Virginia’s track and field team made history Saturday afternoon on the final day of the 116th Penn Relays at historic Franklin Field. In front of a record-breaking 54,310 fans, the Cavaliers’ 4x800m relay team won their event to snap a 67-year drought for Virginia in Championship of America relay events.
In what turned out to be a rematch of the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships, freshman indoor national champion Robby Andrews was once again victorious against Oregon’s Olympian Andrew Wheating and Penn State’s All-American Ryan Foster. Coming around the final turn, Andrews used his kick to outdistance Wheating and Foster and anchor the Cavaliers’ quartet of senior Alex Bowman, sophomore All-American Lance Roller and junior Steve Finley to Virginia’s first relay title since the Cavaliers won the 4x120 yard shuttle hurdle relay in 1943.
"To say I’m proud is an understatement," head coach Jason Vigilante said. "The amount of commitment and patience these guys put into this race is just phenomenal and I know this is a moment that each of them will remember for the rest of their lives. To me, there is no more special track and field meet than the Penn Relays. I’m grateful to be here with such an outstanding bunch of young men."
Bowman led off the relay in 1:50.20, before Roller completed the second leg in 1:46.67 to move the Cavaliers into second place. Finley clocked in at 1:50.75 and moved Virginia into the lead heading into the final exchange. Andrews gave up the lead to Foster heading into the bell lap and once again relied on his kick to then pass both Foster and Wheating heading down the homestretch, crossing first with a split of 1:47.78.
"Robby knows how important Saturday afternoon at the Penn Relays is," Vigilante said. "You can’t manufacture that as a coach. There is something in that young man, Lance Roller as well, these guys know; they’re champions. But when you understand the feeling and where the fans come from and you can derive some of that, I think that’s what gave us the edge today."
The Cavaliers combined for a time of 7:15.38 to narrowly edge Oregon, which finished runner-up in 7:15.55. Penn State was third in 7:17.02.
In other events, the Cavaliers 4x800m relay team of junior Lyndsay Harper, senior Ariane Sloan and redshirt freshmen Rosemary Barber and Tasia Potasinski combined for a time of 8:44.19 – the fourth-best time by a Virginia relay team all-time and fastest since the Cavaliers’ 1986 squad ran 8:38.27.
Junior Adams Abdulrazaaq finished seventh in the finals of the championship section of the 110m hurdles, crossing with a time of 14.15 and in field events, junior Marcus Robinson finished sixth in the championship section of the triple jump, leaping 51’ 4.5".
Up next, Virginia will head to Liberty’s Twilight Invitational on Thursday, while select Cavaliers will head to Stanford to compete on Saturday.