Thursday, April 22, 2010

Usain Bolt For Penn Relays

Dave Johnson has seen the Penn Relays as its director for the last 15 years and plenty of times before that as a writer, timer, and fan, and he has never witnessed the type of hubbub compared to what is surrounding world record-holder Usain Bolt this year.

"The interest is beyond what I've ever seen here," Johnson said Monday at a news conference. "We have one measurable aspect by which we know interest is up. At this point, Web traffic on the Penn Relays Web site is up three times what it was a year ago. The amount of energy the meet is providing this year has just been tremendous."

Bolt, the world-record holder at 100 and 200 meters, is coming to Franklin Field for the first time since 2005. He will run on Jamaica's 4x100-meter relay team during Saturday's "USA vs. the World" races.

USA Track and Field, which is conducting the competition, announced Monday that Asafa Powell and Michael Frater, two of Bolt's teammates from the gold medal-winning unit in the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 IAAF World Championships, will be part of the relay pool for Saturday's race.

The Jamaicans have won the USA vs. the World 4x100 just once in the event's 10 years of existence.

The pools include the names of available athletes for the races, but the final lineups will not be decided until Friday night.

Team USA, which captured the men's and women's 4x100 and 4x400 last year at Penn, has a number of athletes who participated on the winning teams in the relay pool.

They include Allyson Felix, who was part of both the women's 4x100 and 4x400 last year; 4x400 anchor Sanya Richards-Ross; 4x100 anchor Carmelita Jeter; and Natasha Hastings, who competed in the 4x400.

On the men's side, three members of each victorious team - Walter Dix, Shawn Crawford and Darvis Patton in the 4x100, and Kerron Clement, Angelo Taylor and David Neville in the 4x400 - are in the relay pool.

Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser and bronze medalist Kerron Stewart are part of the women's 4x100 relay pool for Jamaica.

Thomas' homecoming. LSU senior LaTavia Thomas, a graduate of West Catholic High, will enter her final carnival as a collegian less than a week after running a personal best in the 800 meters – 2 minutes, 1.40 seconds.

"Coming back from the NCAA indoors, we elevated her training; she wanted to do this," LSU coach Dennis Shaver said. "With the additional training that she's trying to get done, she had been running a little tired. But we set up a great race, conditions were good, and she was a little bit more rested going in."

Thomas was named the carnival's top female college relay runner in 2008.

More on the wall. Carnival officials announced that four individuals and four relay teams have been selected for inclusion on the Penn Relays Wall of Fame.

The individuals are former 100-meter world record-holder Leroy Burrell (Penn Wood High), former Villanova star John Marshall, four-time women's discus champion Pat Walsh of Tennessee, and Fordham's Joe McCluskey, who set a meet record in the steeplechase for three straight years.

The relay teams include the 2003 Texas women's 4x400 unit, anchored by Richards-Ross, which still owns the carnival record of 3:27.64.