By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
February 7 2014
NEW YORK — A pair of exciting distance medley relays capped off a full day of races here at the Armory Collegiate Invitational presented by the New York Road Runners. The women of Arkansas set a new school record of 10:57.15 to claim victory, while Wisconsin relied on the speed of Reed Connor to come from behind and win the men’s crown in 9:39.09.
From the start, fast times were on the mind of Arkansas’s quartet. Grace Heymsfield, Chrishuna Williams, Stephanie Brown, and Dominique Scott stepped on The Armory’s 200-meter oval knowing the University record of 11:00.23 was in jeopardy.
“We knew that we were coming here for time and to do business,” said Brown, a senior. “We weren’t going to mess around.”
After Heymsfield opened up a six-meter lead over the first 1200m leg, Williams received the baton in prime position before handing off to Brown. Maintaining her focus throughout, Brown cruised the 800 meter segment in front all the while Iowa State played a furious game of catch up behind.
Approaching the third and final hand-off, Iowa State was on Brown’s outside shoulder. Both schools would begin the final mile leg neck and neck.
That’s when Arkansas’s Scott took over. Lap by lap, the junior extended her lead over the field, eventually coming down the final stretch with victory secured. All eyes turned toward the clock, which stopped at 10:57.15.
“The anchor leg is always a little bit stressful,” admitted Scott, a native of South Africa. “But I knew that my teammates had all run so well, and I just needed to keep it up and make them proud. I was happy to finish it off and get the school record. It was a good day for us.”
Arkansas’s winning time ranks third in the NCAA this season, and betters the previous school record of 11:00.23.
“It feels great,” added Williams, the 400 meter leg. “To set a school record, it’s pretty exciting.”
Fewer than 20 minutes after Arkansas’s win, the men of Wisconsin took to the track with motivation of their own. Austin Mudd, Babatunde Awosika, Carl Hirsch, and Reed Connor wanted to win the distance medley for their coach, Mick Byrne, who used to coach the cross country and track and field teams at nearby Iona College.
“This is his stomping grounds,” said Connor. “It’s about the biggest meet of the year for him.”
Despite being behind early, Wisconsin ran with confidence. Neither a shaky hand-off nor a ten meter gap would derail the Badgers’ plan of winning.
Receiving the baton in third, Connor had a bit of work to do. Sticking to his intuition, the senior moved up slowly, accelerating with each circuit of The Armory’s oval.
“All of a sudden I got to one lap to go and they [leaders Ole Miss and Alabama] were right where I wanted,” he’d say.
At that point, Connor unleashed a furious kick, taking over first place with less than 150 meters remaining. Crossing the finish in 9:39.09, Connor raised his hands to form a “W,” paying homage to his school and coach.
“That’s what Wisconsin came here for. We always want a “W” and we got it,” he said.
Wisconsin’s time ranks tenth in the NCAA this year.
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Racing in her first indoor 5000m ever, Vanderbilt’s Elizabeth Anderson broke from the field with a mile to go and never looked back. She’d claim victory in 16:36.11, with Connecticut’s Emily Durgin placing second in 16:44.13 and BYU’s Andrea Harrison third in 16:49.04.
“I wanted to get as close to 16:30 as possible,” said Anderson, who plans on racing the 3000m or 5000m at the SEC Conference Championships. “We have conference in less than a month now, and I’d like to focus on that. I just wanted to get my feet wet before I jumped right into it.”
Three Duke Blue Devils finished in the top four of the men’s 5000m, led by winner Shaun Thompson. Making a move with less than 800 meters remaining, Thompson separated from teammate Mike Moverman and Oklahoma’s Abbabiya Simbassa, going on to win in 14:02.15.
Mississippi State’s Rhianwedd Price won the women’s 1000m out of the third, unseeded section in 2:47.32. Price, a freshman from Llandrindod Wells in the United Kingdom, narrowly edged the seeded section’s top finisher, North Carolina’s Elizabeth Whelan (2:47.61).
Marcellus, New York native and Binghamton University junior Jesse Garn took the men’s 1000m. A high school state champion at the same distance, Garn crossed the line in 2:21.99.
A pair of national high school leading times were run in the Junior races by New Jersey’s Olivia Baker and Virginia’s Kenneth Hagen.
Baker, who plans to run for Stanford next year, clocked an impressive 1:30.58 in the 600 meters. She was also part of Columbia High School’s winning 4x400m relay team (3:47.30).
Hagen injected a hard surge with 150 meters remaining in the boys 1000m, going on to win convincingly in 2:26.94. Hagen, who attends Blacksburgh High School, will race tomorrow in the 4x800m.
Pennsylvania eighth grader Gabrielle Wilkinson took the girls 1000m in 2:51.71.
On Saturday, distance action continues at The Armory with Championship sections of the 800m, mile, 3000m, and 4x800m. Among those set to compete are Wisconsin’s Mudd (mile) and Mohammed Ahmed (3000m) –the latter a 2012 Olympian for Canada– as well as Georgetown freshman Sabrina Southerland (mile).