Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Hoyas Race To Penn Relays Title

The Georgetown men’s and women’s track and field teams may not have been accustomed to the attention they received last weekend at the Penn Relays, but with 50,827 people filling the stands of the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field and ESPN cameras rolling, both teams rose to the occasion, winning the men’s 4x800m Championship of America and placing high in several other events.

Preparation for an event of this magnitude obviously contrasts sharply with that of other lower-key meets. Along with a training regimen designed to help athletes reach their peak physical condition around this time, Associate Head Coach Andrew Valmon also prepared his athletes mentally, bringing former Penn Relays Champion Marcel Burke in to discuss the event and provide inspiration.

“We needed to get into the mindset where you see no other option than to win, and visualize yourself on the podium,” Valmon said. “I wanted the athletes to be able to put on their uniforms and feel completely prepared mentally and physically to run.”

All the preparation paid off, as the 4x800m team of juniors Ezra Richards and Dylan Welsh and sophomores Ali Najjar and Jesse O’Connell timed 7:20.07 to defeat runner-up Arkansas by 0.84 seconds and bring home Georgetown’s first Penn Relays title in four years.

In an exciting contest, Richards led off the race with a 1:51.7 split. Battling the clutter of 12 different participating teams proved to be an early challenge.

“Ezra’s job was to break away from the pack and give the stick to Ali so he could have some free running,” Valmon said.

Richards accomplished this task, holding first place at the exchange, where Najjar took over and added a 1:49.1 split. Welsh timed 1:51.0 in the third leg and handed off to O’Connell with the Hoyas again in first place.

In a dramatic finish, O’Connell fell to second place briefly before regaining control in the last 200m and leading the team to victory. O’Connell’s split of 1:48.3 set a new personal record.

“Jesse is at a point right now where he can close with anyone in the country,” Valmon said. “He ran extremely well.”

Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Ron Helmer described the importance of the team’s strong finish. “You always need three guys up front who can do their job, and set us up, but having [an anchor like Jesse] is a big step forward for our program. It’s very important to have someone you can rely on to hand the baton to and have confidence that they’ll come around the last turn with the ability to win.”

If the men’s 4x800m relay featured last-second heroics, then so did the women’s 4x800m, although this time luck wasn’t on the side of the Hoyas.

The team of sophomore Treniere Clement, graduate student Heather Blackard, junior Jill Laurendeau, and senior Tyrona Heath fell – almost literally – to the defending champion Florida Gators as Florida anchor Kristina Bratton plowed into Heath just steps away from the finish line. After the collision, Bratton dove over the line, finishing a mere 10th of a second ahead of Heath.

Although the title eluded the team, Blackard had a career performance, recording a 2:04.7 split.

“Heather was up against the second fastest half-miler in the country, and she kept us right in there,” Helmer said.

The women posted other solid efforts in the relays, registering a pair of third place finishes in the 4×1,500m and distance medley.

Individually, senior Lorena Adams bettered her personal record in the 10,000m by nearly 30 seconds, timing 34:11.72 for fifth place. Junior Erin Sicher recorded another terrific time, completing the mile run in 4:46.04.

A school record fell in the 3,000m steeplechase, as sophomore Sarah Scholl, in only her second time competing in the event, crossed the line in 10:55.25.

Sophomore Colleen Kelly was runner-up in the 3,000m run, timing 9:44.28. Junior Allison Snyder (9:59.75) followed in 13th.

On the men’s side, graduate student Josh Rollins continued his domination of the triple jump, recording an NCAA automatically qualifying mark of 16.35m. Usually, the performance would have made Rollins an easy winner, but 2000 Olympian Walter Davis edged Rollins for first with a mark of 16.75m.

“Josh has been `Mr. Consistency,'” Valmon said. “He operates in the clutch and when you call upon him, he responds.”

Junior James Graham turned in another impressive effort, running a 45.3 anchor leg of Georgetown’s fifth place 4x400m team.

Other notable performances included senior Corey Smith (18:55.73) in the 3,000m steeplechase, junior Javon Broderick (14:16.32) in the 5,000m and a pair of top six finishes in the distance medley and sprint medley relays.

This weekend the Hoyas will travel to Storrs, Conn. for the Big East Championships.

“It will be a difficult transition for us,” Valmon said. “The scheduling allows for little time to enjoy things, so we need to delay satisfaction until the end of the season. Penn Relays was a big meet, but its really just another stepping stone toward accomplishing our other goals.”

Donate to The Hoya

Your donation will support the student journalists of Georgetown University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hoya