PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – With 48,871 fans packing Franklin Field on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, the Lady Tigers set an improbable school record in the 4x800-meter relay while claiming a third-place finish in a historic Championship of America final in the finale of the 119th Penn Relay Carnival held this weekend at the University of Pennsylvania.
And they responded with the fastest race in school history as Lipsey crossed the finish line on the anchor leg with a record-setting time of 8 minutes, 19.43 seconds for a bronze-medal-winning third-place finish.
It took a collegiate record to win Saturday’s Championship of America title in the women’s 4x800-meter relay as Villanova (8:17.45) edged Oregon (8:17.62) at the finish line to claim the crown. The Wildcats took down a 4-year-old collegiate record of 8:17.91 set by the Tennessee Lady Volunteers in winning the event at the Penn Relays in 2009.
The Lady Tigers broke a 3-year-old school record of 8:19.77 set in a runner-up finish to Tennessee in 2010 as their 8:19.43 on Saturday afternoon marked the sixth-fastest time in the history of the Penn Relay Carnival.
Following a split of 2:11.28 by Levin on the leadoff leg, Goule took the baton in seventh place as she looked to put the Lady Tigers in front with a strong second leg. Goule, the 2013 world leader in the open 800 meters, did just that as she clocked 2:00.39 for the fastest leg of the day before handing off to Tracey running the third leg in a dead heat with Villanova’s Nicky Akande and Oregon’s Anne Kesselring. Tracey ripped off a 2:05.59 split on the third leg before handing off to Lipsey in third place. Lipsey then brought it home in 2:02.19 on the anchor leg as LSU ran 8:19.43 for third place.
Emily Lipari gave Villanova a come-from-behind victory in front of a hometown crowd as she surged past Oregon’s Laura Roesler over the final 40 meters as the Wildcats took the Championship of America title with the collegiate record of 8:17.45. The Ducks also ran under the collegiate record with their time of 8:17.62 for second place.
The school-record-setting performance by the Lady Tigers was even a surprise to the members of the team itself as it marked the first time LSU’s foursome had run together this season.
Levin is still returning to form following a back injury that sidelined her for the entire 2013 indoor season, while Tracey moved up a distance after competing for much of the season as one of the NCAA’s elite 400-meter hurdlers. But with Goule and Lipsey in the lineup as two of the NCAA’s premier half-milers, the Lady Tigers had an opportunity to make history.
It was the fourth school record to fall for the Lady Tigers during the 2013 outdoor season as Goule also owns the 800-meter record with an NCAA-leading and World-leading time of 2:00.76 this spring. Other Lady Tigers to set a new school record in this season include senior Laura Carleton at 15:44.41 in the 5,000 meters and sophomore Tori Bliss at 55 feet, 11 inches in the shot put.
“I was shocked when our time came up. It was totally unexpected,” Lipsey said of her surprise at the Lady Tigers setting a new school record. “Not everybody on our team runs the 800 meters, so we were just trying to do our best today. Sam is still trying to get back from an injury. Nikita runs the 400 hurdles mostly. We just didn’t know what to expect.”
Lipsey even looked back on her four years of running for the Lady Tigers at the Penn Relays as she shared what she will remember most of her time competing at the world’s premier relay carnival.
“It’s exciting. Just having the crowd behind us is so much fun,” Lipsey said of her Penn Relays experience. “I’ll miss being here with my team most of all. I love the team effort coming here. It’s also a lot of fun when we are just walking around with our LSU stuff on and people stop us and want to take pictures or whatever. We love meeting the people here. I’ve always had a great experience coming here and running for LSU.”
Tracey later returned to the track to run the second leg for the Lady Tigers in the Championship of America final in the women’s 4x400-meter relay as they clocked 3:36.00 in their final event of this year’s meet.
