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115th Penn Relays

Thu.-Sat., April 23-25, 2009

Franklin Field, Philadelphia PA

Penn Relays Metro Preview Boys - Girls





APRIL 22, 2009 -  Jim Rosa had the baton in his hand and no one in front of him.
 The sophomore from West Windsor-Plainsboro North NJ  had just begun his anchor leg of the distance medley relay at last month’s Nike Indoor Nationals in Boston, determined to hold the lead for his eight laps around Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center.  But despite splling everything he had onto the 200-meter banked track, Rosa, perhaps out a bit too fast (2:03.9 at 800), couldn’t hold off  Anthony Kostelac of Albemarle VA and Liam Tansey of  Morris Hills NJ.   Albemarle won in 10:02.13, Morris Hills was second in 10:06.06 and West Windsor North third in 10:07.44.

 ``I’ve thought about that race a lot,’’ said Rosa, who ran on West Windsor North’s national record 4xmile winning team earlier in the same day as the DM in Boston.  ``There’s no worse feeling than giving up the lead on the anchor. I never want to let that happen again.’’   Rosa will get a shot at redemption when he will most likely find himself in a simliar position on Friday when he gets the stick in the DM at the 115th Penn Relays.   ``I am confident that my teammates can give me the lead and I don’t want to blow it for them again,’’ said Rosa. ``I will be thinking about what happened in Boston and I feel I can hold it for us this time.’’

West Windsor North earned the top seed after Albemarle and Morris Hills opted to run the 4x800 instead. Albemarle broke the national 4x800 record indoors at NIN in 7:36.99 and Morris Hills was second.   West Windosr North coach Brian Gould will go with a lineup of  Joe Rosa (Jim’s twin), on the 1,200, junior Sean Reed (400), senior Tyler Corkedale (800) and Jim Rosa.

 Joe  Rosa said that he and his teammates, which ran 10:07.21 to win the DM indoors at Easterns, will not be overconfident despite having nearly a seven second edge on the next fastest team in the race, Danbury CT,  fifth at NIN in 10:14.15. Shenendehowa is also in the 19-team DM field after going 10:14.44 for seventh at NIN. 

 ``We’re not taking anything for granted,’’ said Joe Rosa. ``This is the Penn Relays and a lot of teams will run their best in this race. All it takes is for one team to be on that day and they can win. There are lot of teams capable of winning, so we’ll each have to come up with our best races to win.’’

    A N.J. team hasn’t captured the boys distance medley at the Penn Relays since another talented sophomor anchore, Matt Elmuccio, brought the baton around in 4:11.5 to give  Westfield the victory in 1995.   West Windsor North has the potential to become the first N.J. team to ever crack 10 minutes in the DM , the third team in Penn Relays history and the 10th in U.S. history to dip under 10.  The NJ state and the meet record are not out of reach for West Windsor North.  The state mark is shared by Willingboro and Bernards, who each ran 10:00.9 in 1983 when it staged one of the greatest duels in Penn Relays history as Willingboro was awarded the victory. The meet record of 9:59.66 was set in 2001 by South Lakes High in Reston, Va., anchored by the great Alan Webb. 

 ``We’ve thought about it,’’ Joe Rosa said in regards to breaking 10. ``And that would be a pretty incredible thing to do. For something like that to happen we’d all pretty much have to have a perfect race. It’s a nice goal to have and to think about, but our No. 1 goal is to win the race. ’’

  One team that West Windsor North is very aware of is Manalapan NJ, which features All-American Robby Andrews, the top anchor in the race and one of the premier distance runners in the nation.   After finishing second to Cory Leslie of Ohio in the mile on a lean at the line last year,  Andrews,  the national indoor 800 and 1,000-meter record holder, chose to anchor Manalapan’s DM squad instead this year. Manalapn’s best time is 10:30.95, which it ran to win the DM at the state Group 4 Relays in January

 ``Manalapan is a mystery since you really don’t know what they can do,’’ said Jim Rosa. ``But after what he did indoors in the 800 and the 1,000, I don’t think you can put anything past Andrews.’’   So how much of  a gap on Andrews would Jim Rosa like to have.  `` I think if I have a seven second lead that would be cutting it kind of close against Andrews,’’ he said . `I’d say if I had a 10 second cushion on him I’d feel a lot better.’’

