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Sometimes size doesn’t always matter. Well at least when you’re fishing in small bodies of water. Really had a blast exploring a small stream that used to be a prime Brown Trout sanctuary back in the day before the big city strangled it into submission.
Howard Track & Field among the first HBCUs to compete at the historic Penn Relays
By Ashleigh Fields/Howard University Freshman Journalism Major
WASHINGTON – Every student-athlete who has entered the Howard University track and field office in the basement of Cook Hall has had the chance to admire the four circular plaques mounted on the wall. Engraved in gold are the words, “University of Pennsylvania Relay Carnival.”
Although many schools are now given a chance to compete at the prestigious meet, Howard was among the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to be granted admission to compete in 1920.
April would have been the 100-year celebration of HBCUs competing at the historic Penn Relays; however, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), this year’s festivities were canceled.
“We must make sure everyone is safe during these unprecedented times,” said Howard Director of Track & Field David Oliver. “When the time comes, we’ll be ready for the event.”
In 1942, Xavier (La.) became the first HBCU relay squad to win at the illustrious event, setting the standard in the men’s 440-yard relays. The team had Pittsburgh native Herb Douglas as its leadoff man, a three-time state champion (100-yard, 220-yard, & long jump) in high school. He received numerous offers, including his hometown University (Pittsburgh), but the Pitt Panthers refused to offer him financial aid; instead he accepted a scholarship from Xavier’s coach Ralph Metcalfe.
“The first year we were eligible, we came back up in 1942 and beat Pitt in the 440 relay,” Douglas said. “To win a championship at the Penn Relays, we could say was the equivalent of winning an Olympic medal.”
Douglas, 97, has remained a Penn Relays official long enough to celebrate the 100th year of HBCU participation in 2020.
In Howard’s history, the relay events have been a cornerstone throughout generations of Bison with a plethora of All-Americans, including the 4×400 relay squad of Richard Louis, Kenny Wilson, David Charlton and Oliver Bridges that won the 1983 Penn Relays Championship of America.
“It was a great experience,” said Bridges, who was the anchor on that championship relay team. “When you win the Championship of America at the Penn Relays, it’s an awesome accomplishment. It took a superb team effort.”
William “Bill” Ritchie, a 1971 HU graduate, holds the distinction of being the first known NCAA All-American in school history, competed in the Penn Relays where he was a member of the 1967 squad that took home the gold in the freshmen consolation mile. Ritchie’s team included Ron Lassiter, Tyrone Malloy and Paul Mathis.
“It was my honor to represent Howard University [at the Penn Relays],” Ritchie recalls. “The event was like no other in the track and field world, except for the Olympics. The Penn Relays created memories that will live with me forever.”
From 1967 through 1970, Ritchie participated at the Penn Relays where he also earned a pair of medals in the men’s 100-yard dash (1969 and 1970).
Howard has its list of Bison in the history books, with names like Theresa Allen, Zachary Jones, Brenda Bailey, and former Olympic and Howard coach Bill Moultrie, just to name a few.
Oliver, a former Olympian and Penn Relay champion in the 110 hurdles, was eager to see what this year held for all the team in the storied event.
“This was destined to be a huge edition of the Penn Relays from a HBCU perspective,” Oliver commented. “I think all of us were looking forward to this special edition. The cancelation of this year’s event, while unfortunate, is not a denial of an opportunity for the HBCUs; it is just a dream deferred for another year.”
Oliver (2000-04) knows how special it is to run at the Penn Relays. During his senior campaign under coach the late Coach Michael Merritt, he was a member of the 4×400 relay team that was victorious in their section. Later, he also competed professionally in the shuttle hurdles where the squad set a world-best performance.
In 2018, Oliver returned to his alma mater, where he saw long jumper Dominique Cleggett take first-place at The Relays, becoming the first HU female student-athlete to win an individual event since 1985.
“It was a cool experience competing against some of the top student-athletes in the country,” said Cleggett. “It was awesome. I am glad that I had the opportunity to be there.”
There is no denying Howard amongst other HBCUs brought a powerful presence to Penn Relays during each year of participation. And when things return to normal, it hopes to continue to do the same.
The University of Pennsylvania conducted a digital version of the renowned event Friday (April 24) from noon to 5 p.m.
About the Penn Relays
The Penn Relays (also Penn Relays Carnival) is the oldest and largest track and field competition in the United States, hosted annually since April 21, 1895, by the University of Pennsylvania at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.