With Goule not taking her usual spot on the anchor leg, the Lady Tigers ran the 4x400 relay with a team of senior Siedda Herbert, Tracey, senior Latoya McDermott and sophomore Montenae Roye-Speight. Oregon had an NCAA-leading performance of 3:26.73 to take the crown as they broke the previous Penn Relays and Franklin Field record of 3:27.64 set by Texas in 2003.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers added to an already impressive Penn Relays resume this weekend as the women won the Championship of America title in the 1,600-meter sprint medley relay and senior Damar Forbes won the men’s championship long jump on Friday night. They have now combined to win 67 relay titles and 64 individual event titles in the championship division in their history at the Penn Relays.
LSU Track & Field owns an impressive streak of 23-straight seasons with at least one Championship of America relay title at the Penn Relays that dates back to the 1991 season. Only Villanova owns a longer streak than LSU as the Wildcat men and women held a streak of 28-straight seasons with at least one relay victory from 1955-82.
LSU has also won at least one Championship of America relay crown and one individual event title in the championship division in eight-straight seasons since the 112th Penn Relays held during the 2006 season.
The 119th running of the world’s premier relay carnival this year drew a total attendance of 111,284 fans on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the eighth-largest three-day total in meet history.
“We’re looking forward to the next two weeks of preparation as we get ready for the most important part of our season,” said LSU head coach Dennis Shaver. “We came here and did some good things as a team, but I know our athletes are most focused on what is to come in the championship season. That’s what our program is most known for.
“We enjoy coming back to the Penn Relays each year. It was another great weekend for the relays again this year. I’m proud of our teams for continuing our streak of winning a relay here. Twenty-three years is quite a long time of sustained success here at Penn, and we’re very proud of that. We hope to make some more of our own history at the Penn Relays again next year.”
The Tigers kicked off Saturday’s action on the track for LSU with their appearance in the Championship of American men’s 4x100-meter relay final. But after racing out to a fast start at the first exchange with a nice pass of the baton between senior Damar Forbes and sophomore Aaron Ernest, the Tigers were disqualified after Ernest passed to freshman Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake out of the zone at the second exchange.
Jamaica’s University Tech won its first ever Penn Relays crown in the men’s 4x100 relay with a winning run of 38.92, followed by St. Augustine’s (39.33) in second place and Auburn (39.92) in third place.
LSU’s top field-event performers on the afternoon included senior Thomas Reinecke with a clearance of 17-0 ¾ for fourth place in the championship pole vault, freshman Fitzroy Dunkley with a series-best jump of 49-1 ¾ for fifth place in the college triple jump and junior Phillip LeBlanc with a series-best throw of 202-2 for sixth place in the college javelin throw.
Saturday’s finale at the Penn Relays also features the renowned “USA vs. The World” relays in which many of the world’s premier track stars compete for their country in one of the more unique events in the sport.
This year’s “USA vs. The World” events featured two former LSU standouts as former Lady Tiger NCAA 800-meter champion LaTavia Thomas anchored the USA Blue team in the women’s 4x800-meter relay and former Tiger All-American Riker Hylton ran the second leg for Jamaica in the men’s 4x400-meter relay.
Thomas anchored the USA Blue team in 2:03.7 for her 800-meter leg as she teamed with Phoebe Wright, Geena Gall and Alice Schmidt to run 8:10.99 for third place. USA Red (8:04.31) and USA Blue (8:10.99) both raced to times that eclipsed the previous American record of 8:17.91 in the event as the USA Red team of Lea Wallace, Brenda Martinez, Ajee Wilson and Alysia Montano set the new American standard with the victory.
Hylton split 45.6 seconds on the second leg for Jamaica as he teamed with Allodin Fothergill, Leford Green and Errol Nolan for a run of 3:01.15 for second place behind the winning time of 3:00.91 for USA Red.
With the 2013 regular season now in the books, the Tigers and Lady Tigers will use the next two weeks of training to prepare for the start of the championship season as they return to action at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships to be held May 9-12 at the Audrey J. Walton Track Stadium on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia.
The Lady Tigers enter the meet as the three-time defending SEC Outdoor champions and winners of five of the last six SEC Outdoor team titles as they have dominated the conference in recent seasons. They’ll look to defend their crown against an expanded SEC field following recent team championships in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012.