   Andrews said the decision to run the DM instead of the mile this year was an easy one.   ``My teammates work just as hard as I do everyday in practice and have supported me so much,’’ said Andrews. ``I feel they deserve to get a chance at some success.’’   Joing Andrews on Manalapan’s DM will be senior Gary Sparapani (1,200), freshman Anthony Menza (400) and junior  Kingsley Prophete (800).   With severeal teams expected to be well ahead of Andrews by the time he gets his hands on the baton, the question is how many teams can Andrews catch and how fast can he run?
Two years ago, Craig Forys of Colts Neck NJ turned in one of the greatest performances in meet history when he cranked out a 4:04.2, the fifth fastest 1,600 split in meet history, to come from ninth place to second place, narrowly missing one of the greatest comeback victories in meet history. 

Could Andrews do something similar?

Andrews, who won the 800 at the National Scholastic Indoor Championship in New York last month in a national record 1:49.21 and ran a national indoor record of 2:22.82 for 1,000 this past winter, said he’ll do whatever he can.

 ``No matter where I am, I will be trying to mow down as many as I can and run as fast as I can,’’ said Andrews. ``Hopefully I can get us a medal.    As for time?  ``Just going under 4:10 would make me happy,’’ said the Virgina-bound Andrews.  How much under 4:10 remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, Andrews is capable of producing a magical moment everytime he steps on the track.   Andrews will have a busy weekend.

After the DM on Friday, he’ll be heading to Boston along with his buddy and future teammate at Virgina, Brett Johnson of Ocean City, to run a 1-K at the Puma Street Meet on Sunday.   Johnson is one of the contenders in Friday’a mile.  ``It’s just something Brett and I are want to do for fun,’’ said Andrews. 

 To no surrprise, Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft NJ) , is also in the DM field. Coach Tom Heath’s program has been a fixture at Penn in this marquee race as it will make its 24th appearance at Franklin Field in the Penn DM.   During that span, CBA as won twice (1985 and ’88), finished second twice, and placed in the top six 11 times.   The lineup for CBA this time around consists of junior Mark Lee (1,200), junior John McLaughlin (400), sophomore Dan Mykityshyn (800) and sophomore Mike Mazzaccaro (1,600).


So why did Morris Hills chose running the 4x800, where it will be an underdog against mighty Albemarle of Virgina, over the DM, which it would have been favored to win? 

``We decided to go for the 4x800m at Penn because it gives us a chance to really run well in the event while facing pretty much the hardest competition that Jamaica and the United States has to offer,’’ said senior Vinny Chiusano. ``It allows us to challenge ourselves under massive amounts of pressure against extremely tough competition. At first, we weren't sure as to which event we were going to run, but coach (Sean Robinson) gave us his opinion as to which event. He really gave us the choice, and every one of us agreed 100%.’’ 
 ``To be the best, you have to beat the best,’’ said Robinson. 

So can Morris Hills or anyone else score the the upset?

  Despite losing its two meetings to Albemarle in the 4x800 this past indoor season,  incluidng a runner-up finish at the Nike Nationals when Albemarle VA ran a national record 7:36.99 and Morris Hills ran a NJ indoor record 7:43.91, Morris Hills  is  optimistic about its chances of knocking off its nemesis and  making a run at winning the whole thing.

  The reason is the addition of senior Sean Pohorence to the Morris Hills lineup.  Pohorence ran a career best 1:55.8 on Morris Hills’ 4x800 last Saturday at the Moris Hills Relays to solidify a spot on Morris Hills’ team.  Morris Hills coach Sean Robinson calls Pohorence ``the missing piece to the puzzle.’’   Pohorence will join Chiusano, Tyler Hendrickson, and Liam Tansey in Friday’s trials. The 12 fastest teams in the trials will earn a berth in Saturday’s Championship of America race.  Morris Hills ran a N.J. indoor state record 7:43.91 without Pohorence when it finished second to Albemarle’s national indoor record 7:36.99 at the Nike Indoor Nationals in Boston last month.

Albemarle’s lineup consists of  seniors Garrett Bradley, Zachary Vrhovac, and Luke Noble, and junior Anthony Kostelac.

  What is the key to knocking off the Virginia juggernaut? 

