Texas opens with a win at the Penn Relays

April 25, 2008 9:01:23 PM PDT
Texas took its most important step to completing a tough distance triple: winning its first race at the 114th Penn Relays. Leonel Manzano broke away from a crowded field in the final 200 meters and carried the Longhorns to their third straight Relays' victory in the college men's distance medley relay championship Friday.

Erik Stanley, Danzell Fortson and Jacob Hernandez teamed up with Manzano, the NCAA indoor mile champion, for a winning time of 9 minutes, 32.89 seconds. Stanford was second in 9:33.16, and hometown favorite Villanova was third in 9:34.39.

The victory moved Texas toward its stated goal of trying for a Relays sweep of the DMR, 3,200 and 4-mile relays. The sweep has been accomplished by four schools, Maryland in 1940, Michigan in 1945 and 2005, Arkansas in 1999, and Villanova 11 times from 1964-80.

The Longhorns know that Manzano is their key to victory.

"The strategy was to go out and win," Manzano said. "We're here with the team in mind. I'm not here just for me; I'm here for my teammates.

"We wanted to get the most out of my running, but that being said, we wanted to go out and not just win one championship, but hopefully two and maybe three."

Stanford's Russell Brown nearly scuttled Texas' plans in their first race at Franklin Field. Brown led at the start of the 1,600-meter final leg, with Manzano close behind. With about half a lap remaining, Manzano made his move to break from the pack, and Brown followed.

"I felt Russell Brown on my left and I am usually pretty aware of where everybody is during a race," the Texas senior said. "I saw this other guy coming up and said, 'OK, it's time to go.' "That is where I decided to go, and Russell and I were just battling it out."

The slow pace of the DMR could help the Longhorns in their quest to win three championships.

"The most important thing to us was to run the best race we could," Texas assistant coach Jason Vigilante said. "I think every man did his job. The time wasn't particularly fast, but we weren't trying to run fast today."

Michigan women pulled off a Relays double for the second straight year, adding a victory in the 6,000 relay to Thursday's distance medley relay win.

Danielle Tauro, Toni Lynn Salucci, Geena Gall and Nicole Edwards combined for a winning time of 17:28.98, the Wolverines' second straight win in the event. Last year, Michigan won in a college- and meet-record time of 17:15.62.

Michigan's stiffest challenge came from Tennessee for the second straight day. The Vols, who finished second in the DMR, settled for a runner-up finish of 17:29.12.

Just as in the distance medley, the race came down to a duel between anchors Sarah Bowman of Tennessee and Edwards. Once again, Edwards used a late charge to win.

Gall had a comfortable lead when she handed off to Edwards. But Bowman closed the gap, just as Edwards expected. A day earlier, it was Edwards who chased down Bowman.

"It is definitely a different feeling to be out in front and to know she is coming from behind," Edwards said. "I can't see what is going on behind me, but it worked out well today."

With about 200 meters left, Bowman caught up to Edwards, and the race was on.

"With 200 to go, she was already moving onto my shoulder and I could see her behind me," Edwards said. "I didn't know how much she had left. What I did know is that I still had a bit of running left in my legs. I just wanted to wait, hold her off long enough so that I could kick home."

Michigan has a long history at the Penn Relays. The Wolverines' women rank fourth in Relays wins while the Michigan men entered the meet tied for third with Arkansas, behind Villanova and host Penn.

LSU set a collegiate record in the shuttle hurdle relays, finishing in 52.77 to break the mark of 52.85 set by Illinois in 2001. The Tigers surpassed their own Relays mark of 53.04 in 2003.

In the college women's 400 relay, LSU bested Texas A&M, winning the title for the second straight year and 12th time at the Relays in a meet record 42.59.

The Aggies had the fastest qualifying time in the event and had defeated LSU at the Texas Relays earlier this month, but that didn't bother LSU.

"We knew we were going to win," said LSU's Juanita Broaddus, a Philadelphia native who has been running at the Penn Relays since middle school. "We went into our time trials just to make it into the finals, not to go out there and blast and be No. 1.

"We don't need all that because we know we are good. There's no one in this country who can beat us that is in college."

Brooklyn Morris, Samantha Henry and Kelly Ann Baptiste teamed with Broaddus, and the quartet had an eye on the Relays record.

"We actually had looked at the record the other day in the book, and we said we were going for it," Broaddus said. "But that wasn't our focus. We knew we could do it, we just had to get the stick around."

The American team of David Oliver, Joel Brown, Aubrey Herring and Aries Merritt teamed up for a winning time of 53.31 in the Olympic Development shuttle hurdle relay. The time was the fastest for a national team in the event.

In the 100 dashes, Gerald Phiri of Texas A&M won in 10.39, while ShellyAnn Fraser of the University of Technology in Jamaica claimed the women's race in 11.39.