HYATTSVILLE – More than a month after calling off all high school athletic events throughout the state due to coronavirus known as COVID-19, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) announced on April 28 that it is canceling the remainder of its basketball state finals and its spring sports season and championships.
The decision comes after Maryland State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon announced canceling all athletic events during a state Board of Education meeting. MPSSAA released a statement following Salmon’s announcement that the decision was made after “careful review and consultation” between both parties.
“[MPSSAA] is officially announcing the cancellation of all MPSSAA events for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year,” the statement said. “This includes the remainder of the 2020 Boys and Girls Basketball State Championships and all spring sports, as well as spring State Championships.”
The state was in the middle of its final weekend of the state basketball championships, scheduled to take place on March 12-14. With the continued spread of the coronavirus, only players, coaches and their immediate families were going to be allowed in the Xfinity Center in College Park and SECU Arena in Towson for their respective tournament games.
As the spread continued, officials elected to postpone the finals on March 12 and all athletics events indefinitely on March 27. Numerous coaches and student-athletes voiced their concerns on playing via social media, especially after the death of Northwestern High School boys basketball coach Terrence Burke due to COVID-19 on March 27.
“Do I want to play the game? Absolutely I want to play,” Dr. Henry Wise, Jr. High School boys basketball Head Coach Louis Wilson said. “I definitely want to have a chance to compete and have a chance for a state championship, but I know it more than basketball. This is a real-life situation.”
Spring sports affected by the decision include baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and field and tennis. Teams were in the middle of their preparations for the year once practices began on Feb. 29, preparing for the season to start on March 20. Their state final games were slated to begin on May 12 and finish on the 23.
“With this announcement, the MPSSAA wishes to extend its heartfelt gratitude and admiration to all of our member schools’ graduating seniors, underclassmen, coaches, administrators, and extracurricular athletic and activity sponsors who have dedicated countless hours to these programs,” MPSSAA said.
Moving forward, MPSSAA said it would work on ensuring the return of high school athletics by working under the guidelines in Gov. Larry Hogan’s “Maryland Strong Road Map to Recovery” plan, which was announced earlier in the day.
The plan, created by the governor’s office with the help of scientists, business leaders, and public health experts, is a “safe, effective, and gradual approach” on how to reopen Maryland during the pandemic, Hogan said.
WASHINGTON – The Washington Redskins wrapped up the 2020 NFL Draft, but the Burgundy and Gold also recently signed some notable undrafted free agents.
Washington has agreed to terms with LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss, Colorado quarterback Steven Montez, Temple wide receiver Isaiah Wright and Missouri wide receiver Johnathon Johnson.
Perhaps one of the most talked-about acquisitions that the Redskins made was the signing of Moss. The big-bodied tight end corralled 47 receptions for 570 yards and four touchdowns while averaging more than 12 yards per catch last season en route to a championship win over Clemson. With the current tight end depth situation, Moss could see time sooner than later.
Montez had a stellar collegiate career for the Buffaloes where completed 824 passes for 9,710 yards while throwing 63 touchdowns to 33 interceptions. The 6-5, 235-pound gunslinger will add depth behind second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins and newcomer Kyle Allen.
Wright, a 6-2, 220-pound receiver, played four seasons with the Owls and accounted for 134 receptions for 1,552 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was also a threat on the ground rushing for 552 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Wright’s best statistical season came during his sophomore campaign when he hauled in 46 balls for 668 yards and four touchdowns.
Johnson registered 153 receptions for 2,190 yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing for 135 yards on seven attempts during his stint with the Tigers in the competitive SEC Conference.
LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. – The Washington Redskins recently announced that they have exercised their fifth-year option on the contract of defensive tackle Jonathan Allen.
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman was selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft (No. 17).
Allen has started all 36 games in which he has appeared and recorded 139 tackles, including 18 for loss and has compiled 15.0 sacks.
Since 2018, Allen is tied for the fourth-most multi-sack games among defensive tackles with the fifth-most games having multiple tackles for loss by a defensive tackle during that span.
Allen’s 14.0 sacks are sixth-most by a defensive tackle since 2018, so the decision to lock up the former Alabama University product seemingly was an easy decision to make with the extra available cap space.
During his tenure with the Crimson Tide, Allen appeared in 30 games and in 2016, he was a senior team captain and winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award and Ted Hendricks Award.
