UTech's women, men to star at Penns
Here's the bad news. Weather forecasts predict that this year's Penn Relays will be pretty chilly. The numbers run from 14 degrees Celsius on April 23 to 13 degrees Celsius on the 24th, and finally to 12 degrees Celsius on Penn Relays Saturday, the 25th.
While that chiller soaks in, here's the good news. Brilliant last year, the UTech Knights are even better now and could win a fistful of Championship of America titles this weekend at Penns.
Not only have Paul and Stephen Francis assembled teams that are faster than those which won the men's 4x100m and 4x200m events last year, but UTech has a female sprint unit that is almost equally fearsome.
Similar to their male teammates, Christania Williams, new sprint threat Elaine Thompson, Shimayra Williams and Shanice Bonner have beaten the MVP and Racers track clubs in the 4x100m. All four women have run personal-best times since then.
Thompson is the most impressive of them all, with an Intercollegiate Championship gold medal in the 100m and a subsequent world-leading time of 10.92 seconds. If she pilots the Lady Knights to victory, it would be the first win by a Jamaican university in the Championship of Americas 4x100m at the Penn Relays.
Texas A&M University is the main threat, having run 43.03 seconds. That compares to UTech's winning Gibson McCook time of 43.13.
The men have Penn Relays-success story Julian Forte in their midst. Forte has been winning at Penns since his days at Wolmer's Boys' School.
Repeat Intercollegiate 100m champion Andrew Fisher, Forte, Kimarley Brown and Tyquendo Tracey have run 38.23 seconds for the 4x100m, and should defend the Championship of Americas titles in the short sprint relays and the 4x200m.
UTech's fortunes might not be so uniformly good in the 4x400m. Forte is a key member of the UTech team that ran 3:04.06 at the end of February and the Penns schedule has the 4x100m, 4x200m and 4x400m finals all on Saturday.
In any circumstance, and especially if it is as cold as predicted, a Forte triple isn't likely. That tilts the balance in favour of strong US colleges, including Texas A&M University, whose anchorman is the outstanding Deon Lendore from Trinidad and Tobago.
It's just as tough in the women's 4x400m. UTech won at Gibson McCook in a record time of 3:29.87 seconds and since then, big wheels Shericka Williams and Commonwealth 400m hurdles bronze medal-winner Janieve Russell have run personal-best 400m times.
However, four US colleges have run faster indoors, led by the University of Texas.
G.C. Foster College has fine teams in the girls' 4x100m and the men's 4x400m. Don't be surprised if they survive the chill and race into the Championship of Americas finals too.
- Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised international athletics since 1980.