Believe it or not, the Penn Relays are almost upon us. This year's meet will be the 118th edition of the oldest and largest track and field event in the United States.
As ever, I'll be at Franklin Field to provide live coverage of all three days here on the blog. To begin our countdown towards April 28, here is a piece by the Daily News' Frank Bertucci about perhaps the biggest local story this year.
RECORD IN SIGHT FOR SHEILA REID AND VILLANOVA?
The record has been on the Penn Relays and world books for 23 years, Villanova's distance medley relay time of 10:48.38 run by Kathy Franey, Kameisha Bennett, Celeste Halliday and Vickie Huber.
And maybe this is the year that it comes off the books.
Villanova's women (Emily Lipari, Christie Verdier, Ariann Neutts, Sheila Reid) won the DMR (10:52.52) at the indoor NCAA championship meet in March, and broke the school indoor record for the event set by the 1988 team. Four seconds...
"There's room for each girl to improve (their indoor times) by a second or two," said Reid, the anchor who won the NCAA cross country championship in the fall, leading the Wildcats to the team title. "It depends on the nature of the race. Everybody's there to run fast.
"If we need to go faster we could, but 10:48 is no joke. But the Penn Relays is all about the win. We want to take a victory lap around the track with those big wheels."
Reid's referring to the Championship of America plaques, which she's familiar with seeing at Villanova. But she's never been on a relay team to add to the track teams' collection. In fact, the last Villanova Championship of America winner at Franklin Field was the men's DMR team in 2009; the last women's winner was the 2006 distance medley relay.
But with Reid on the anchor of both relays, Villanova's women are among the favorites in both the distance medley and 4x1500-meter relays. They'll be pushed by Virginia, Michigan, Georgetown and Tennessee, but unfortunately not by Oregon.
Villanova and the Ducks, with Jordan Hasay on the anchor, ran the spectacular indoor DMR race. Oregon finished .38-second behind Villanova, but won't be running at Penn.
"That's definitely disappointing," Reid said. "That was a great battle indoors. Me and Jordan pushed each other. I wanted an opportunity to race her on the anchor again.'
Reid is off to a good start to the outdoor season, running a personal-best time of 4:11.85 for 1500 meters last weekend at the Mt. Sac meet in California. It was an NCAA-best time for this outdoor season, and was her first competitive race of the season.
And Verdier, a junior who'll run the 400-meter leg on the DMR, ran a personal-best time of 53.70 for the 400 in a meet at Miami last week, so maybe those four seconds from the DMR world record can be cut down.
Reid will graduate with a degree in English in May, but she'll still be running for Villanova as a grad student. She has no indoor eligibility remaining, but will compete once more in cross country and outdoors, and at Penn.
"This is the national championship of all relays," Reid said of Penn.
And what the Penn Relays could use this year is a new meet record - and world record - in the women's distance medley relay.