April 24, 2009
Video Courtesy of Flotrack.org
PHILADELPHIA - In its first trip to the legendary Penn Relays in 16 years, the UW track and field team picked up second- and third-place finishes in its two relays today at University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field.
The storied event, now in its 115th season, features more than 400 races over the course of the week and 22,000 competitors from elementary school children up to some of the elite superstars of professional track. Washington had not sent a squad to Penn since 1993, head coach Greg Metcalf's senior season at UW.
One reason for UW's return to the Relays was a belief they could bring home two titles, and the Dawgs nearly pulled it off with two top-three finishes.
First up was the Women's 4x1500-meter Championship of America, featuring the Husky quartet of juniors Kailey Campbell and Katie Follett, redshirt freshman Mel Lawrence, and true freshman Christine Babcock on the anchor.
After the first couple laps, the race became a four-team battle between Washington, Tennessee, Georgetown, and Villanova. The Lady Vols set an American Record in the distance medley relay this year, and won the DMR title at NCAA Indoors and also won the Penn Relay DMR on Thursday, so they had the target on their backs.
Campbell opened with a 4:18 split, putting UW right in the mix. Follett then took the baton and turned in her best showing of the season with a 4:16 split, as she took over the lead over the final 20 meters and handed off to Lawrence in first place. Lawrence held the lead for much of the third leg, but the four teams were still bunched together far ahead of the rest of the field. Georgetown and Tennessee put on a kick and opened up a small lead heading into the final leg. Lawrence still ran 4:20 for her leg, a four-second PR.
On the anchor leg, Tennessee and Georgetown both sported multiple-time All-American seniors, while Babcock was running just her third college 1,500m. Babcock pulled away from Villanova, but Tennessee's Sarah Bowman led the Vols to the win in 17:08.34 followed by Georgetown in 17:11.80, and then the Huskies in 17:14.55. All three teams broke the previous meet record of 17:15.62 set by Michigan in 2007.
"I thought all four ran great," said assistant coach Kelly Strong. "Coming in you have to know that Tennessee is going to run tough. They won the DMR at NCAA's and won it again yesterday, and Sarah Bowman is one of the best. We also knew that Georgetown and Villanova would be strong. So we looked at the Penn Relays record which was 17:15 by Michigan and that was an average of 4:19 flat. We knew we were capable of doing that so the four of them had that as a goal."
Babcock knew she might be in for a challenge against the NCAA Mile Champion but just tried to stay within herself.
"I was just trying not to think about it when I saw Tennessee warming up. I knew if Bowman was anywhere close I was in trouble," she told Flotrack.org. "I just went in there thinking I'd just try my best and whatever comes out of it, that's what happens, I can't really focus too much on who I'm racing because I can't control them."
Several hours later, it was time for the Men's Sprints Medley Championship of America, featuring four Husky seniors: Joe Turner, Kenjamine Jackson, Jordan Boase, and Austin Abbott. The sprint medley is organized with two 200-meter legs followed by 400-meters and 800-meters. Turner and Jackson ran well over the first two legs, but it was Boase who shocked the onlookers when he went into overdrive and powered from the back of the pack all the way into first place for the hand-off to Abbott.
Abbott led early on the final leg, before letting Tennessee's Joe Franklin move in front and sticking right behind him. Abbott looked in good position for his patented finishing kick, but Franklin was very strong and was able to hold off Abbott, as Tennessee thwarted UW again for the win in 3:17.77. Abbott and the Huskies finished second in 3:18.81, ahead of Albany, and two-time defending champion LSU which took fourth.
Sprints coach Raul Sheen was happy with that the four seniors got a chance to shine on one of the sport's largest stages.
"It was an amazing experience and a neat way to reward four seniors that have done a lot for the program," said Sheen. "We're talking about the premier meet in the US and really in the world at this time of the year, and to go out and be competitive and hear our name over the loudspeaker means a lot for these four guys and for our program."
Washington Track & Field 115th Penn Relays Philadelphia, Penn. - Franklin Field
Women's 4x1500m Championship of America Top-Five Finishers: 1. Tennessee, 17:08.34; 2. Georgetown, 17:11.80; 3. Washington (Kailey Campbell, Katie Follett, Mel Lawrence, Christine Babcock), 17:14.55; 4. Villanova, 17:22.29; 5. Penn, 18:11.87.
Men's Sprint Medley Championship of America Top-Five Finishers: 1. Tennessee, 3:17.77; 2. Washington (Joe Turner, Kenjamine Jackson, Jordan Boase, Austin Abbott), 3:18.81; 3. Albany, 3:18.89; 4. LSU, 3:19.61; 5. Seton Hall, 3:19.84