PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Oregon won the women’s 4x400 meter and the men’s 4xmile relays to cap a sparkling Saturday at the Penn Relays.
The women’s 4x400 team went to the lead at the opening gun and never relinquished it in setting a meet record. The team of English Gardner, Chizoba Okodogbe, Laura Roesler and Phyllis Francis won in 3:26.73. That was the fastest time in the NCAA this season and the No. 2 time in school history, as Oregon won the 4x400 meter Penn Relays “Wagon Wheel” for the first time ever.
English Gardner put the Ducks in front with a 52.5 opening leg. Chizoba Okodogbe kept them there with a 52.3 lap and Laura Roesler pushed the lead out to five meters by running a 52.0 third leg. Phyllis Francis then slammed the door with an eye-catching 49.9 anchor leg.
“My teammates did a fantastic job of getting me the lead,” said Francis. “When I heard the crowd cheering I knew I had to shift it into another gear and pick up the pace. We just wanted to win, and when they announced that we had broken a record we were all ecstatic. The team did a good job, we worked hard, and for this to be the outcome of the season is just marvelous, it’s great.
Jamaica’s University of Technology was second in 3:27.73, followed by defending champion Texas A&M in 3:27.85.
The Ducks broke the meet record of 3:27.64 established by Texas in 2004.
The men’s 4xmile was just as impressive, winning in 16:17.57.
Freshman Chris Brewer led off in 4:10.9 before the Ducks asserted themselves on Matt Miner’s strong second leg. The senior from Ashland, Ore., ripped off an impressive 3:59.9 mile.
From there, the Ducks took it home with freshman Jeramy Elkaim running the third mile in 4:03.6 and senior Mac Fleet closing in 4:03.2. Indiana was second in 16:18.29, with Villanova third in 16:18.53.
“People take the Championship of America races really seriously and so you get out there and just really want to give the crowd what they want and also set your team up,” said Miner. “I feel like the crowd gives you momentum but I feel like throughout our whole race we were just building up momentum.
“This is a real good shot to just show what you can do and show the depth of your squad. That’s why I love these relays events because they are not only how good is your one individual guy but how good is your squad.”
Oregon also won the 4xmile in 2010 with Fleet running.
“It’s definitely nice to get back here and get another wheel, especially after my freshman year here after we won two,” said Fleet. “I think after yesterday after getting third (in the distance medley relay), it really puts it into perspective how hard it is to win one of these.
“Winning a wheel is special, not many people get to do it. And to be able to get a watch is something in our running careers we’ll always be able to look back and say that we won the 4xmile in 2013. That’s something we’ll never forget. It’s that special.”
In the women’s 4x800 meter relay, the Ducks beat the old meet record, but were clipped by Villanova at the line. The Wildcats won in 8:17.45, with the Ducks’ team of Becca Friday, Annie Leblanc, Anne Kesselring and Roesler running 8:17.62. Louisiana State was third in 8:19.43.
The previous Penn Relays record was 8:17.91 by Tennessee in 2009.
Oregon wrapped the day by running a season best in the men’s 4x400 meter relay. Texas A&M was first in 3:02.52, followed by St. Augustine’s in 3:03.96, Pittsburgh in 3:04.16 and Oregon in 3:06.24. The Ducks ran Kevin Anding, Arthur Delaney, Jack Galpin and Mike Berry.
“One thing my teammate Laura Roesler told me yesterday was that we always do great at home and this is my second home,” said Gardner, from nearby Voorhees, N.J. “I just wanted to come out and perform for all the people that come to this great meet every year.
“I definitely feel nothing but love here, especially when I’m going out and feeling nervous about what’s going to happen and hearing people shouting my name, telling me to represent for my hometown. It definitely gives you a lot of motivation.”