Just like old times, Villanova wins DMR

by William J. Miller
special to ArmoryTrack.com

photos www.wingedfootfotos.com

For Villanova University Franklin Field and the Penn Relays was their huge playpen. Over the years in the 115-year history of this prestigious track carnival, Villanova has been among the leaders in championship victories and has always been a hometown favorite by the Philadelphia crowd even though its campus is some 30 minutes in the suburbs from Philly. But incomprehensibly the Wildcats had run into a championship victory drought since 2001 when the Novas won the men’s distance medley. Ironically, Villanova Friday broke the drought spell when it captured the DM title in 9:30.81, only 33 seconds behind its 2001 DM win.

It wasn’t an easy victory Friday for Villanova. With 150 meters to go in the race, Matt Gibney, a sophomore from Australia, was trailing Arkansas by 20 meters.coming off the
final turn he shifted into high gear and passed theArkansas anchor and brezzed home with a 15 meter victory in 9:30.81. Gibney’s 1600 anchor split of 3:38.4 was a personal best. The Aussie runner was beaming as he crossed the line.

“Man,he said, the crowd was cheering for me as I took the lead on the stretch so I didn’t want to let them down.” His teammates were relieved and smiling broadly too.”

Sean Tully, who ran for Syosset High School on LI, said, “This is my senior year (as it is for his brother at Villanova but who has been hurt) and I wanted to win in the worst way.” Sean got his team off well with a sparkling 1200 split of 2:56.7. Senior Elvis Lewis, also a Long Islander from Hempstead, ran the 400 leg with a torrid 46.3 stint and Jason Apwah, a sophomore, took the baton and promptly put Gibney in a good position with a 800 split of 1:49.4. “What a relief this victory was,” said head coach Marcus O’Sullivan, who served in the same position in 2001, the victory year, lauded Gibney’s performance and the others for their all=out stints that allowed Gibney to bring it home.”

Adrian Blincoe, O’Sullivan’s assistant who ran for Villanova four years ago and from New Zeland, said he was so excited to break the long drought. His undergraduate days at Villanova produced no championship wins as well as the two previous years he was an assistant coach. “Wow!!! He yelled at the finish. “What a relief indeed—and the kids made it happen.”

FRIDAY REPORT: Tennessee keeps it going

by William J. Miller
special to ArmoryTrack.com

photos www.wingedfootfotos.com

Tennessee scored another major victory Friday at the three day 115th annual Penn Relays at Franklin Field, Philadelphia when it posted collegiate and meet records in the women’s 4x1500 championship relay.

Thursday the Volunteers won the distance medley title event in 11:02.11. Three members of that foursome—Phoebe Wright, Chanelle Price and Sarah Bowman—also were on Friday’s winner. The 1500 quartet of Price (4:19.5), Wright (4:19.0), Rolanda Bell (4:19.6), and Bowman (4:10.2) registered a winning time of 17 minutes 8.34 seconds shattering the previous collegiate record of 17:15.62, and the Relays record (same time) set by Michigan in 2007. Georgetown and Washington, which finished second and third respectively, also were below Michigan’s time.

J.J. Clark, Tennessee coach for seven years, expressed his confidence. “I knew we were going to win” the exuberant coach said at the post- race conference.

“The goal was to get out there first, then hold on and stay there and let Sarah come up with her usual solid race.” Leading off with freshman Price was a bit of a gamble” Clark said.

“She’s a competitor deluxe even though she’s only had a couple of mile efforts under her belt between high school and us,” he noted.

Chanelle delivered the goods. She finished with a personal best 4:19.5 for 1500 and handed off the baton to Wright in hailing distance of the other runners. “I wasn’t worried about the time,” Price said later.

“I just focused on getting us in a good position.” Wright (4:19.0) did the same as Price position-wise, followed by another under 4:20 split by Rolanda Bell (4:19.6), who lives in Queens and ran at the Armory many times in high school.

“What more could a coach want, putting Sarah Bowman in a contending position slightly behind the front runner. I knew we would win as soon as Sarah got the stick,” Clark said. He was absolutely correct.

“I used a hunting strategy,” Bowman said at the conference. “I just tried to catch up with the leader and hang on her shoulder for the final couple of laps.”

Bowman was right on target. She shadowed her Georgetown rival Maggie Infeld for several of the last laps and then made a move on the last turn that left her intense rival well behind at the tape.

“I knew I had more left than Maggie and made the move that paid dividends.” Her 1500 split was a gaudy 4:10.2.

SATURDAY REPORT: More Tennessee and USA vs. The World

by William J. Miller
special to ArmoryTrack.com

photo by Tim Fulton

Tennessee capped one of its most successful women Penn Relays stays by winning the 4x800 championship on the final day of the Franklin Field carnival on the University of Pennsylvania's campus in downtown Philadelphia. Thursday the Vols women captured the distance medley (11:02.11) with Sara Bowman as anchor (4:40.8). Friday the Vols ladies returned to the track at the 115th running of the Relays wnd won an event, the 4x1500, it had only captured once before back in 1990. This time, with Sara Bowman, again running the crucial anchor leg (4:09.6), the Lady Vols posted a winning time of 17:08.34 which produced three records, World,NCAA, and Penn Relays.

Tennessee returned to the track Saturday for an event the Vols had finished first at Penn five times, four straight from 1981 through 1984 and once more in 2004 but this time a victory in the 4x800 could produce a triple gold watch in one Penn Relays edition for the team and a major triumph for its seven-year coach J.J.Clark, he of the well-known family in track and field.

There was a lot of pressure on both the athletes and their coach. But you wouldn't think so if you were among the 47,904 spectators at Franklin Field watching the 4x800 event. Right from the git-go, the crowd showed it wanted a Vol victory, too, and soon it was satisfied.

The crowd started cheering when Kimmara McDonald started her lead-off leg and minutes later put Tennesee in a contending position with a 2:09.14 800 split and things looked very promising because she was to be followed by three teammates who were key members of the two previous winning relays.

Chanell Price, an All-America high school freshman from Pennsylvania it was obvious that the crowd knew who she was because as she moved quickly around the track after taking the baton from McDonald blazing through the first 400 meters, the huge audience was on its feet cheering, Price (a sparkling 2:02.45 800 split) didn't let them down and gave Sarah Bowman, running the third leg for the first time after two brilliant anchor legs, took the lead from Price.

An outstanding miler, Bowman showed she could move down in distance ith equal talent and maintained the Vol lead with a 2:03.70 that improved the lead for anchor Phoebe Wright (who on the previous winning foursomes ran the leadoff on the 1200 distance medley and second on the 4x1500 record breaker) showed she had excellent speed capability by clocking 2:02.82 and winning the Vols a third straight championship by almost 20 seconds in the American and Penn Relays record time of 8:17.91. The crowd let the winners know how apprecia tive they were of their three victories and their records in the 4x1500 and 4x800 relays.

"This was a fantastic three days for our team, the participants and the university. Coaches dream of these things but its not often it happens against such stiff competition that one reaches this pinnacle. Besides the great performances from our winning team members, we appreciated the support we got from the crowd over the three days. That always helps the runners," a happy Clark was willing to share with others.

It would not be surprising if Knoxville, the home base of Tennessee University, held a salute to the team day for its track athletes. The university's women and men's basketball teams didin 't do too well in the NCAA tournament but track had a glorious time in a meet second only to the Olympics in prestige. WC Fields, the late great comedian, once said "I spent a week in Philadelphia one day." Which was meant to be a knock on Phiilly. JJ Clark and his team would certainly not agree with Fields. They spent three glorious days in Philly one week.