PHILADELPHIA (Jack Pfeifer) – The Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies are expected to battle it out for supremacy of the women’s sprint relays at this year’s Penn 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.
Coach Pat Henry’s A&M squad will be defending its championships in both the 4×1 and 4×2 and Coach Mario Sategna’s Longhorns will do so in the 4×4, and they will meet head to head in all three.
Oregon, runnerup last year in both the 4×1 and 4×4, is back in the shorter relay, while a strong Jamaican contingent from U-Tech will also be a factor in those three as well as in the SMR.
A&M has now won six in a row in this one, the longest consecutive win streak for any of the college women’s relay races. They have the nation’s leading time for this outdoor season, 43.03 at the Sun Angel Classic, and expect to use a lineup of Jennifer Madu, Ashton Purvis, Kamaria Brown and Aaliyah Brown. Madu, Purvis, Kamaria Brown and Olivia Ekpone constituted last year’s winning team. Ekpone still runs for the Aggies but is scheduled in other events.
The University of Technology has the year’s second-fastest time, running 43.13 at the Gibson Relays in Kingston in January, using a team of Christania Williams, Shimayra Williams and Chanice Bonner. Thompson is the current world leader in the women’s 100, at 10.92. U-Tech was 3rd a year ago, behind A&M and Oregon.
The Ducks have run 43.31 this year and return Mary Bent Sant, Jenna Prandini and Jasmine Todd from last year’s squad. Freshman Ariana Washington, a past high school outstanding competitor winner at the Relays when she ran for Long Beach Poly, is now scheduled to run the 2nd leg for Oregon, replacing Phyllis Francis, who graduated.
A&M has been beaten already this season, losing a close one at the Texas Relays to the host Longhorns, 43.70-43.72. Texas uses a lineup of Morgan Snow, Ashley Spencer, Courtney Okolo and Morolake Akinosun. Texas was fourth a year ago.
Also in the mix is LSU, winner of this event 12 times but, thanks to the A&M streak, not since 2008. The Tigers are currently second on the U.S. collegiate list, having run 43.23 at the Click Shootout in Arizona. They were fifth at the Relays a year ago.
A&M won a tight one over Texas a year ago, winning by .05, and prevailed last month at the Texas Relays, 1:32.41-1:32.53. The Aggies have won this race at Penn six of the last seven years, missing out only in 2012, when LSU took it.
They return everyone from last year’s team — Ashton Purvis, Shamier Little, Olivia Ekpone and Kamaria Brown — while Texas plans to use a lineup of Shania Collins, Caitland Smith, Kendall Baisden and Courtney Okolo.
U-Tech, which has never won the 4×1 or 4×2 at the Relays, is expected to contend here, along with LSU. Oregon is not entered.
Oregon’s great meet record of 3:26.73 from 2013 lasted just one year as Texas took it all the way down to 3:25.05 a year ago, and most of that great squad is back for another try. The 2015 lineup is expected to be returnees Kendall Baisden, Ashley Spencer and Courtney Okolo along with newcomer Ariel Jones. Texas’s win a year ago was its 11th in the event, the most of any school at the Relays. Okolo was NCAA 400 champion last year.
A&M, the champions in ’12 and third a year ago, finished second behind Texas at last year’s NCAA outdoor championships, 3:24 to 3:25. They also have a formidable lineup of two individual NCAA champions, Shamier Little (400H) and Kamaria Brown (200), along with the individual 100 champion at last year’s Relays, Olivia Ekpone, plus Ebony Crear.
The No. 2 time from this outdoor season belongs to the fine Jamaican U-Tech squad, which ran 3:29.87 at Gibson Relays. They have a lineup of Jamaicans Janieve Russell, Samantha James and Shericka Jackson and a Namibian runner, Tjipekora Herunga. Jackson has run a world-leading 51.39 400 this spring.
Other contenders include such NCAA indoor finalists as Clemson, Duke and Florida State. Oregon, second last year and champions the year before, are not entered.
Natoya Goule has a chance at a rare achievement at this year’s Relays: anchoring a winning Championships of America team for two different schools. The Jamaica native — she ran for Manchester in the high school division — anchored the winning sprint medley for LSU in 2013. Now Goule, who has a PR of 1:59.93 in the 800 and is NCAA indoor champion in the event, is back to try the same thing for her new school, Clemson.
U-Tech, the defending champion, is a challenger in this event. Their anchor runner, Simoya Campbell, a 2:02 halfmiler, returns as anchor and will be joined by a potent lineup of Elaine Thompson, Shimayra Williams and Janieve Russell.
Clemson has won just one women’s title previously, the 1992 SMR.
Other challengers include Texas A&M, Duke, Hampton and LSU.
Auburn, whose title a year ago in the shuttle hurdles was its first women’s victory at Penn in more than 20 years, is back to defend its title. Challengers include LSU, Pitt, Maryland, Coastal Carolina and Harvard.