U.S. women set record in 3,200
PHILADELPHIA -- Alysia Montano had no idea what the American record for the women's 3,200 relay was when she took her place on the track during the Penn Relays on Saturday.
Then, she heard it over the Franklin Field loudspeaker.
"I think it was only when it was announced that we were going for the American record, I was like, 'OK, I guess that's what we're doing today,'" Montano said.
Led by a blistering anchor leg from Montano, who ran the final 800 meters in 1 minute, 58.6 seconds, the United States won the women's 3,200 relay with a record-setting time of 8:04.31. Lea Wallace, Brenda Martinez and Ajee' Wilson ran the first three legs in one of the six "U.S.A. vs. the World" races on the final day of the historic meet that drew 111,284 spectators over the course of three days.
The second U.S. team of Phoebe Wright, Geena Gall, Alice Schmidt and LaTavia Thomas, which finished third behind Kenya, also broke the previous American record of 8:17.91.
"I can't tell you how exciting it was for me to put on the red jersey this morning," said Wallace, who ran the leadoff leg in 2:02.0 in her first race with Team USA. "Penn Relays was the most incredible experience of my life. And it's awesome to be a part of this team."
The U.S. also won the men's 400 and 1,600 relays and the women's 1,600.
It was the 12th straight Penn Relays win for the U.S. in the women's 1,600, but it didn't come easily. In what was the best finish of the day, American anchor Francena McCorory edged Britain's Perri Shakes-Dayton by two-hundredths of a second to give the U.S. the win at 3:22.6.
"I was looking for the finish line," said McCorory, who clocked a 50.3 in her 400. "My eyes were as big as in the cartoons."
Jessica Beard ran the opening leg in 51.5, Natasha Hastings the second leg in 49.9 and DeeDee Trotter the third leg in 51.0. McCorory and Trotter were both part of the Americans' winning 1,600 relay team at the London Olympics, and they hope to keep the U.S. on top heading into the world championships in Russia this August.
"I think this year is going to be even better than last year," McCorory said.
The winning men's 1,600 relay team featured Manteo Mitchell, who gained fame at the London Olympics after finishing his leg in a qualifying heat despite breaking his fibula during the run. Saturday's appearance marked Mitchell's first relay with the U.S. team since the injury.
"I'm gradually getting back to where I was last year at this time," said Mitchell, who ran the second leg in 44.8. "Physically I've been there for a while. But I think today marked the first step in the mental reality that I'm actually back."
The U.S. has dominated the 1,600 men's relay at the Penn Relays, winning eight straight and 13 out of 14 overall. But the runners on this year's team -- Mitchell, Torrin Lawrence, Bershawn Jackson and Tony McQuay -- have been carrying a chip on their shoulders ever since the Americans were upset by the Bahamas in the same event in London last year.
On Saturday, the U.S. won in 3:00.91, edging Jamaica and the Bahamas.
"Last year was the first time I can remember my generation losing the Olympic games in the 4x4," said Jackson, who failed to qualify for London. "We're definitely getting our swag back. We're definitely not happy about last year. I think we're going to dominate all over again."
The Americans' 400 relay team of Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Doc Patton and Ryan Bailey led from start to finish to win in 38.26, ahead of Jamaica and a second U.S. team of Jeff Demps, Wallace Spearmon, Cordero Gray and Ivory Williams.
In the women's 400 relay, Jamaica got a big anchor leg from Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce to edge two U.S. teams. The win snapped the Americans' eight-year stranglehold on the race and thrilled the scores of boisterous Jamaican fans who made the annual trek to Philadelphia
Ethiopia won the men's distance medley relay, ahead of Kenya and the U.S.
In the college relays, Villanova set a Penn Relays and collegiate record of 8:17.45 to win the women's 3,200, just ahead of Oregon. It was the second big win of the meet for the Wildcats, who captured the women's distance medley relay title Thursday.
"I can't believe it," Villanova head coach Gina Procaccio said. "I can't stop smiling. This is the first 4x800 I've even entered at Penn Relays as a head coach."
The Penn State men, also coming off a win in the DMR, won the men's 3,200 in 7:14.14.
Texas A&M had a big day in the sprint relays, winning the men's 1,600 in 3:02.52, the men's 800 in 1:20.75 and the women's 800 in 1:29.98. Oregon won the women's 1,600 in 3:26.73 and the men's 4 mile in 16:17.57. UTech in Jamaica took the men's 400 relay title in 38.92.
Texas A&M swept the individual collegiate championships with Donique' Flemings winning the women's 100 hurdles in 13.11, Wayne Davis II taking the men's 100 hurdles in 13.67, Olivia Ekpone winning the women's 100 in 11.37 and Ameer Webb taking the men's 100 in 10.24.
Indiana's Derek Drouin set a Penn Relays record in the high jump at 7 feet, 7 3/4 inches. Princeton's Damon McLean claimed the men's triple jump title at 52-4, and Tennessee's Jake Blankenship won the men's pole vault at 18-0½. In the throwing events, Kent State's Matthias Tayala won the men's hammer at 217-8, and Western Kentucky's Tomas Guerra took the men's javelin at 230-8.