Critics of track and field will argue that the sport lacks a truly heated rivalry.
Don’t tell that to Michigan and Arkansas’ men’s track teams.
These two teams have a heated rivalry which dates back to a highly controversial disqualification at the 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships that saw Arkansas forfeit its Distance Medley title to Michigan.
The two teams renewed acquaintances in the same event on Friday at the Penn Relays. This time it was Michigan taking home the championship with some debate as the Wolverines finished nearly six seconds in front of second-place Arkansas with a time of 9:22.57.
The race itself, however, was overshadowed by the post-race press conference. The Wolverines, composed of Nate Brannen, Stann Waithe, Andrew Ellerton and Nick Willis, took their opportunity in front of the microphone to send a clear message to the track world about their supposed rivalry.
“Our record against them is four [wins] to one [loss],” said Brannen. “I don’t think it’s even a rivalry at this point. The only time we lost to them was the first time we ran together.”
Arkansas will have its chance to respond on the track tomorrow as both teams are the favorites in the Men’s 4xMile Relay at 1:00 pm.
Despite being overshadowed by the Distance Medley Championship, Texas Tech decided to make some news of their own in the Sprint Medley events as their men’s and women’s teams scored wins in their respective events.
Eight-hundred meter NCAA champion Jonathon Johnson held off a late surge from Auburn’s Sherridan Kirk to give the Red Raiders the victory in the men’s Sprint Medley with an overall time of 3:15.08.
“I knew I had it under control,” explained Johnson. “I had another gear I could have gone into if I needed to and everyone near me was out of gas.”
On the women’s side, the Red Raiders needed an outstanding anchor leg by Althea Chambers to hold off Tennessee and Stanford for the victory. Texas Tech finished with a time of 3:47.50.
“"It was a great feeling to win for the first time here,” said an exhausted Chambers. “This is the first time ever that a women's team from Texas Tech has won at the Penn Relays, so it's good to be a part of history."
The women’s team from South Carolina also made some news in the relay events as it walked away with victories in the Shuttle Hurdles and the 4x100 meter relay. The Gamecocks hoped to walk away with three wins on the day, but placed sixth in the Sprint Medley final.
Unfortunately for the college women, their performance has been overshadowed to date by the performance of local high schooler Nicole Leach. The West Catholic High School product captured everyone’s attention by setting a Penn Relays record for the 400m hurdles with a time of 57.44. In recognition of this accomplishment and her consistent excellence, Leach was named the Most Outstanding Individual Female High School Performer of the Meet. Although that may be a mouthful for some, Leach should have no problem getting the name of her award out because it’s the second consecutive year she has taken home the prize.