Michigan, Penn State win at relays
PHILADELPHIA -- A year ago, Amanda Eccleston was getting ready to graduate from Division II Hillsdale College.
On Friday at the Penn Relays, she ran the anchor leg on Michigan's winning college women's 6,000 team.
"It's something I never would have imagined a year ago," Eccleston said. "It's just incredible."
In front of 39,103 fans at Franklin Field, Michigan held off Oregon and hard-charging Villanova to win the 6,000 in 17 minutes, 15.47 seconds, the sixth fastest time in Penn Relays history. To show how competitive the race was, Oregon's time of 17:16.50 was the eighth-fastest in the 119-year history of the meet and Villanova's time of 17:17.57 was the ninth-fastest.
Eccleston ran the anchor leg in 4:19.6, pulling away from Oregon's Becca Friday. At that moment, she felt even better about her decision to go to graduate school at Michigan and run for the Wolverines' vaunted track program for one year following her injury-plagued career at Hillsdale.
"It really means a lot to me that the girls trust me in that position after being here for less than a year," said Eccleston, who had never before run at Penn Relays. "I think knowing I have such a strong team leading off for me gives me the confidence to do it. But I've always enjoyed it. I like running under pressure."
Eccleston got the baton with a slight lead thanks to solid runs from Shannon Osika (4:22.3), Jillian Smith (4:18.6) and Rebecca Addison (4:15.10). All of the runners were fresh because Michigan coach Mike McGuire opted to withdraw his team from Thursday's women's distance medley relay. McGuire said he knew it was the right decision, especially after seeing the reaction of his runners following Friday's win.
"These are four outstanding runners that are actually better people," McGuire said. "I'm really, really proud of them."
Penn State won the men's distance medley relay for the first time since 1959, and Texas A&M took its record fifth straight women's 400 relay title.
The men's distance medley relay was a three-team race with Villanova and Oregon also vying for the title. But Penn State crossed the finish line first in 9:24.68, just ahead of the second-place Wildcats (9:26.80) and third-place Ducks (9:27.09). Indiana finished fourth at 9:29.02 after anchor Andrew Bayer clocked the best mile time of 3:55.6. Princeton, the defending Penn Relays champs and favorite coming in, was ninth in 9:41.98.
"We had our eyes set on this all year long," Penn State coach Beth Alford-Sullivan said.
Robby Creese anchored the winning relay, running the mile in 3:58.9. Brannon Kidder ran the 1,200 in 2:53.5, Brandon Bennett-Green completed the 400 in 45.6, and Casimir Loxsom ran the 800 in 1:46.7.
For an emotional Loxsom, the only senior on the relay team, the win was a long time coming.
"I'm so proud," Loxsom said. "Words can't even describe it. I think this is the first race where it's really hit me that it's my last go-round."
Loxsom was competing in the meet for the sixth time.
"Our school has the word Penn in it," he said. "It's right on the bib. This is the closest we get to having a home meet this season. It means a lot for Penn State to do well at the Penn Relays. I tell you, we care about this meet a lot more than other teams."
In the first collegiate championship of the day, Texas A&M won the women's 4100 in 43.05. LaKeidra Stewart kicked off the relay for the Aggies, with Ashton Purvis, Kamaria Brown and Ashley Collier following her.
"We were very confident," Brown said. "We just wanted to make sure that everyone ran through their zones, that the exchanges were good, and that we got to the finish line."
The Aggies also won the women's shuttle hurdles in 55.30 seconds. Savannah State finished first in the men's shuttle hurdles at 58.07.
In the sprint medley relays, the University of West Indies Mona (Jamaica) won in 3:17.81, shortly after the LSU women prevailed in 3:44.26. It was LSU's eighth victory overall in the event.
St. Augustine's Seth Mbow won the men's 400 hurdles in 51.19.
San Diego State's Shanieka Thomas took the women's triple jump championship at 44 feet, 8 inches, Middle Tennessee State's Ann Dudley won the women's high jump at 6-0½, and LSU's Damar Forbes won the men's long jump at 25-11. Cornell's Stephen Mozia won the men's shot put at 63-0, Rutgers' James Plummer took the men's discus at 194-3, and Central Michigan's Devene Brown won the women's discus at 177-0.