PHILADELPHIA – In front of a captive audience of over 49,000 at the world's largest and oldest track & field relay carnival - the 120th inception of the Penn Relays - the relay team of Kaydian Jones, Jerily Benjamin, Marlena Wright and Simone Grant represented the University of the District of Columbia in the final of the Women's College 4x400M event on Saturday night, April 26th.
The Firebirds lined up against several strong Division I programs such as LSU, South Carolina and Relays host University of Pennsylvania, and Division II powerhouse St. Augustine's. Starting with a great lead off leg, Jones would have the Firebirds in mid-pack followed by a impressive 2nd leg from Benjamin, along with strong performances from Wright and Grant which would have the quartet soaring to a time of 3:44.99 seconds to finish 6th in the Women's College Final. Their time of 3:44.99 – over two seconds faster than their Heat-winning team of 3:47.18 in Thursday's preliminary round – places them in the top-10 in the country in Division II. The Firebirds would end the day as the 2nd fastest Division II Team and end a great weekend of competition at the 2014 Penn Relays Carnival.
Head coach Alton McKenzie, who had never had a relay team make it to a final at the Penn Relays to contest on Saturday, said this honor was well-deserved.
"As they've done all year, this quartet of Kaydian, Jerily, Marlena and Simone has just competed tremendously when lined up to run a 4x4. They raced aggressively and got awarded with the win - allowing us to bring home a nice UPenn Plaque. I couldn't be more proud of this group," he said.
Friday, April 25th
The Firebirds also competed on Friday, represented by two participants in the Triple Jump – Shauna-Kay Creary in the College section and Simone Grant in the Eastern section – and on the track in the 4x200M. Charmaine Sweeney, Simone Grant, Shauna-Kay Creary and Jerily Benjamin teamed up to run a splendid 4x200M, finishing 5th of nine teams in Heat 1 with a time of 1:41.60. That time placed UDC 38th amongst 58 Teams competing in the event.
Thursday, April 24th
The Firebirds started off the weekend with big performances on Thursday during Day 1 of the event. Having representation in three events, the Firebirds would get things going with the 4x100M, where the team of Kaydian Jones, Shauna-Kay Creary, Brittany Okon and Simone Grant finished 6th of 9 teams in Heat 4 with a time of 48.62 seconds. That time placed them the 60th best among 105 college team participating in that event.
Jones also competed in the Long Jump and finished 24th of 27 competitors in the College Eastern Section, jumping 5.16M.
The highlight of the day, though, would come in Thursday's 4x400M Preliminary Heats. Competing in Heat 5, the Firebirds were led off with another great start from Kaydian Jones, who put them right in contention before handing off a close second, just behind the leader. Second leg runner, Jerily Benjamin, would then put the team in front – where they would stay the remainder of the race. Marlena Wright maintained the lead before handing off to anchor Simone Grant, who battled for the win. Grant would have to fight off a challenge from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, but she prevailed - giving the Firebirds a huge win in an impressive time of 3:47.18.