PHILADELPHIA (Jack Pfeifer) – The Jamaican school U-Tech comes into this year’s Penn Relays as the team to beat in the men’s sprint relays. The 121st edition of the Relay Carnival will be held Thursday through Saturday April 23-25 at Franklin Field on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia.

The University of Technology, located in Kingston, currently has the world’s leading time in the men’s 4×1, 38.23, run in February at the Gibson Relays in Kingston, in a race in which the squad of Andrew Fisher, Julian Forte, Kemarley Brown and Tyquendo Tracey held off the Usain Bolt-anchored Racers TC by .06.

That time is well under the Penn Relays meet record of 38.68, set 14 years ago by TCU. U-Tech just missed that mark a year ago when it won the Relays in 38.71. Fisher, Forte and Tracey all return from that team. For Fisher 2015 will be an attempt to win his third championship in the event, as he was a member of U-Tech’s 2013 winning squad as well. The Jamaican school has now won the 4×1 five times. LSU and TCU have won the most times, nine apiece.

LSU, which last won the 4×1 in 2011, enters this year’s Relays with the #2 domestic college time, 38.93. Coach Dennis Shaver’s squad was a close second a year ago, running 38.83. The Tigers expect to run a lineup of Josh Thompson, Vernon Norwood, Tremayne Acy and Aaron Ernest.

The leading U.S. college entry is Coach Pat Henry’s Texas A&M squad, which won last month’s Texas Relays in 38.91, .02 up on rival LSU. A&M, which last won at Penn in 2010, has not made the final here the past two seasons because of dropped batons in the preliminary round. A&M has a lineup of Devin Jenkins, Shavez Hart, Bralon Taplin and Deon Lendore.

Other leading entries in the event this year include Florida State, led by the national high school record holder in the men’s 100, the freshman Trentavis Friday; Clemson, fifth at Texas Relays and the 1999 champions, and St. Augustine’s, last year’s NCAA Division II champions. Florida State has never won the 4×1 at the Relays.

U-Tech is also the defending champion in this event, having run 1:20.07, the fourth-fastest ever at the Relays, to win a year ago, defeating Texas A&M by .22. The Jamaican squad also won here in ’12.

A&M, the champions in ’13, used returnees Shavez Hart and Deon Lendore on last year’s runnerup team, but this year’s entered lineup has Gregory Coleman, Bralon Taplin, Deon Hickey and Elijah Morrow. Last year’s time of 1:20.29 was the fastest losing time ever at Penn.

LSU won Texas Relays in an excellent 1:22.60 and was third a year ago at the Relays in 1:21.47, the fastest third-place time ever. The Tigers won the event in 2011 and have won it five times in all.

Other leading teams include St. Augustine’s, fourth a year ago in 1:21.91, the fastest fourth place ever; Texas, winners of the Texas Relays B race in 1:23.34; and South Carolina, finalists a year ago.

The top two entries are Texas A&M and U-Tech.

Except for the Relays, A&M has won everything in sight in recent years in this event. The Aggies are the defending NCAA outdoor champions, running 2:59.60 last year, .01 from the collegiate record, and the reigning NCAA indoor champions, running 3:02.86 last month to break that collegiate mark.

They won the Texas Relays this spring in 3:02.19, the fastest time in the world so far this outdoor season, and did that without the use of Bralon Taplin, currently No. 3 on the world list and the No. 1 collegian thus far this outdoor season at 44.89. Taplin is not even the leading quartermiler on the A&M squad, as they plan to anchor Deon Lendore, the reigning NCAA champion with a PR of 44.36. Lendore, returning from an injury indoors, has run 45.18 outdoors thus far.

Taplin and Lendore are expected to be joined by Gregory Coleman and Shavez Hart. A&M won this event at the Relays in 2011 and 2013 but finished a well-beaten 4th a year ago.

U-Tech — which has never won this event at Penn — placed second at the Gibson Relays in Jamaica this season, running 3:04.02 with a team of Jonia McDonald, Chadoye Dawson, Travane Morrison and Faedian Royes. They were fifth in last year’s Relays.

The 2012 champions, LSU, have an excellent squad of Quincy Downing, Darrell Bush, Cyril Grayson and this year’s NCAA individual champion in the 400, Vernon Norwood. The Tigers ran 3:04.28 this year indoors and were third outdoors a year ago at the NCAA meet in 3:01.60. They were sixth in 3:11 a year ago at Penn.

Other contenders this year include Texas, third indoors in 3:06, second at the Relays last year in 3:05 and fifth at the Texas Relays in 3:08; St. Augustine’s, Div. II champion indoors and outdoors; Western Kentucky, 3:03 last year outdoors, and Clemson, 3:06 this spring.

The defending champions are the Pitt Panthers, which won a year ago in 3:03.44, their first victory in the event at the Relays since 1939 and the first win at Penn by an Eastern team since George Mason in 1995.

LSU, which won last year’s sprint medley relay in a surprise out of an unseeded section, returns Darrell Bush, Tremayne Acy and anchor half-miler Blair Henderson from last year’s winning squad. Quincy Downing, who also ran on last year’s team, is on the LSU team but is expected to be replaced for this race by Julian Parker. The Tigers won a year ago in 3:17.96, faster than the time of 3:18.39 Penn State had run to win the seeded section.

The Nittany Lions, winners of the race in 2011 and 2012, return their anchor runner from a year ago, Brannon Kidder.

Other leading squads include Texas A&M, fourth a year ago, and the University of the West Indies, based in Jamaica, anchored by the 1:47 halfmiler Jo-wayne Hibbert.

The top-seeded team in this year’s shuttle hurdle relays is South Carolina, which last won this event 12 years ago. That was the last Relays victory by a men’s team for Coach Curtis Frye.

The winner of this event the past two seasons, Savannah State, did not enter a team this year.


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