``I think one of the major things is that we have to stay focused,’’ said Chiusano. . ``When focus is lost during the race, it is tough to come back. Albemarle makes sure you bleed every time you lose focus. It really comes down to tactics, and knowing when to make the right moves at the right time.’’  Although Albemarle is the favorite, Jamaica boasts a few teams that should be in the mix as well, defending champion Manchester (7:40.03), Jamaica College (7:41.91) and Holmwood Tech (7:40.28) are also threats in what is shaping up to be quite possibly the deepest 4x800 field ever at Penn.  Morris Hills is attempting to become the first N.J. team to win the 4x800 at Penn since Willingboro in 1983, and it’ll be chasing the N.J. state record, which is shared by    Trenton (7:39.5 in 1978) and Colts Neck (7:39.54 in 2005).

``I would not be surprised if it took sub-7:35 or maybe even faster to win,’’ said Chiusano. `` But we’re not really worried about time right now. Times will come with competition. Right now, it's about getting out there and giving everything we have.
In order to come out on top, Morris Hills will almost certainly need to get Tansey the baton no worse than 10 meters off the lead. If that happens, this could be a race for the ages.


With a second straight victory a near certainty for super sophomore Nick Vena of Morristown NJ, the biggest question is how far will the 16-year-old sensation launch the 12-pound shot put on Friday.

  Vena, who threw 70-5 to win his second straight National Scholastic Championship last month, could potentially break four records.  The Penn Relays record of 67-3 was set 24 years ago by J.J. Grant of  Liverpool (N.Y.). The New Jersey outdoor record of  69-8 ¼ was set in 1997 by Kevin DiGiorgio of Bayonne, and the national U.S. sophomore record (68-10 ¾ by Kevin Bookout of Stroud, Okla. in 2000) is also well within Vena’s grasp. Another record out there is the national record for a 16-year old, 71-10 ¼, set in 1983 by Arnold Campbell of Airline High in Bossier City, Louisiana.
 ``I’m going there looking to win and throw better than my indoor p.r.,’’ said the 6-4 ½, 270-pound Vena.  Vena said there is something different about competing at Penn.  ``It’s such a prestigious meet with so much history and tradition,’’ said Vena. ``It’s exciting to throw there with all the big crowds. I’m reeally looking forward to it.’’  

Despite having thrown eight feet further than the next best thrower in the field, the always humble and modest Vena said that he’s not walking into the circle thinking that he can’t lose.  ``You never know what can happen,’’ he said. ``I could foul three times or just not have a good day and there are plenty of good throwers that can hit a big one.''    A victory would make Vena just the second shot putter in meet history to win two straight titles, and if he breaks one or more of the records mentioned above, he’ll have a good chance at winning his second straight MVP award for individual events.  ``I don’t even think about stuff like that,’’ he said. ``It was nice to win it (MVP) last year and it would be an honor to do it again, but I’m just concentrating on throwing my best.’’


Despite declaring himself  ``about 85 percent’’ due to nagging ankle and shin issues, Brett Johnson of  Ocean City NJ feels he should be right in the mix when he takes on some of the best in the world in the mile.

 Johnson, who ran a NJ state junior class record of  4:08.51 last spring, will be in a field that includes Gavyn Nero of Trinidad & Tobago, the top returning finisher from last year (fourth), who just ran a 3:47.56 1,500 and a 1:51.75 80 at the Carifita Games. Also in the race will be Canada’s Jeremy Rae, the NSIC champion in 4:10.09, New York’s Chris Carrington of North Rockland and Marco Bertolotti (Port Washington), Phil Wood of Pennington NJ and Pat Schellberg of Delbarton NJ  



The best hopes for a berth in the 4x100 Championship of America race  for Metro Area teams looks like Middle College and Sheepshead Bay of New York, and Plainfield and Neptune from New Jersey. 

Middle College, with superstar Jermaine Brown anchoring, comes in with a US #7 41.46, which it ran to nip Sheepshead Bay for the win at last week’s  New York Relays. Sheepshead Bay ran US # 10 41.54 to take second at the Arcadia Invitational. 

In New Jersey,  Plainfield’s Stephon Knox, Isaiah Gill, Daniel Woods and Tristan Simms combined to run 42.1 at the Blue Devil Classic in Westfield last week. Meanwhile,  Michael Peavy, Tyquan Brown, Barrington Savage and Aaron Belina cranked out a 42.17 at the New York Relays to take third behind Middle College and Sheepshead.

