Villanova men's track coach Marcus O'Sullivan thought for a long time before deciding that the Wildcats had a better shot at winning the 4x800-meter relay than they did the 4-by-mile.
And the Wildcats almost pulled a surprise, staying competitive for the entire race before finishing fourth to Penn State by 1.28 seconds.
"I'm frustrated, but I'm not disappointed," said O'Sullivan, who watched his distance-medley relay team run a similarly tough race on Friday. "I figured with the bookends [1,200- and 1,600-meter legs] on the DMR falling a bit short, not having that big of a pop, and teams like Princeton, Indiana, and Oklahoma all strong and deep, then our best bet was to move into the 4x8."
O'Sullivan said he thought the 4x800 would give Wildcats anchor Samuel Ellison "a fighting shot." And Ellison, an Upper Dublin High grad and one of three sophomores on the relay team, almost pulled it off before tiring in the final 25 meters.
"I felt pretty good," Ellison said. "Elijah Greer [Oregon] and Robby Creese [Penn State] are two of the best runners in the country. I was just trying to stay in it as long as I could. I tried my best."
The carnival welcomed the prime minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson-Miller, who participated in a special "Jamaica 50" salute honoring the country's 50th year of independence. She watched Jamaica compete in USA vs. the World relays.
For Princeton track coach Fred Samara, a five-time champion of the Penn Relays Olympic Development decathlon, returning to the carnival brings back a lot of memories.
The Tigers made some new memories this weekend, capturing both the men's distance-medley and men's 4-by-mile relays.
"It feels tremendously rewarding," Samara said. "Every time I come back to Penn, I remember how I was when I competed here. This is a tremendous reward for a great team and a great bunch of kids. Just to be in the race every year is a big thing, but to win, it's just phenomenal."
Princeton senior Donn Cabral, who anchored both winning teams, was named the meet's outstanding college men's athlete for relay events.
Other outstanding-athlete winners were Oregon's Anne Kesselring for women's relay events and a pair of pole vaulters for men's and women's individual events: Marvin Reitze of South Carolina and Tina Sutej of Arkansas.
Kesselring was a key figure in the Ducks' two relay victories, running the third leg on the 4x1500 and the anchor on the 4x800. Reitze posted a winning height of 18 feet, 1 inch, becoming the ninth vaulter to reach 18 feet, and the first in nine years. Sutej won Friday's women's competition for the third straight year, with an effort of 14-31/4.
Odds and ends
Edward Cox, of the Syracuse Chargers, the meet's oldest contestant at age 85, finished fifth in the Masters 75-and-older 100-meter dash in 17.11 seconds. . . . Penn sophomore Maalik Reynolds, who won the high jump last year at Franklin Field, was not as successful this year, finishing eighth with a height of 7-1. Derek Drouin of Indiana won on fewer misses at 7-31/4. . . . Former Temple star Bob Keogh took the Olympic Development hammer with a throw of 211-4. . . . The announced attendance of 49,810, the third-highest in carnival history, brought the three-day figure to 112,416.