PHILADELPHIA – DeMatha freshman Anthony McFarland Jr. received an urgent request from Coach Leon Snyder on Friday afternoon. DeMatha had just qualified for Saturday’s 4x100 championship with a hard-charging heat, but it came at a steep price. The team’s anchor, Jarriel Jordan Jr., had strained his hamstring just before crossing the finish line and would be out for the rest of the weekend.
Meanwhile, McFarland had just wrapped up classes at the Hyattsville school and was headed to the football training room to focus on his other sport. He understood he was an alternate on the relay team, but Snyder’s request — to drop his plans Saturday and run the anchor leg of the championship in front of a crowd of 50,000 — was on another level. So McFarland called his father and they agreed to leave at 9 a.m. Saturday so he could compete in his first Penn Relays.
“It’s crazy, man. I felt like I was an Olympic runner for a second,” McFarland said of first walking into Franklin Field.
And what a debut it was. After the veteran trio of Kordell Williams, Darryl Haraway and Darryl Marshall Jr. put him in prime position, McFarland was steady on the final stretch to help DeMatha edge Bowie in the 4x100 large schools title race and headline a string of stellar area performances on the final day of the Penn Relays.
It was the 11th straight year that the country’s oldest track meet eclipsed over 100,000 spectators over a three-day span, but Saturday’s electric atmosphere didn’t rattle DeMatha — not even the team’s greenhorn. McFarland arrived just a couple hours before he was scheduled to run — in a race that took place only minutes after the meet’s premier professional events featured a slew of Olympic stars. But McFarland was smooth in handling the baton and didn’t waver against a late-push by Bowie to help the quartet finish at 42.04 seconds.
“I just did what I had to do to come out here and help my brothers win,” McFarland said. “The thing about DeMatha, we just help each other. We’re a family.”
Williams also had a banner day for the Stags, opening with a sixth place finish in the 400 meter hurdles championship (53.90) – while the relay team of Haraway, Darnell Pratt, Justin Hamilton and John Oputa helped DeMatha claim seventh in the 4x400 meter championship with a time of 3 minutes 18.97 seconds.
“As soon as I finished the 400 hurdles, I put my legs up. Coaches were talking to me, they made me feel real good,” Williams said. “So that pumped me up for the 4x100.”
Bowie posted one of the top 4x400 times (3:14.90) in Saturday morning’s heats, but was disqualified after a pushing violation. The same four runners from that event — Justin Beatty, Antonio Coleman, Maxwell Willis and Jonathan George — didn’t sulk two hours later in their second place finish in the 4x100 large schools championship. The Bowie and DeMatha relay teams talked with each other before the race, to “push each other,” George said.
“Our goal was to win. We came in ranked first,” said George, whose team posted a time of 42.30. “We had a couple of botched handoffs, and it cost us the race.”
Northern Virginia was also represented well. West Springfield’s John Seals finished tied for eighth in the high jump after clearing 6 feet 5 inches. T.C. Williams capped a strong weekend behind sophomore ace Noah Lyles, whose blazing speed on the anchor leg of the 4x100 Championship of America helped the Titans finish seventh at 42.08. He did it again over the final stretch in the 4x400 Championship of America, bringing his team from eighth to a fifth place finishing time of 3:18.19.
The Titans were the first American quartets to finish both events, which earned Lyles two coveted gold watches apiece.
“Two gold watches, two goals met,” Lyles said, nodding that his young team will back in Philadelphia to do more damage next spring. “We’re putting our foot in the door.”