The best three boys’ teams in the state of California — Long Beach Poly, Rio Mesa of Oxnard and Junipero Serra of Gardena — will be competing in the high school relays at Penn this year. They promise to be a factor in all of the races they enter.
In the 4×1 and 4×4 they will of course tangle with outstanding teams from Jamaica as well as from the East. The 4×4 lineup will also include a team from Ohio, Trotwood-Madison, the U.S. leader this indoor season, and a team from Trinidad that features the brilliant young intermediate hurdler, Jehue Gordon.
In the 4×8, Poly, which won Mt. SAC over the weekend in 7:47, will face half a dozen other sub-7:50 teams, from Jamaica, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. The DMR field has six teams that ran under 10:10 indoors, led by Hamden (Conn.) at 10:07.
Jamaican schools are generally the teams to beat in this event. They have won the last five years – by Calabar, St. Jago, Camperdown and Holmwood Tech – and 13 of the last 20. The winner of this year’s Gibson Relays was St. George’s College, whose time of 40.24 is the fastest by a Jamaican school this season. St. George’s, founded in Kingston by Jesuits in 1850, has never won a championship at Penn.
The winner of the Jamaican Champs, however, was Calabar, in 40.97, ahead of 2nd-place Camperdown and 3rd-place St. George’s. Wolmer’s (40.38) was 2nd at Gibson, while Camperdown (40.70) has also broken 41. Jamaican schools in the 41s this year include Kingston College (41.12), Munro College (41.59), St. Elizabeth Tech (41.60), Herbert Morrison (41.66), St. Jago (41.74) and Holmwood Tech (41.74). Calabar is defending champion at the Relays, setting a meet record a year ago of 39.91.
Enter California. Rio Mesa won the Arcadia Invitational earlier this month in 40.69, the #2 time in the country this season, while Long Beach Poly defeated Serra over the weekend at Arcadia, 40.72-41.34. Poly won here in 1997. Serra had defeated Poly at Arcadia in the 4×2, 1:25.84-1:26.22.
The leading team in the East this spring has been Coolidge (DC), which has run 41.79 and ran 1:28.75 indoors to win the National Scholastic 4×2, by .04 over LBP. Other Eastern teams that stand a chance of making a final, based upon indoor 4×2 performances, include Brooklyn schools Sheepshead Bay (1:29.00) and Medgar Evers (1:29.52) and fellow New Yorkers Newburgh Free Academy (1:29.26). In 2009, Serra ran 40.67, Poly 40.75, Medgar Evers 41.46 and Sheepshead 41.54. Coolidge is led by Demetrius Lindo (21.60).
The last team from Washington, D.C., to win the event was McKinley Tech in 1961. The last New York winner was Boys High in 1972.
Jamaica’s Vere Tech won Boys Champs this year in 3:10.81. Vere’s only victory at Penn in the 4×4 was 16 years ago, in 1994. Other Jamaican teams this year include Wolmer’s Boys (3:12.10), KC (3:14.53), Holmwood (3:15.35), Munro College (3:13.93), Herbert Morrison (3:16.20) and Camperdown (3:16.80).
There are many U.S. teams, plus one from Trinidad, who threaten to make this year’s championship race. A year ago, teams at 3:16 in Qualifying did not advance.
The Trinidadian school is Queen’s Royal College, founded in Port of Spain in 1859. QRC features two star runners, the hurdler Gordon and Deon Lendore. Gordon placed 4th in the World Championships IH last summer in Berlin in 48.26 as a 17-year-old. He has run 46.73 for 400 meters and won this year’s Carifta Games high hurdles in 13.41. Lendore, also 17, ran 46.59 at Carifta. Trinidad has won in the HS division of the Relays; El Dorado won the boys’ 4×1 in 2001 and 2002. A year ago, QRC ran 3:16.81 in the heats but failed to make the final.
Ohio has an excellent entry this year, Trotwood-Madison of Columbus, which ran 3:16.12 this indoor season. Glenville of Ohio won the 4×1 in 2004, becoming the first Ohio school to win a Penn Relays championship in 77 years.
Serra and Rio Mesa have the top two times in California this spring. Serra won Arcadia, running 3:14.63, and Rio Mesa has run 3:15.03. LB Poly won last weekend’s Mt. SAC Invitational 4×4 by almost 4 seconds, in 3:16.87.
Serra is led by Robert Woods, who has run 21.17w this year in the 200 and ran 46.67 last year in the 400, and George Farmer, who won the SAC Seeded 200 in 21.77w. Poly has Kaelin Clay (21.20w) and Shaquille Howard (48.57).
Eastern threats include DeMatha Catholic of Maryland (3:17.57 indoors), St. Anthony’s (NY) 3:19.15, Newburgh (NY) (3:19.20) and Cheltenham (Pa) 3:19.45. St. Anthony’s is led by newcomer Patrick Farmer (47.25 over the weekend). Also in the mix is Altoona (Pa), which ran 3:13.38 a year ago and returns its star anchor, Brady Gehret. Gehret ran a 45.7 anchor leg in 2009.
Two California schools have won this event in recent years. Long Beach Poly won in 2003 and 2007, Muir of Pasadena in 1996 and 1997.
Two Jamaican schools, Holmwood Tech (7:45.55) and Kingston College (7:46.67), have the leading entry times this season. They finished 1-2 at Gibson Relays.
There are a raft of excellent U.S. squads in the high 7:40s, including Eastern schools Gonzaga Prep (DC) 7:47.24, Shaker (NY) 7:48.45, Georgetown Prep (Md) 7:48.99, St. Joseph by the Sea (NY) 7:49.03 and surprisingly LB Poly, which won Mt SAC in 7:47.14.
Gonzaga Prep, 2nd at the Florida Relays, is led by Bill Ledder (1:51.44 best), Georgetown Prep by Joseph Woiwode (1:52.86). St. Joseph by the Sea, which won Arcadia in 7:49.15, is led by Daniel Zaccariello (1:56.01).
One of this year’s leading 4×8 teams, Liverpool (NY), which ran 7:47.32 indoors, is passing up the 4×8 in favor of the DMR, while Warwick Valley (NY) (7:51.24 4×8, 10:08.50 DMR) is doing the reverse.
Other sub-8:00 Jamaican entries include Tacius Golding (7:55.82), Bellefield Comprehensive (7:59.53) and Jamaica College (7:57.90). Bellefield’s star is Kemoy Campbell, who has run 3:42 for 1,500.
Hamden won this year’s Nike Indoor, in 10:07.58, while Haddonfield Memorial (NJ) won the National Scholastic indoor, in 10:09.78. Squeezed between those two times are such teams as Liverpool (10:08.52), led by the sophomore Zavon Watkins (1:54.65 800); Western Branch (Va.), (10:09.06), Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (NY) (10:09.25), and Grafton (Va.) (10:09.40). In addition, West Windsor Plainsboro North (NJ), which ran 9:58.60 in ’09, returns with its two stars, the twin brothers Joe and Jim Rosa.
Hamden is led by senior Chris FitzSimons, who ran 1:51.94 this winter.
Pennsylvania teams have won the race the last three years. There are no Jamaican teams in this year’s field.