Saint Augustine’s University has one of the best track and field teams in the country. The Falcons are the top-ranked men’s outdoor team, according to the latest NCAA Division II track and field standings released by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
St. Augustine’s has a number of great athletes. Ramaan Ansley is one of them. Ansley, an Engineering and Science product, is a member of the 4x100-meter relay team. The former Public League standout will be one of the great local athletes showcasing his running skills at Franklin Field this week at the Penn Relays. The Falcons have made regular trips to this event over the years. Ansley is the leadoff man of a foursome that includes Taffawee Johnson, Burkheart Ellis, Jr. and Jermaine Jones.
The Falcons clocked an impressive 39.46 in this event, in which they are ranked No. 1. Ansley has been a big factor in the team’s success with his great starts. In the 4x400-meter relay, the quartet of Josh Edmonds, James Quarles, Ellis, Jr. and Dane Hyatt is also ranked first (3:06.88).
Individually, St. Augustine’s is ranked No. 1 in five men’s events. Moussa Dembele is the top-ranked 110-meter hurdler (13.59 seconds) and Elhadji Mbow is the top-ranked 400 hurdler (50.53). DeJon Wilkinson is ranked first in the triple jump (50-7 1/2).
The Falcons won the men’s CIAA track and field championship last week. George Williams, St. Augustine’s legendary head coach, racked up his 16th consecutive title. Williams has built one of the best track and field programs in the nation on any level. He has won 31 national championships, including a 2010 NCAA Division II crown. He was the head coach of the 2004 men’s Olympic track and field team in Athens, Greece. Williams has coached 32 Olympians, including three gold medalists.
Ansley helped the Falcons win the CIAA title. St. Augustine’s 4x100-meter relay team ran a winning time of 40.22 seconds. St. Augustine’s will also bring its women’s track and field team to compete in the Penn Relays.
There will be a heavy security presence at the Penn Relays this week. Penn officials are making the necessary provisions to make sure operations run smoothly during the nation’s premiere track and field carnival at Franklin Field April 25-27.
“The heighten security isn’t just because of Boston (Marathon),” said Maureen Rush, Penn’s vice president of public safety and superintendent of Penn police. “We have actually had a lot of extra security since 9/11. On the website for the Penn Relays you have all specifics as far as what’s not allowed and one of the things that’s not allowed except for obviously the distinction of athletes, but for spectators they’re not going to be allowed to bring in any large coolers, bags, back packs or etc. Frankly, that’s been in existence for many, many years probably since 9/11. Will it be enforced more rigorously? Yes it will.
“We will actually be working across all law enforcement sectors to ensure that this is a fabulous event as it always is. We’re working closely with Dave Johnson and all the men and women of athletics to ensure that is not only safe in reality, but in perception. People across the country right now are very nervous about going to large events and we want ensure that they feel totally comfortable coming here.”
A week ago, the Boston Marathon tragedy opened the eyes of a lot of people throughout the country. Security is a major component for any big event. The Penn Relays has released specific guidelines in regards to this track and field meet. The fans, athletes, schools, coaches, athletic directors and other personnel should go to the official website (www.thePennRelays.com) for specific information.
The Penn Relays attracts some of the top athletes, high schools and colleges around the nation. The meet will be in full swing on Friday and Saturday of this week. Saturday is the biggest day of the meet, which highlights the top performers on the relay teams that compete for the some of the carnival’s biggest honors.
Clinton “Juice” Granger, Temple’s senior quarterback, had an impressive performance in the Owls Cherry and White spring football game in a losing effort. Granger, former George Washington High star, completed 26-of-44 passes for 302 yards including three touchdowns and one interception. The White squad defeated the Cherry, 34-28, last Saturday in front of 3,530 fans at Edberg-Olson Hall.
Granger displayed a strong arm in this contest. He hit redshirt freshman wide receiver Nathan Hairston with a 62-yard TD pass. Hairston had six receptions for 132 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver Romond Deloatch was the game’s leading receiver. Deloatch had 13 receptions for 87 yards and a 16-yard score.
Granger wasn’t the only standout in the spring game. Senior Chris Coyer had two touchdown catches from junior quarterback Connor Reilly to help the White squad. Reilly completed 25-of-41 passes for 366 yards and four TDs. Junior running back Kenny Harper had a two-yard touchdown run. Harper was also the leading rusher for the White squad.
On the defensive side, redshirt freshman linebacker Haason Reddick was the top defensive player for the White. Reddick had eight tackles and two breakups. Senior linebacker Olaniyi Adewole had five total and four solo tackles.
For Cherry, sophomore running back Jamie Gilmore led the rushing efforts with eight carries for 25 yards. Sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich led all defensive players with nine solo tackles and a break-up. Daquan Cooper, a junior defensive back, had six total tackles. Cooper played his scholastic football at George Washington High School. The former Public League standout had a big game in the secondary. Freshman defensive back Jihaad Pretlow had six total tackles.
