A Fine Day in the Rain to Close the Penn Relays

Philadelphia - If any doubt remained about who has the best distance relay team in the world, the University of Michigan stopped the debate with a dominating and record-setting performance on Saturday. The Wolverines again topped rival Arkansas in the 4xMile and the 4x800 to sweep the distance relays with Nick Willis, Nate Brannen and Andrew Ellerton ran all three races. Their blistering time of 16:04.54 in the 4xMile set a collegiate record.

South Carolina’s women won the 4x200 and the 4x400 events to give the Gamecocks four championships for the meet. Tiffany Ross-Williams won the 400 hurdles in a time of 55.70, the second fastest time in Penn Relays history.

In the men’s 4x400, Florida’s Kerron Clement came from behind during a 44.9 anchor leg and then held on to beat Texas Tech’s Jonathan Johnson by a tenth of a second. Earlier, the Gators topped LSU in the 4x200.

American relay teams came close to sweeping their anticipated “USA vs. The World” head-to-head match ups. Led by Olympic gold medalist Justin Gatlin, USA Red ran a 38.58 in the 4x100 to beat USA Blue and Jamaica. The women’s 4x100 team of Angela Daigle, Lauryn Williams, Inger Miller and LaTasha Colander won their heat as well. USA won both the men and women’s sprint medleys, with Olympic silver medalist Allyson Felix running the opening leg.

But in the climactic 4x400, a fall by Tyree Washington of USA Red set up a stretch duel between USA Blue and Jamaica. Davian Clarke of Jamaica held off Leonard Byrd by less than half a second, thrilling the large contingent of Jamaican fans waving flags in the crowd of 44,612. The three-day total of 108,809 was the third-largest gathering of track fans in Penn Relays history.

Not surprisingly, runners from the top teams won college honors. The Gamecocks’ Ross-Williams pulled a double feat as she was named women’s athlete of the meet for both individual and relay events. She ran the fastest split (50.7) in the 4x400 and anchored the Gamecocks’ winning shuttle hurdle team

Nick Willis, whose third leg of 3:56.2 in the 4xMile was the fastest in the race, was named the top college men’s athlete for relay events. Vikas Gowda of North Carolina, who won the discus throw with a toss of 203’ 4”, the third longest in Penn Relays history, was the men’s athlete of the meet for individual events.

Written by Tim McManus