 Another team to keep an eye on in the sprints relays is Weaver CT, the NSIC 4x200 runner-up, which boats Daundre Barnaby, who ran 47.12 to win the NSIC 400 title.

   Earning a spot in the 4x400 Championship of America race will most likey take close to 3:18 or under (3:18.29 is the slowest qualifying time to make the 4x400 final in the past five years).  Newburh NY has gone 3:17.47, Fordahm Prep 3:19.15 and Rahway NJ, which won its lone C of A title in the 4x100 in 1971, went 3:19.99 at NSIC.

It will be a busy weekend for Rahway, which will also run in the 4x100 and 4x800 (the latter for the first time ever at Penn).

Metro Girl's Preview



April 22, 2009 -- Track fans loyal to DyeStat Metro will be treated to some great high school girls’ events at the 115th Penn Relays, Thursday through Saturday at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. Among them are Jillian Smith’s possible return to the winner’s circle in the distance medley relay, a unbelievably hot race in the 3,000, and of course some tri-state athletes who will take their disciplines outside the brick stadium to the field events, like Shannon Sullivan of Immaculate Heart NJ in the javelin and Ada Unachukwu of Marlboro NJ in the triple jump.




Among the bigger storylines that will be followed at Penn will be the health and fitness of Jillian Smith, the All-America half-miler from Southern Regional in Manahawkin NJ.    On April 11 at the Comet Relays in Hackensack NJ, Smith walked off the track in the middle of a race. Her injury was later diagnosed as a hip flexor strain. Following the meet, Southern coach Brian Zatorski said Smith would not compete no sooner than two weeks later at Penn, and that the possibility of Smith competing at Penn was questionable at best. Zatorski has always regarded Smith’s future as his highest priority, and did not want to force her to compete at Penn if it meant possibly ruining her chances for success later this year at nationals, and even her college career at Michigan.  Three days later Zatorski upgraded her status for Penn to possible, although she had not reached 100 percent.   As of this writing, Zatorski, who admits to being cautiously optimistic, said Smith successfully endured a series of workouts and is prepared to take on Penn, albeit not at 100 percent. The hip injury has been nagging Smith since the Nike Indoor Nationals, where Smith anchored Southern’s victories in the 4x800 and distance medley   ``I put Jill and the girls through the paces and she seems ready to go,’’ Zatorski said. ``She can still pick ‘em up and put ‘em down with the best of them. I put a couple of tests out there for her and she was able to do those things very well. I was just being cautious earlier and I didn’t want to jeopardize her career. I didn’t want to say she was going to Penn and make her feel like she had to go if she wasn’t ready to compete. She’s got medical clearance so she’ll be okay. Maybe I’m just being overly protective.’’   Smith will be returning to the track where she has recorded two of the greatest performances of her astounding career.   Two years ago she led off Southern’s distance medley with a 1,200 split of 3:33.6, No. 2 all-time at Penn and the meet’s fastest American split , to help her team claim its first Championship of America title.   Last spring she carried her team from eighth place to fourth with a mile anchor split of 4:42.1, a meet record.   This year Smith is anchoring once again, but this time she probably won’t have to rally from eighth place. Southern owns a qualifying time of 11:41.12 (US #2 and NJ record), five seconds faster than the rest of the field. Following Southern’s DMR triumph at the Nike Indoor Nationals last month in Boston, this is Southern’s race to lose.    If you’re looking for a surprise team, look no further than Marlboro NJ, which ran well at Arcadia and has qualified for an invitational race for the first time in school history. Senior Ada Unachukwu, who will spend her afternoon defending her title in the triple jump, will handle the 400-meter leg.    If Southern is to grab its second DMR title in three years, the biggest challenges will come from Shendehowa NY (12:46.05), Lake Braddock VA (12:01.84), Haddonfield NJ (12:04.45), Bronxville NY (12:05.97) and Immaculate Heart NJ (12:05.98).


