PHILADELPHIA — The emotion was lacking in Tyrone Walker’s voice. Not a hint of surprise showed on his face. The senior anchor on Westfield’s 4x800-meter relay team had just made a daring move on the final stretch that wrapped him and his teammates in Penn Relays glory. But after Saturday’s race, he was rather matter-of-fact.
“I just trusted in my training,” Walker said.
Max Chambers, Jeff Edmondson, Nathan Kiley and Walker stood in the infield at historic Franklin Field and took hold of the coveted big penny — the heavy, circular plaque awarded to championship relay teams — after crossing in 7 minutes 39.73 seconds. That is the No. 1 time in the country this season.
Kingston College of Jamaica was runner-up in 7:40.52.
Every relay didn’t go as well for area schools. Potomac (Md.) fell short in its bid to win the 4x100 Championship of America. Tavon Young, Dondre Echols, Ronald Darby and Josh Thorne ran the second-fastest qualifying time during Friday’s rounds, but even with crisp handoffs on Saturday the Wolverines finished fourth in 41.47 seconds, behind three electrifying schools from Jamaica.
Suitland placed fifth in 41.89 and Wise was seventh in 42.00.
“We thought we could get them,” said Echols, who still received a gold watch because he was part of the first U.S. team across the line. “It was doable but I knew it was going to be hard.”
No area school qualified for the eight-team 4x400 championships. After nearly 2½ hours of rounds, St. Elizabeth Tech of Jamaica nabbed the last qualifying spot in 3:19.02. Laurel (3:19.39) and Suitland (3:19.54) came heartbreakingly close, but were left out.
The boys from Westfield had never run at Penn Relays before Friday, when they clocked the fastest 4x800 time of the day (7:48.39) during the qualifying rounds. They showed their mettle on Saturday when they started way back and strategically worked their way up to the front before an announced crowd of 49,810 that was in a full-throated roar.
Kiley, who split 1:51.3 on the third leg, fastest of the day, made two powerful surges that got Westfield out of sixth place and into first.
“I just remember how over in the corner they were cheering for me and they were also cheering against me,” said Kiley, a winter All-Met, “so I had to do it for my team but also for the U.S.A.”
Walker got the baton with a slight edge over Kingston College’s Sanj Powell, but Powell immediately retook the lead.
Walker relaxed and tucked in behind Powell for the first lap and then exploded past him with about 300 meters left in the race. It looked for a moment like he might’ve kicked too early, but Walker managed to fight Powell off on the home stretch and bring the area its first 4x800 title since Archbishop Carroll won in 2004.
“It’s just exciting,” Kiley said. “When you think about the atmosphere and the crowd, even at states we’re never going to do anything like this again this season.”