PHILADELPHIA, PA -- The Penn Relay Carnival will stage its 113th edition of the highly popular track and field festival this weekend at historic Franklin Field. Texas A&M will feature seven relays during the Penn Relays, which start on Thursday and run through Saturday.
A portion of the Penn Relays will be shown live on Saturday, from noon to 2 p.m., on ESPN2 during the time relay events in the USA vs. the World take place with a 4 x 100, 4 x 400 and distance medley.
“The Penn Relays is exactly what it says, it’s a carnival,” said A&M head coach Pat Henry. “It’s a great time to run fast relays and there are opportunities for individual efforts in some open events and in the field events.
“Part of this weekend is about putting our athletes in an atmosphere that is conducive to different kinds of pressure and situations. It’s a different operation than what we normally experience at a track meet. In that regard it’s good for an athlete to learn how to make changes on the fly.”
The Aggie women, who have reset the school record in the 4 x 100 four times this outdoor season, will contest the 4 x 100, 4 x 200, 4 x 400 and shuttle hurdle relays at Penn. On the men’s side Texas A&M will field teams in the 4 x 100, 4 x 400 and sprint medley relay, which consists of legs for 200, 200, 400 and 800 meters.
Heats for the women’s 4 x 1 and 4 x 4 will take place on Thursday. Qualifying in the men’s 4 x 1 as well as the 4 x 2 and 1,600-meter sprint medley takes place on Friday. Teams will advance to either the Championship of America final or College division finals, held on Saturday. Finals for the women’s 4 x 100 will be held on Friday along with the shuttle hurdle relays.
In addition to all the relay events that will take place during the Penn Relay Carnival, the Aggies will compete in various individual events. Texas A&M will have competitors in the high jump, pole vault, long jump and triple jump among field events along with the 100, 100/110 hurdles, and 400 hurdles on the track.
Another portion of the Aggie squad will compete at the Rice Twilight meet in Houston on Thursday. Primarily the A&M throwers and distance runners will contest various events on the Rice campus. The hammer throw begins at noon to start the field events, while running events will begin at 6 p.m.
Simone Facey, competing for the first time since setting a school record of 22.77 in the 200 meters at the Miami Elite Invitational on April 14, will get to relish memories of her previous trip to the Penn Relays in 2004 when her Vere Technical team from Jamaica set a meet record in the 4 x 100 while Long Beach Poly of California set the U.S. high school record as the runner-up.
“Pretty much I’m looking forward to doing the same thing as when I was there last in 2004, just go out there and do what I have to do to help my team,” said Facey. “I’m really excited about this meet and hopefully we can pull off a win.”
Following is an excerpt about Facey from the Penn Relays preview of the various relays that will be contested in the college division:
“This will be Facey’s first appearance at Franklin Field since the famous high school girls’ championship 4 x 100 in 2004. In that race, Shalonda Solomon, anchoring for Long Beach Poly, took the final exchange in the lead, but Facey, anchoring for Vere Tech, blew past her for the win. Vere broke the meet record, running 44.32, while Poly took second in 44.50 to establish the American high school record.”
Solomon currently runs for South Carolina, who will be in attendance at the Penn Relay Carnival, so a rematch of that anchor-leg duel in 2004 may come about this weekend.
“It’s different from any other meet we compete in this season since so many people from Jamaica are going to be there,” noted Facey. “With that kind of support in the crowd it helps me to run fast. I’m really happy to have those supporters at Penn, I can hear everyone cheering. That’s really a good feeling to have some of your home crowd from Jamaica in the stands.”
Another Jamaican on the Texas A&M squad will be attending her seventh consecutive Penn Relays. Tresha Henry ran in the meet three times as a high school athlete with St. Jago, then competed two years with Essex County Junior College and will contest her second Penn Relay Carnival with the Aggies.
The 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays at Penn usually offer a preview of which teams will be in the hunt for the NCAA title later in June.
In the women’s sprint relay, the top end teams include LSU (43.26), Texas A&M (43.80), Tennessee (44.05), Georgia Tech (44.33), Auburn (44.33), South Carolina (44.35), and TCU (44.65). The 4 x 400 will include 2007 NCAA Indoor champion South Carolina (3:29.57 indoor, 3:30.98 outdoor) along with the NCAA runner-up Aggies (3:29.93 indoor, 3:34.97 outdoor), LSU (3:30.13), Florida State (3:32.11), Miami (3:32.67), TCU (3:34.66), and Penn State (3:34.81).
On the men’s side the two relays that will be contested on the conference and NCAA level include Florida State (38.78), LSU (39.43), Clemson (39.48), Texas A&M (39.49), and Tennessee (39.65) in the sprint relay along with LSU (3:04.51), Texas A&M (3:05.62), Kentucky (3:06.29), and South Carolina (3:07.20) in the 1,600-meter relay.
“It’s always a great, competitive meet,” Henry said. “The conditions may not always be great, but the competition is always there and it brings out the best in the athletes. We’ll be looking for some consistency in what we are doing right now, particularly in passing the stick around in this kind of environment.”
The lastest Trackwire poll has Texas A&M women ranked No. 8 along with Auburn and Miami, each with a predicted score of 24 points for the NCAA Championships. Following the LSU Alumni Gold Invitational, the LSU women moved ahead of Arizona State for the No. 1 position as the Tigers are predicted for 64 points ahead of 56 for the Sun Devils.
Rounding out the top 10 are USC (33), Georgia (32), South Carolina (32), Michigan (27), Oregon (25) and the three schools knotted at No. 8. Texas A&M remains the top Big 12 school ranked as Texas sits at No. 11, Texas Tech is No. 13 while Nebraska claims No. 15.
The Aggie men are tied for No. 18 with 16 predicted points for the NCAA Championships. Florida State continues to hold the No. 1 position with 68 points ahead of LSU (49), Auburn (42), USC (37) and Texas (31). Rounding out the top 10 include Arizona State (30), Louisville (28), Oregon (27), Tennesseee (23), Wisconsin (23) and BYU (23).
In the Dandy Dozen rankings, which predict who will make the NCAA field, Simone Facey is ranked in both the 100 (No. 3) and 200 (No. 6) meters. Other Aggie women among the rankings include Jennifer Williams (100 hurdles), Caroline Wolf (high jump), Yasmine Regis (triple jump), and Michelle Inocencio (javelin).
Among the relays the A&M women are currently ranked third in the both the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400. Ranked ahead of the Aggies in the sprint relay are USC and LSU while LSU and South Carolina hold the top two spots in the 1,600-meter relay.
Rankings on the men’s side include Justin Oliver in the 400, Zuheir Sharif in the triple jump. Meanwhile, the A&M 4 x 100 is currently ranked No. 2 behind Florida State and No. 3 in the 4 x 400 behind Baylor and LSU.