The Owls will open the season at Notre Dame on August 31. Temple’s home opener is set for Sept. 7 at Lincoln Financial Field with Houston in American Athletic Conference action.
Samuel Ellison has been an outstanding athlete for Villanova’s track and field program. Ellison picked up All-America honors in the distance medley and the 800 meters during the indoor season. The Wildcats junior distance runner is off to a good start during the spring season.
Right now, he’s getting himself in high gear for the Penn Relays, which will be held April 25-27 at Franklin Field. Villanova has a great tradition at this meet that goes back several decades. Ellison is well aware of the Wildcats’ history of producing sensational track and field athletes. He had an opportunity to meet two former track and field greats in Charlie Jenkins and Phil Reavis.
“Charlie Jenkins has been very helpful,” Ellison said. “I had a chance to meet him when I matriculated here. He’s been watching me. I also met Phil Reavis. Talking to him and meeting Charlie really means a lot to me. These guys came to Villanova during a much different time. They really blazed the trails for me.
“They’re big part of this winning tradition. It’s amazing you come into Jake Nevin (Fieldhouse) and see all the Penn Relays (awards). Villanova has a decorated history when it comes to track and field. It’s nice to be a part of that. Of course, it’s a lot of pressure because of this great legacy. “
Ellison, a former Upper Dublin track star, is used to the big crowds at the Penn Relays. He’s run in front of 25-30,000 fans on a warm Saturday afternoon this time of year. Ellison will be running the distance medley and the 4x800 meter relay at the Penn Relays. Marcus O’Sullivan, Villanova head coach, has been very impressed with his development over the years.
“Sam Ellison is going to be a big part of the distance medley and the 4x800 (meter relay),” O’Sullivan said. “He’s a great kid. He’s top notch. He’s first class. He’s still learning. He’s got a long stride. We try to get him in situations where he has some space. He’s a great all-around kid. He’s one of the senior editors of our school newspaper. Sam has a great family.”
The Ellisons are members of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, 6361 Lancaster Avenue, in the Overbrook Farms section of the city. His father Roy, mother Patricia and sister Simone are big track and field fans. His parents will be watching him run at the Penn Relays. He plans to call Simone, who attends Howard University in Washington, D.C.
“My mom and dad will be there,” Ellison said. “They really like the Penn Relays. Simone is a big fan, too. She probably won’t be able to make it. I think she’ll be finishing up. That’s all right. I’ll let her know how everything turned out. It’s going to be pretty exciting.”
There are a number of great high school track teams coming to the Penn Relays. Swenson Arts and Technology will be one of the scholastic teams to watch beginning April 25-27 at Penn’s Franklin Field. Swenson’s girls track and field team is loaded with talent. The Lions have a terrific 4x400 meter relay team, which features Tichina Rhodes, Amy Hicks, Markeeta Thomas and Imani Harris.
“I’m hoping we can win the Pub (Public League) and the Tri-State at the Penn Relays,” Harris said. “I’ll be running in the 4x100 (meter relay) and the 4x400 (meter relay). We have a real good team. Markeeta is our leadoff leg. She gets us our lead. I run the anchor leg. Our third leg is Tichina Rhodes. She’s very good. Amy Hicks (second leg) does a good job for us, too. We all worked together. We help each other out.”
The Lions recently clocked a 4:33.10 in the 4x400 meter relay. Rhodes will also be competing in the 400 meter hurdles. She is one of the best hurdlers in the state. A week ago, she ran a 44.00 in the 300 meter hurdles.
“I’m excited about running in the 400 meter hurdles at the Penn Relays,” Rhodes said. “This is my second time. I did it last year. That was my first time and I didn’t know what to expect. But I feel pretty good about it now. It’s really exciting. It’s the first race of the day (April 25). I’m looking forward to that race. They’re going to have a lot of good runners in that race. I’ll be there with two of my teammates, Amy Hicks and Markeeta Thomas.”
Hicks is a multi-talented track and field athlete. In addition to the 400 meter hurldes, she runs the 100 meter, long jumps and triple jumps. She’s a key member of the Lions’ 4x400 meter relay and 4x100 meter relay teams.
“It is a great experience and a honor to run in the Penn Relays,” Hicks said. “I’m a senior. This is my last year. We would like to do well. I’m going to be running in the 400 hurdles, 4x100 and 4x400 (meter relays). Mr. (Tim) Hickey (Swenson head coach) has really helped me with the hurdles and my running.”
Hickey is a long time track and field coach in the Public League. He spent 30 years coaching track at William Penn High School, winning several league championships. He is one of the top high school track coaches in the state.
“We have a good group of kids who can do a lot of different things,” Hickey said. “It’s been a unique year for the kids. They’ve all done well. Of course, Tichina, Markeeta and Amy will be running in the 400 hurdles and that’s big. It should be great down there. We’re looking forward to it.”