The congratulatory handshakes and pats on the back seemed endless.

Penn Relays officials, fans and competitors stopped the Coatesville High boys' distance medley team after last night's Championship of America race at Franklin Field.

Although the Red Raiders wanted to speak to their parents, they didn't mind all the attention.

The quartet of Sean Ward, Chris Cline, Owen Dawson and Kyle Dawson won the event in 10 minutes, 8.51 seconds. Colts Neck (N.J.) was a close second in 10:09.11, while Shenendehowa (N.Y.) rounded out the top three in 10:12.47.

"When I crossed the finish line, I was ecstatic," said Kyle Dawson, who ran the 1,600-meter anchor leg.

Coatesville was in third place when Dawson took the baton from his brother Owen. Kyle Dawson, who ran a 4:15 split, took the lead with two laps to go. However, victory wasn't a sure thing.

Colts Neck's Craig Forys, who got the baton in ninth place, was closing ground. As the runners came off the last turn, Forys was right behind Dawson.

However, Forys' 4:04 relay split wasn't enough; Dawson held off the all-American.

Coatesville became the first area team to win the event since North Penn in 2002.

In the mile run, Unionville's Paul Springer finished second in 4:10.98.

Stormy weather. The Penn Relays usually continue in spite of rain, wind and cold weather, but the carnival met its match when lightning forced two delays in the morning and set events behind schedule by as much as 21/2 hours.

To anyone's knowledge, it marked just the second time in the 113-year history of the Penn Relays that competition had to be suspended because of the weather. The other time was in 1999.

The first suspension came at 9:39 a.m. and lasted until 11:10 a.m. Competition was halted again a little more than 20 minutes later when Doppler radar showed three lightning strikes in the area. It resumed at 12:17 p.m.

Penn Relays director Dave Johnson and carnival officials, knowing that unfavorable weather was coming, discussed contingency plans Thursday night.

Fans were told to evacuate the field, the paddock and the vendor area and gather beneath the stadium. Some jumping competitions were held indoors.

Disappointment. The Pleasantville boys spoke this week of winning the high school 4x800 Championship of America race. It was just wishful thinking, as the Greyhounds failed to reach today's 3 p.m. final.

Running in the pouring rain, the quartet of Alex Best, Duke Mack, Mark Johnson and Alan "A.J." Laws finished fourth in yesterday's second small-schools heat with a time of 8:01.78. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (N.Y.) had the 12th and final qualifying time of 8:01.69.

Pleasantville's time was far off the 7:54.76 it ran during the indoor season.

"They are feeling it," Pleasantville coach Alan Laws Sr. said of his runners' disappointment. "They are feeling like why did [the rain] have to come today? I told them, 'Everybody had to run in it.' "

Laws, the coach's son, ran the anchor leg in a steady downpour. After the race, Laws complained of stiffness in his back during the bell lap. The senior's relay time of 2:01 was much slower than his personal-best time of 1:53.51 this past indoor season.

Due to the lightning strikes in the area, the 4x800 trials were postponed for 90 minutes after Pleasantville's heat. Once the meet resumed with the first of two large-school heats, the top four finishers in that race qualified for the Championship of America.

"It's very disappointing," said Alan Laws Sr., noting that the teams in the last two heats competed under better conditions. "We were looking forward to that 4x800 [final]. Not complaining, but if they would have stopped the meet for everyone, things may have been different."

Pleasantville will turn its attention to trying to advance in the 4x400 Championship of America.

Best, Mack, Laws and Kenny Davis are scheduled in run in today's 11:40 a.m. trial heat. The final is set for 5:25 p.m.

Seven and counting. While Pleasantville struggled, North Penn kept its streak intact. The Knights will make their seventh consecutive 4x800 Championship of America appearance today.

The quartet of Justin Bookheimer, Steve Franks, Brian Quintrell and Zack Montijo posted the eighth-fastest qualifying time of 7:59.60.

"All we care about is getting in," Montijo said. "It has been a long tradition."

South Jersey speeders. The Delsea, Willingboro and Camden boys' 4x100 teams advanced to today's consolation rounds. Delsea advanced to the small-schools race with a time of 42.62, while Camden (42.58) and Willingboro (42.87) advanced to the large-schools competition.

Around the track. LSU (1:33.04), Texas Christian (1:33.21) and South Carolina (1:33.86) finished 1-2-3 in the college women's 4x200 heats. The championship is today at 2:30 p.m. . . . In the college women's 100-meter hurdles, Villanova's highly regarded Monique Morgan failed to reach today's final when she ran a disappointing 13.88 in the heats. She ran the 16th-best time. . . . Michelle Vaughn of Auburn won the college women's triple jump with a leap of 44 feet, 1/2 inch. . . . Jocelyn White made it two in a row for North Carolina by taking the discus throw with a hurl of 171-6. Last year, the Tar Heels' Laura Gerraughty won it. . . . Cornell's Sarah Wilfred was the college women's high-jump champion, scaling 5-101/2. Five others reached that height, but Wilfred had the fewest faults.

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 215-313-8029 or kpompey@phillynews.com.