of that squad, Mike Mark (Warwick Valley, N.Y.), is back for his senior season, and is joined by Jeff Moriarty (Westwood, Mass.), 1:47, and Kyle Merber (Long Island, N.Y.), who became the first sub-4:00 miler in the school’s history this winter when he ran 3:58.52.
  • Virginia, coached by Jason Vigilante, is a young squad led by freshmen Andrews, Zach Vrhovac and Brett Johnson and sophomore Lance Roller. Andrews, the upset winner of this winter’s NCAA indoor 800, ran a PR 4:01.53 mile this month and ran 1:48.02 indoors in the 800. At last year’s Relays, Andrews anchored the Manalapan (N.J.) HS team in the DMR with a 4:06.2 1600. Vrhovac, who has run PRs of 1:50 800 and 4:07 mile this season, was a member of last year’s record-setting 4×8 team at Albemarle H.S. (Charlottesville, Va.), while Johnson (Ocean City, N.J.) was 4th in last year’s Relays high school mile; he has run 4:09. Roller (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.) ran 1:47.88 in the 800 last year as a freshman; he was 2nd behind Andrews in this year’s ACC indoor 800. They are joined by veterans Ryan Collins (4:08), Alex Bowman (4:05) and Steve Delice. Delice, a transfer from Coppin State, is expected to run the 400 leg in the DMR; he has run 47.05. Virginia’s last victory at Penn in a men’s championship relay was in the shuttle hurdles in 1943. The Cavaliers have never won a distance relay.
  • Penn State, coached by Beth Alford-Sullivan, won this year’s Florida Relays 4×8 in 7:18.72 and boasts four sub-1:50 halfmilers – Sam Borchers (1:48.90), Cas Loxsom (1:47.98), Lionel Williams (1:48.53) and Ryan Foster (1:46.78). Loxsom, a freshman from New Haven, Conn., broke the world indoor Junior record this winter in the 600 meters, running 1:16.92, while Foster, a senior from Tasmania, narrowly missed the collegiate indoor record for 1,000 meters, running 2:19.60. Borchers, a junior from Yellow Springs, Ohio, has run 2:22 for 1,000 and 4:01.98 in the mile, while Foster has run 3:41.26 for 1,500. 
  • Michigan, coached by Ron Warhurst, swept the distance triple in 2005, led by their record-setting 16:04.54 victory in the 4xmile. (That performance stood as the collegiate record until Oregon ran 16:03.24 last year on its home track. Centrowitz and Wheating ran the first two legs, both sub-4:00, on that team.) The Wolverines are led by seniors Brandon Fellows (4:07), Lex Williams (4:01) and Sean McNamara (4:03) and New Zealand freshman Brendon Blacklaws (8:08).
  • Georgetown, coached by Pat Henner, won the 4×8 twice this decade (‘02, ‘04), and the Hoyas were runnersup to Texas in that event last year.  Three members of that group return – Toby Ulm, a junior from Great Britain; John Maloy, a senior from Shaker (N.Y.), and Theon O’Connor, a sophomore from Campion College (Jamaica). They will be joined by two graduate students, Alex Mason, 1:50 halfmiler from Arizona, and Andrew Bumbalough, 3:58 miler from Tennessee. Bumbalough, who missed last season due to injury, anchored Georgetown’s 4th-place DMR at Penn two years ago.
  • Duke, coached by Norm Ogilvie, last won a men’s championship at Penn in 1972 (4xmile). The Blue Devils are led by Ryan McDermott (4:05), Cory Nanni (4:04), Bo Waggoner (4:06) and decathlete Curtis Beach. Beach, a freshman from Albuquerque, ran a 1:47.9 relay split during the indoor season. Duke ran 15:29 in the 4×1500 at this year’s Raleigh Relays.

Three other schools could challenge in the 4×800:

  • Princeton, coached by Fred Samara and winners of this year’s Heps indoor team championship, boasts a large group of excellent middle-distance runners, led by juniors Mike Eddy (1:02 500) and Kyle Soloff (2:26 1000) and freshmen Russell Dinkins (1:01 500), Nathan Mathabane (1:51) and Peter Callahan (1:50). Dinkins and Callahan were both Ivy League champions as frosh last month. They are joined by Mark Amirault (3:53 1500), Donn Cabral (4:08 mile) and Trevor Van Ackeren (3:46 1500). Princeton has won the 4×8 twice at Penn, in 1900 and 1915. The 1915 race was made famous when the Princeton anchor, I.D. McKenzie, fell as he reached the finish. The anchor for the University of Chicago, Leroy Campbell, still standing, broke the tape, but after discussion, Princeton was given the victory, along with a collegiate record, 7:55 3/5, making the Tigers the first college team to break 8:00 in the event.
  • LSU, coached by Dennis Shaver, has three fine halfmilers in seniors Jamaal James (1:47.00) of Trinidad and Richard Jones (1:47.10) of California and freshman Sadiki White (1:49.62) of New Jersey. LSU last won the 4×8 at the Relays in 1935. That team, anchored by the great Billy Hardin, ran 7:49.0y. Hardin also won the 400 hurdles that year, one year before he won the Olympic gold medal.
  • Penn, the host school, coached by Charlie Powell, has a strong group of halfmilers led by Brian Fulton (1:49), a sophomore from Malvern Prep; Jeff Weinstein (2:25 1000), a junior from the Dalton School in New York, and Darryll Oliver, a junior from Brooklyn, N.Y., who recently ran 1:48.41. They are complemented by two freshmen from New Jersey, Tim Carey and Aki Bajulaiye. The Quakers’ last victory in the 4×8 at Penn was in 1922, when the team of George Meredith, James Holden, Eddie McMullen and Larry Brown ran 7:49 2/5 to break the world record for the 2-mile relay. Brown ran a 1:54.0 anchor, passing Alan Helffrich of Penn State. Helffrich won a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics in the 4×4. Penn’s record lasted one year, as it was broken in ensuing years at the Relays by Penn State in 1923 (7:48.8), Boston College in ’24 (7:47.6) and Georgetown in ’25 (7:42.0). One of the members of the Hoyas’ 1925 team was Holden, who had transferred from Penn.

Arkansas, winner of last year’s 4xmile under first-year coach Chris Bucknam, will be without Dorian Ulrey, the NCAA indoor champion at 3,000 meters, who is redshirting. Syracuse could be a factor in the 4xmile. The Orange, coached by Chris Fox, feature Dan Busby (8:06), Brad Miller (4:00) and Jeff Scull (8:04). Texas A&M, coached by Pat Henry, has two sub-1:50 halfmilers, Oscar Ramirez and Joey Roberts, while Connecticut, coached by Greg Roy, has Mike Rutt (1:46.47) and Brian Gagnon (1:46.56). Other schools to watch include Cornell, Albany, Coppin State and Auburn.