Penn Relays Preview: Individual Events
NEW ORLEANS — It’s not called the Penn Individual Events. But if Penn were truly a straight-up relay only meet, then field-eventers and long distance runners would miss out on the Franklin Field magic. (Well, in the case of the throws, the Franklin Field-adjacent magic.) And that would be no fun. Here are twelve individual events to watch; sadly, only the men’s hammer, triple jump, and pole vault have any shot at being covered live in the TV window. But you can catch the whole thing on Flotrack.
(This article didn’t beat the start of the shot puts to publication.) NCAA indoor shot put runner-up Tori Bliss of LSU heads north, while defending NCAA outdoor champions Fawn Miller (Florida, javelin) and Julia Ratcliffe (Princeton, hammer) try to recapture their 2014 form. Both Miller and Ratcliffe have PBs in their respective events that are better than some seriously old Penn Relays records–the hammer standard is from 2004, while the javelin mark is from 1996–but both have more prosaic concerns. Neither leads the NCAA in their event. Miller is actually ahead of where she was at this point last year, but Ratcliffe is a few meters shy of where she was early last spring.
Thursday, 8:30 PM
Emily Sisson is so good and has competed so sparingly that any time she takes the line, distance fans need to pay close attention. She’s making her outdoor season debut tonight in the somewhat infrequently contested outdoor 3000. The thirty-year-old meet record of 9:03.8 and twenty-seven-year-old college record of 8:47.35 are at least in mild danger–Sisson ran 8:52 indoors–but with cold and windy conditions forecast, those marks could survive another year.
Per USATF’s Fast Annual, we believe that only eight collegiate women have ever broken nine minutes in the outdoor 3k, with the last one being Kara Goucher, who ran 8:54 at Stanford fifteen years ago. So if Sisson and/or Liv Westphal start splitting under 72 seconds per lap, you’re watching something that hasn’t been done in more than a decade.
Thursday, 10:55 PM
Aaron Dinzeo of DII California (Pa.) pulled out at the very last minute, leaving Auburn’s Ty McCormack and American International’s Mike Biwott as the top two seeds.
The three-headed monster of Jonathan Jones (Buffalo), Darrell Hill (Penn State), and Stephen Mozia (Cornell) headline the men’s shot. Jones and Hill went 3-4 at indoor NCAAs, and Mozia took second at outdoor NCAAs a year ago. Jones, Mozia, and Hill are currently 2-3-8 on the outdoor performance list.
There can’t be too many events at Penn where the top three seeds are split between Divsions I, II, and III. The hammer is one such event: the top seed is Justin Welch of DII Findlay, the second seed is Greg Skipper of Oregon, and the third seed is Tyler Williams of nearby DIII Widener. Welch and Skipper could have an entertaining DI-DII battle, as their season bests are separated by only nine centimeters.
South Carolina’s Jeannelle Scheper is the biggest name in the high jump. Scheper was out of eligibility indoors, but has been red-hot in her return from a fifteen-month hiatus this outdoor season. She’s set or tied PBs in two out of four meets, and won all four. Two of those wins were equal to or better than the Penn meet record of 1.91 meters, but with relatively heavy winds forecast for Friday afternoon, that’s a tall order. (As Reggie Miller would say, no pun intended)
The last three times Florida’s Ciarra Brewer triple jumped, she won indoor nationals, Texas Relays, and Florida Relays. She does not mess around with piddly meets. Auburn sophomore Marshay Ryan is the No. 2 seed. Her top two accomplishments in the triple are runners-up finishes at indoor NCAAs and Penn Relays in 2014.
Jake Blankenship of Tennessee might be the most underappreciated man in the NCAA right now. He doesn’t have a conference or national title or even a school record, but is one of only ten men to have ever vaulted over 5.80 meters outdoors. He’s cleared 5.80 once indoors and once outdoors, and both times lost to Shawn Barber. This weekend is Blankenship’s opportunity to shine. Tennessee legend Lawrence Johnson went 5.79 to set the still-standing Penn record in 1996; Blankenship’s best when Barber isn’t in the meet is 5.72 meters–set last week at Auburn.
Marquis Dendy of Florida hasn’t lost to a collegian in the triple jump since early April 2014. Expect that streak to continue in Dendy’s first triple jump of the outdoor season and Penn Relays debut.
Saturday, 3:00 PM
The best individual distance race of the weekend is also the last one. Oregon’s Annie LeBlanc faces off against pros Sheila Reid and Emily Lipari, who both have had glory days at Penn while anchoring relays for Villanova. (Cory McGee pulled out late) LeBlanc took some huge scalps at Hayward Field last weekend when she beat Mary Cain in the 1500 and Treniere Moser in the 8; her dream outdoor campaign continues if she wins a watch on Saturday.