In its 107 previous meets, the Penn Relays, in Philadelphia, PA. have boasted more competitors than any other single meet in the world.
This weekend, the University of Miami men’s track team will add six more runners to that list.
Head Coach Michael J. Ward is taking senior Jeff Gaulrapp to run the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and a 4 x 100-meter relay team made up of junior Andre Johnson, sophomore Willis McGahee, freshman Roscoe Parrish, freshman Kelly Jennings and freshman Tanard Davis
“It’s very exciting, not only to be able to compete in a meet of such high caliber and acclaim as the Penn Relays, but also to be able to watch the meet as well,” Gaulrapp said. “So many great athletes will be competing there over the weekend. It’s both intimidating and humbling.”
Gaulrapp, who is currently ranked fifth in the Big East, goes into the Penn Relays ranked No. 32 in the steeplechase.
The steeplechase will be hotly contested, with defending Big East Champion Ian Collings of Virginia Tech and last year’s Penn Relays Champion Chris Dugan of NC State listed to compete. NCAA 5,000-meter champion Jonathan Riley of Stanford will be making his steeplechase debut at the meet.
Ward feels that the stiff competition should push Gaulrapp to a fast time.
“I’m looking more for a PR [personal record],” Ward said. “I’m looking for around 9-flat [for Gaulrapp].”
Gaulrapp’s personal best time of 9:10.77 posted at the Raleigh Relays this season puts him less than four seconds off the school-record in the event.
“Nine minutes or just under is quite feasible,” Gaulrapp said. “It’s a time I have been looking to run for the past two seasons. Hopefully good weather, and good competition will give me a shot at the 9-minute barrier.”
Johnson will headline the 4 x 100-meter relay team. Johnson, the Big East indoor 60-meter champion and co-MVP in the 2002 Rose Bowl, is ranked fifth in the Big East in the 100-meter dash.
“On the collegiate level, we’ve been able to do well,” Ward said of the 4 x 100-meter relay team. “We’ve been second and third the last two years in the college 4 x 100 [at Penn.] Hopefully we’ll get to the championship final, but I don’t know, we’ll have to run faster than we’ve been running.”
The 108th Penn Relays will be Miami’s final tune-up before the Big East Championships in Storrs, Conn. May 3-5.