Texas records fourth-best 4x400 time in collegiate history at Penn Relays
PHILADELPHIA -- Texas ended its three-day stay at the prestigious Penn Relays with a pair of impressive performances in the 4x400-meter relay, including one of the best in collegiate history, and a school record in the 4x200.
The women's foursome of Briana Nelson, Courtney Okolo, Kendall Baisden and Ashley Spencer continued its strong 2014 season by cruising to the win in Saturday's 4x400m relay final in 3 minutes, 25.05 seconds. That was not only a meet record, but also the fourth-best time in outdoor collegiate history and second in the UT record book.
That quartet, which came into the meet with a nation-leading time of 3:26.38 (posted at last month's Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays), finished ahead of second-place Oregon by nearly five seconds (3:29.82). Texas A&M was third in 3:29.96.
"That was a lights out performance and a great way to end off the meet," head coach Mario Sategna said.
Texas owns the collegiate record in the 4x400m relay. Sheretta Jones, Raasin McIntosh, Jerrika Chapple and Sanya Richards set the mark (3:23.75) at the 2014 Texas Relays. The Longhorn women, ranked No. 3 in the nation, won the 4x400 at the Penn Relays for the 11th time, the most in meet history.
The 15th-ranked men capped off the 120th edition of the Penn Relays by finishing second in the 4x400m relay, bettering their season-best time for the second consecutive day. On Friday, the foursome of Chris Irvin, Andrew Whyte, Senoj-Jay Givans and Zack Bilderback clocked a 3:05.86 to finish third in the prelim. In Saturday's final, the last event of the meet, the same quartet improved on its best time since the 2008 NCAA championships by cruising home in 3:05.13, the 10th-best mark in the nation this season. Pittsburgh was first in 3:03.44.
The UT women set a school record in the 4x200-meter relay with Morolake Akinosun, Christy Udoh, Nelson and Danielle Dowie crossing the finish line of the final in 1:30.21, just ahead of Texas A&M (1:30.26).
Earlier in the day at Franklin Field, Charles Anumnu, Bilderback, Givans and Irvin combined to finish fifth in the final of the 4x100-meter relay in a season-best time of 39.71. Once again improving on a season best, they posted a 40.00 to finish fourth in Friday's prelim.
But it was the women's 4x400m relay that made a statement in a race featuring some of the foursomes the Longhorns could see at June's NCAA outdoor championships. In addition to Texas A&M and Oregon, the Longhorns finished ahead of Texas Tech (sixth in 3:35.61) and Kentucky (eighth 3:39.21). Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Kentucky all entered the meet ranked among the top 10 on the 2014 NCAA performance list, and perennial power Oregon had yet to compete in the event in the outdoor season.
The same UT 4x400 relay quartet was edged at the finish line by Oregon in the same event at last month's NCAA Indoor Championships, enabling the Ducks to claim their fifth consecutive indoor national title.
"I wanted to finish for Texas," said Spencer, who ran the anchor leg in 50.67. "We deserve it. We've worked hard this whole weekend, and to leave empty-handed is not something we wanted to do."
Texas snapped the meet record that Oregon set last year. English Gardner, Chizoba Okodogbe, Laura Roesler and Phyllis Francis clocked a time of 3:26.73 in 2013. Okodogbe, Roesler and Francis ran the second, third and anchor legs again Saturday. Claudia Francis ran the opening leg.
Okolo, who owns this year's top 400-meter time in the nation (51.36 at the Texas Invitational), had the best split among any competitor in the 4x400 relay. She ran the second leg in 49.7 seconds.
"It was a great job overall by our relays this weekend and hats off to Tonja [Buford-Bailey]," Sategna said of his associate head coach who oversees the sprint/relay unit. "I think we have put ourselves in a really good position in those events as we get closer to the postseason."
In other action Saturday, senior Marielle Hall finished fifth (first among collegians) in the Olympic development mile in a personal-best 4:35.27 and junior Morgan Snow was third (13.28) in the 100-meter hurdle final.