Voorhees NJ star Lanie Thompson has her hands full in the girls’ 3,000 meters. She has won NJ Meet of Champions titles for five straight seasons but a national title has eluded her. She came extremely close last month in Boston when she owned the lead in the girls’ mile with 100 meters left but was overtaken by Emily Lipari of Roslyn NY in the final strides, 4:47.44 to 4:48.42.    Thompson, headed to Oregon next fall, is extremely tough over the longer races, however, and she is definitely one of the favorites after placing third in this race last spring. If she pulls it off, that would make it four 3-K champions in a row for New Jersey. Ashley Higginson of Colts Neck (and now Princeton) won in 2006 and ’07, and Katie McCafferty of Oak Knoll (and now Georgetown) won last season.   The top contenders aiming to halt New Jersey’s streak are Lipari, Stephanie Morgan of Barnesville OH, Emily Jones of Harvard MA, and Shelby Greany of Suffern NY.    Morgan won the Penn girls’ high school mile last season in a meet-record 4:41.22.   Thompson was thought to be the favorite to win the Nike Northeast Regional cross-country race last fall at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, but Jones won the race while Thompson placed fourth. Jones was second in the Penn 3,000 last season.    Greany is a four-time Foot Locker national cross-country qualifier who placed fifth in the 3-K last season.     The catch with Thompson is that is was an extremely difficult decision to give up running with her teammates in the 4x800 relay. Last season Voorhees qualified for the 12-team Championship of America race. By the way, Voorhees qualified for the 4x800 once again, and according to coach Justina Cassavell will fill Thompson’s slot and compete in the relay. Voorhees has now qualified for either the 4x800 or distance medley the last 13 years.   Thompson basically left the decision to compete as an individual or with the relay team in the hands of Cassavell, who ultimately decided she wanted her humble distance star to take one more shot at individual glory at Penn.



Pope John of Sparta NJ has a realistic shot at qualifying for the Championship of America thanks to the return of senior Emily Carrollo.  Carrollo ran a 2:11.8 as a sophomore here in helping her team qualify for the championship race. She ran 2:17.1 last season but Pope John did not reach the final.    Two winters ago Carrollo was the NJ indoor track Meet of Champions winner in the 800 in 2:14.88, but her status for Penn was in doubt because she had passed on the recent indoor season to focus on her soccer career; she has accepted a full scholarship to Virginia. Pope John coach Brian Corcoran has confirmed, however, that Carrollo is ready to go and prepared to help her team return to the Championship of America. Pope John ran 9:32.94 without Carrollo this past winter. With Carrollo in the fold, Pope John could be dangerous.   Another Garden State foursome to watch is Columbia of Maplewood NJ. Columbia is actually bringing quartets for the 4x100, 4x400 and 4x800, and it’s not all that crazy to think that coach Lisa Morgan’s crew could qualify for championship races in as many as two events.  Morgan actually thinks Columbia’s best chance to reach a final lies with the 4x400, but the 4x800 team is prepared to run somewhere around 9:15. That’s a solid goal to have, since last season’s cutoff was 9:14.53, and in the previous four years the cutoff average is 9:23.91, going as low as 9:23.03 and as high as 9:25.46.   From around the Metro area, other contenders to make the final are St. John Villa NY (9:04.80), Garden City NY (9:20.87) and Cornwall NY ((:23.33) from the two small school sections, and Kellenberg Memorial NY (9:21.54) and Boys & Girls NY (9:20.33) from the two large school heats.


Ada Unachukwu of Marlboro NJ is the defending champion in the triple jump after going 38-11 last season. She eventually improved that her personal best to 40-0 while placing second at the NJ Meet of Champions last spring. She went 39-5 this past indoor season.    Trying to unseat the Marlboro virtuoso is Jamaican 16-year-old Rochelle Farquharson, who has logged a 41-6 this season. In the hunt from the Metro area will be Hillsborough junior Ebony Young, who posted a personal best 40-0 last spring and an indoor best of 39-6 ¾ at Easterns in February.  



Shannon Sullivan, a senior at Immaculate Heart NJ is the area’s best hope here, after throwing 144-3 last spring to win the NJ Meet of Champions title. Sullivan finished fourth here last season with a 129-11.  The top Penn returnee from last season is Meghan Morton of St. Pius (Pottstown PA), who placed third with a 132-1. The top threat to win is Fawn (Deloma) Miller of Lakeview PA, who threw 167-2 last spring.



Nicole Pompei of Hanover Park NJ and Chrissy Finkel of Montville NJ continue their Morris County NJ rivalry here.  Pompei cleared a meet-best and state-leading 13-0 last Saturday at the Morris Hills Relays. She finished fourth at Penn last season behind Finkel; both cleared 12-0 ½.  Tory Worthen of Council Rock PA is the top seed and top returnee. She cleared 12-0 ½ to place second last season and she posted a 12-6 ½ during the indoor season.