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Penn Relays Men: Oregon Looks Beatable (Kind Of)

Penn Relays Men: Oregon Looks Beatable (Kind Of)

What's up Philly?

FloTrack is taking over the City of Brotherly Love for the three day track and field extravaganza that is the 2015 Penn Relays Carnival, the largest event in our sport. 15,000 athletes representing high school, college, and pro teams from the U.S., Canada, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands will compete in America's oldest track and field meet, a spectacle in Philadelphia since its beginning in 1895. 
The NCAA competition is always a highlight of the Penn Relays. The relay match-ups routinely produce races comparable to those at the NCAA Championships, with top sprint and distance schools fighting for the coveted Penn Relays wheel that brings teams back every year. This year, the men's distance action is highlighted by 2014 Penn 4xMile and DMR champions Oregon, while the sprint showcase features top SEC schools Texas A&M and LSU, as well as Jamaican powerhouse UTech from Kingston. 
You can't miss these races this weekend: 
Men's 4xMile, Saturday 1:15pm ET
There are two questions with this event that we are dying to have answered. 1) Can a team finally dip under the 16 minute barrier (the 2005 Michigan Wolverines have the meet record, 16:05:54)? AND 2) Can anyone take down the powerful Oregon Ducks, anchored by the King, Edward Cheserek?
It seems odd that no team has ever broken 16 in this Penn Relays jewel, given the loaded teams that have competed over the years, but the biggest factor is always the lead-off leg. Even if you have a sub-4 miler on the first leg, the opening four laps are generally run in a tactical manner because no one wants to go out too hard and die, which would put their teammates in a bad position. You can read more about that here. 
Anyways, the field this year has the best shot in recent memory to crack 16. In addition to defending champion Oregon, teams from distance powerhouses Stanford, Villanova, Penn State, and Georgetown will also duke it out on Saturday afternoon. Stanford and Villanova appear to have the best shot to accomplish both goals (beat Oregon, sub-16) as their teams feature 3-4 sub-4 milers. Watch out for anchors Sean McGorty (Stanford, 3:40 1500m PB) and Jordy Williamsz ('Nova, 3:36 1500m PB) as they have the wheels to fend off King Ches if their teams can distance themselves from Oregon through the first three legs. The early entry list does not include Eric Jenkins, so that's one less superstar for the competition to fend off. 
Men's DMR, Friday 2:30pm ET
No King Cheserek? In the words of 21st century poet Kendrick Lamar, now the field can "run the game, and have the whole world talkin.'" 
Yes, the Ducks are splitting their dynamic duo of Ed Cheserek/Eric Jenkins into two separate relays, which opens the door for an upset if the other Ducks are slightly off their game. Coach Andy Powell clearly believes that the best use of his team's talents is to run his best two athletes in different relays, thus maximizing their potential to win both races for the second consecutive year while not forcing them to run more than once this weekend. Who could topple the Mighty Ducks?

The usual suspects are all here, that being Penn State, Georgetown, Villanova, and Stanford. 'Nova and Georgetown stand out here, however, because they ran the #2 and #3 DMR times during the 2015 indoor season, behind only Oregon. The Ducks ran that #1 time with both Cheserek and Jenkins, so the chance of the Wildcats or the Hoyas leapfrogging them on Friday are higher, at least on paper. Remember though, the Ducks didn't use Jenkins in the NCAA DMR last month, and that worked out well so perhaps splitting these two isn't as big of a deal as we're making it out to be. 
Watch out for the Eric Jenkins/Jordy Williamz  matchup on the anchor leg. Both men are ferocious kickers and you know they'll lay it all on the line for the prestigious wheel. 
Men's 4x400m, Saturday 6:00pm ET
The Texas A&M relay squad has been unstoppable in 2015, setting the collegiate record at NCAA indoor (3:02.86) in March and then dropping a stunning 3:02.19 at Texas Relays four weeks ago, very impressive considering how early in the season it was. After several weeks of running individual events (Notably, Bralon Taplin's 44.89 400 at ASU), the Aggies are ready to run scary fast this Saturday at Penn. They were only fourth here last season, and they're not about to let that happen again. 

Deon Lendore and Vernon Norwood will square off in the 4x400m this weekend
Deon Lendore and Vernon Norwood will square off this weekend in the 4x400m

Texas A&M is simply loaded, with the aforementioned Taplin, 200m stud Shavez Hart (20.35), and of course 2014 Bowerman Award winner Deon Lendore (44.36). Add in 49.60 400 hurdle runner Gregory Coleman, and this team is really tough to beat. Expect a time around 3:00-3:01 if the weather holds up through Saturday night. 
Challenging the loaded Aggies will be SEC rival LSU. The Tigers just ran 3:02.79 last week in Baton Rouge, led by 2015 NCAA 400m indoor champion Vernon Norwood, who dropped an NCAA-leading 44.44 in the open 400 at the same meet just four days ago. That time is the fastest in the country this season by .45 seconds (Taplin's 44.89 is 2nd fastest), and if Norwood gets the stick within striking distance of Lendore, we could be in for a classic battle over the last 100m. The best of 2014 against the best of 2015, who could ask for more?
Men's 4x100m, Saturday 1:40pm ET
Before they matchup in the 4x400 to close out the Penn Relays, Texas A&M and LSU will duke it out in the 4x100, the fastest collegiate race of the weekend. 3/4 of the Aggies 4x4 team will also run the 4x1, while the Tigers get sprint stars Tremayne Acy and Aaron Ernest on the second half of the 4x1 to combat the strength of Taplin and Lendore. 
But neither of these teams have the speed to match the mighty UTech squad from Jamaica. The men from Kingston are the defending Penn champions in this event, and they currently have the World lead in 2015, having run 38.23 in February. Kemarley Brown, the team's 3rd leg, has run 9.93 in the open 100m and should make the difference for the Jamaicans on Saturday. Even against the best in the NCAA, the Kingston squad is on another level. 

UTech defeats Texas A&M and LSU in the 4x200m at the 2014 Penn Relays
UTech from Kingston, Jamaica has run 38.23 in 2015, the World-lead in the 4x100m 

The 121st Penn Relays will be LIVE on FloTrack this Thursday through Saturday, with over 450 races filling out the schedule. Tune-in to this track and field spectacle tomorrow starting at 10:00am ET, we'll be LIVE all day! This is the must-see event of 2015! 
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