Cragg leads Arkansas to 15th title in 22 years

Updated: April 24, 2004, 11:16 AM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Alistair Cragg and Arianna Lambie made the most of their second chances at the Penn Relays.

Cragg pulled away in the final 200 meters of the men's distance medley and led Arkansas to its second title in three years Friday with a time of 9 minutes, 33.74 seconds. It was redemption for Cragg, who lost by a half-stride in the stretch of last year's event.

"It's hung around my neck that we lost it," the senior said. "Now we ... they can come back next year and run as defending champions."

The win was Arkansas' 15th Penn Relays distance medley title in 22 years.

Lambie didn't have nearly as long a wait as Cragg. She dropped the baton about 30 meters into Thursday's women's distance medley, costing the favored Stanford Cardinal any chance to contend.

On Friday, she ran a split time of 4:11.07 on the final leg to rally Stanford past Providence with a winning time in the 6,000-meter relay of 17:26.88. Providence finished in 17:34.06 and North Carolina was third in 17:37.23. North Carolina was the two-time defending champion but was missing anchor Shalane Flanagan, who redshirted this season to train for the Olympics.

Lambie, who set a Relays girl's high school mile record last year, put aside the disappointment of the dropped baton.

"Today was a new opportunity," she said. "I feel completely satisfied for taking advantage of it. You can't let these things bother you when you have a race the next day."

With about 600 meters to go, Lambie started sprinting and within a lap had opened up a 50-meter gap on Providence. She never looked back.

Stanford cross country coach Dena Evans fought back tears while talking about the victory. She was a senior on the 1996 team that led the event the whole way until being caught with about 30 meters left.

"It's a thrilling experience to be part of this," Evans said. "They did exactly what we asked them to do. Each and every one of them did their part today."

So did the four competitors for Tennessee. For the second straight day, the Vols came through with a dominating performance in a relay, this time setting the NCAA record in the women's sprint medley relay in 3:41.78.

The time was just good enough to pass Texas' record of 3:41.97, which had stood since 1988 and also was set at the Penn Relays.

Tianna Madison, Toyin Olupona, Dee Dee Trotter and anchor Kameisha Bennett led from start to finish, and celebrated with a waving victory lap to an enthusiastic crowd.

"To come out and break the collegiate record shows you how good this group really is," coach J.J. Clark said. "Tennessee track has arrived."

And the program arrived at one of the sport's most famous events.

It's been a great two days for Tennessee at the Relays. Tennessee won the women's distance medley relay Thursday, pulling away early for its first win in the event since 1983. Tennessee entered the competition having won the NCAA and Southeastern Conference indoor championships in the distance medley relay.

LSU was second in the sprint medley at 3:44.97 and Stanford was third at 3:51.30.

In the men's sprint medley relay, Arkansas won in 3:16.14, followed by Florida (3:16.51) and Texas (3:18.32).

In the 400-meter relay, LSU won its second straight title with a new Relays record of 42.92. South Carolina was second in 43.58 and Miami was third in 43.64. Both of those were top-10 times on the Relays' all-time list.

In the men's distance relay, Cragg, Sam Vazquez, Terry Gaston and Said Ahmed started slowly. Then Cragg took over, leading the entire time on the final leg, though he couldn't quite shake Georgetown's Chris Lukezic until the very end.

"I felt better as the race went on," Cragg said. "I battled the first two laps."

Georgetown finished second in 9:34.61 and Villanova was third in 9:37.58.

In the shot put, Dan Taylor of Ohio State won with a toss of 66 feet, 7 inches and Johvonne Hernandez of Syracuse won the women's discus with a throw of 172-3.

Taylor has bigger dreams than winning the Penn Relays.

"It's hard not to think of the Olympics since it's my senior year," he said. "It's the next step and I think I can put my two cents in. It's going to be a big year."

Taylor failed to make it a sweep, finishing third in the discus. Florida's Ryan McIntyre won with a toss of 193-5.

Florida also won the men's shuttle hurdles in 55.48; LSU won the women's in 53.43.

John Moffit of LSU won the men's long jump. In the women's triple jump, Tabia Charles of Miami jumped 44-¾ to get the win.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press