Villanova, which has made a habit of winning the distance-medley relay at the Penn Relays, had been expecting Georgetown to give it a run for its money in the glamor event today. The Wildcats were right.
Sydney Maree, honored as the athlete of the decade by a local sporting group Wednesday night, shook off effects of a winter hip injury and held off Georgetown's anchor runner, John Gregorek, down the stretch.His performance gave the Wildcats the relay championship for the 15th consecutive time in an American collegiate record time of 9:24.2, four seconds faster than the mark set by Villanova in 1975.
Gregorek, the ICAA indoor 1,000-meter champion, was nearly 20 yards behind Maree when he grabbed the baton from Hoya 800-meter runner Rich Caton. Maree, running easily, covered the first two laps of the 1,600 meters in the quick time of 1:55.0, and appeared to be on his way to an easy win.
"I hadn't done any speed work since my injury," said Maree. "I have worked only on my distance running.I told my teammates I'd do my best. I'm not in the best of shape."
If Maree, who was being watched by his mother for the first time in the United States, was out of shape, then woe to all other milers when he gets it together.
Maree never blinked when Gregorek skipped up beside him at the end of the third lap. Running on the inside, Maree accelerated each time Gregorek tried to run past. On the last turn, Gregorek, who ran a personal-best 3:56.2, went after Maree one last time.
Maree reached back and hit another gear and cruised home by five yards. Maree's time was 3:57.5.
"He tried to pass me several times," Maree said.
"But each time he tried to go by, I went faster. I said to myself if he passed me, he passed me. I was just going to go the fastest I could for four laps."
The race shaped up to be everything the Penn Relays crowd anticipated. The changing of the order of the race with 200 meters first (instead of the 800) didn't appear to hurt any of the teams. Villanova's Don Paige (2:15.4) and Georgetown's Jim DeRienzo battled for the lead for three laps. Wildcat quarter-miler Tony Tufariello (4697) kept a two-step lead on Hoya second man Jack Gatewood before Mike England (1:48.6) gave his team some running room with a burst on the final lap.
Penn State and Tennessee hung close with their first three runners but it was apparent to everyone this would be a two-team race when Maree and Gregorek took their turns. The Hoyas also broke the collegiate mark with their 9:24.9 clocking.
Gregorek said he had some hope of beating Maree "when I caught him on the gun lap.
"I thought he'd take off at that point," Gregorek said. "I just tried to stay relaxed and stay with him."
In section two of the distance medley, Virginia's quartet of Theo Hodge, Bill Gailbraith, Darrell Earmen and Vince Brady held off North Carolina State to win that event in the time of 9:46.6.
The other Washington area schools had to scuffle. Maryland ran a 1:24.4 to gain a berth in the 800-meter relay final Saturday. The terps' 400-meter time of 41.1 wasn't quite good enough to get them in the final, but they did qualigy for the IC4A final Saturday along with Navy (41.3).
The University of the District of Columbia won its heat in 41.9 but failed to qualify for the final.
Tennessee State's 400- and 1,600-meter women's relay teams established records today. Brenda Morehead, Cathy McMillian, Debbie Jones and Chandra Cheeseborough teamed to win the 400 relay in the meet mark of 44.72. The quartet broked the record of 45.9 in the trials Thursday before coming back today and eclipsing their 24-hour mark by two-tenths of a second.
Jones joined Ernestine Blake, Judy Polion and Helen Blake on the 1,600-meter team, which shattered the meet mark by 6.5 seconds and the field record by 1.1 seconds. They were timed in 3:35.0.
Maryland finished fourth, 3:41.1.
Maryland's Kevin Wilson and Cornelius Cousins finished fourth and fifth in the long jump, leaping 23-11 and 23-2 1/2 respectively.
Carl Lewis of Houston won the event with a jump of 25-6 3/4. Minutes later, he turned in a blistering anchor leg, 39.6, in the 400-meter relay trials. Lewis also ran on Houston's 800-meter qualifying team. (1:22.7).