He was also a finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year, Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Lombardi Award. Allen finished his career ranked No. 2 in Alabama history in career sacks (28.5) behind Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas.
The twenty-five-year-old played locally at Stone Bridge H.S. in Ashburn, Va., where he was a consensus five star recruit. He was selected as the Gatorade Virginia Football Player of the year.
WASHINGTON – Local Major League Soccer club D.C. United has joined forces with Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) to provide “engaging online content” to help residents stay fit and learn more about the sport during the current quarantine due to the coronavirus.
The partnership, considered the first of its kind in league history, will provide over 915,000 Prince George’s County residents access to the club’s video library as well as give soccer book recommendations and children’s content.
It will also provide health and educational content to its as well as “making soccer available to the large Spanish speaking community,” PGCMLS CEO Roberta Phillips said.
“The library [system] is grateful to D.C. United for their commitment to supporting all Prince Georgians with awesome workout content and opportunities for the community to connect with players from home,” Phillips said.
PGCMLS created a dedicated webpage for residents to gain access to the content. As part of the partnership, players will participate in a bi-monthly virtual read-aloud series and reading books in English and Spanish for children ages 2-8. Also available for children are printable activity sheets of different puzzles and coloring pages.
For young adults, the club’s On-Air Host Claudia Pagan host a three-part roundtable discussion with U-18/19 academy player Maddux Reece, University of Maryland forward Eric Matzelevich and United goalkeeper Chris Seitz on the transition from high school to college, called College Confidential: the Education Series.
The webpage also includes newer content United began uploading on its website and social media accounts since the start of the stay-at-home orders throughout the metropolitan region.
It provides workout videos for kids featuring United’s mascot Talon to previously recorded AMA video interviews with players. The club will alert county residents as well as all its fans about the next fan-participation content on their social media channels.
“Our friends in Prince George’s County have been wonderful supporters of our club for a long time, and their passionate community of soccer fans continues to grow,” Zachary Abaie, D.C. United’s head of communications said. “We’re excited about our partnership with the library system and hope through our shared love of soccer we can provide fun activities and exercises to the families who have supported us for many years.”
The library system will also promote its offering of soccer documentaries, eBooks, movies and training videos available through its streaming services, including Kanopy, Hoopla and Libby/Overdrive.
It is the second partnership between an area soccer organization and a local organization this month. On April 8, local women’s soccer team Washington Spirit announced a multi-year deal with D.C. Scores to become its official community partner. The city-based soccer program focuses on bringing soccer, poetry, and community service projects together to elementary and middle school children.
GAITHERSBURG – In a move to rejuvenate their defense, the Dallas Cowboys drafted cornerback Trevon Diggs, a Gaithersburg native and former University of Alabama star, with the 51st pick of the NFL Draft on April 24.
The selection was a move that team officials prepared for as Owner Jerry Jones said they did not expecting Diggs still be available by the time their pick in the second round came. Jones called the possibility of landing the former Avalon School graduate a “1 percent chance” based on team research as attempts to trade spots with other teams faltered.
“You’ve got to be ready, and you’ve got to do all the work as though you have several of them wanting to trade with you,” Jones told reporters. “We couldn’t get those trades. Nobody wanted to trade them.”
Luckily, the 2019 first-team All-SEC defender fell, and Dallas did not hesitate in making the selection. Listed at six-foot-one and 205 pounds, Diggs addresses their cornerback needs following the departure of Byron Jones, who left in free agency for the Miami Dolphins.
Trevon Diggs is the younger brother of Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs and an admitted Cowboys’ fan. Moments before the pick was announced, the younger Diggs was stunned to receive a phone call from Jones about joining Dallas.
“I was star-struck,” Diggs said. “That’s Jerry Jones. Words can’t explain it, the feeling when my heart kind of dropped.”
Diggs was rated as a four-star athlete out of high school, and eventually signed to play at for Alabama. His versatile in playing on offense, defense and special teams as a freshman was critical in the Crimson Tide’s journey to a national title win in 2017. He made the fulltime switch to the defense in his sophomore season, where his physicality, size and playmaking instincts shined through.
“I can attack the ball,” Diggs said. “I can go get the ball. It’s like you have a wide receiver playing corner. I’m hungry for the ball. I don’t want pass breakups; I want interceptions.”
Diggs blossomed as a cornerback as he became a starter in his junior season. After a broken foot injury cut his 2018 season short, Diggs earned Second Team All-SEC and Third Team AP All-American honors during his final year with the Crimson Tide.