The challenge is daunting for the Penn State men's 4x800-meter relay team whenever it competes at the Penn Relays. The Nittany Lions set the carnival record for the 4x800 in 1985 - the oldest record on the books - and the current runners know that all too well.
"We know that time by heart," fifth-year senior Owen Dawson said of the mark, 7 minutes, 11.17 seconds. "It's been hanging over our heads for a while."
Penn State didn't break the record Saturday, but it headed back to Happy Valley happy. Freshman Robby Creese ran a gritty anchor leg in the Franklin Field chill to outkick three teams and carry the Nittany Lions to victory in 7:19.76.
The victory was the second of the weekend for the Lions, who barely missed a third when they finished less than an eye blink behind LSU in the men's 4x400, the final event of the 118th carnival.
That win, in 3:04.47, gave the Tigers their third victory of the weekend. The LSU women won the 4x200 earlier in the day in 1:31.86, one day after capturing the women's shuttle hurdles.
The Princeton men and Oregon women captured their second victories of 2012's Relays in different ways.
The Tigers of Old Nassau, with anchor Donn Cabral prevailing in a multiple-team race to the wire for the second straight day, took their second straight win in the 4-by-mile in 16:16.79. The Ducks, meanwhile, ran away with the women's 4x800, with anchor Anne Kesselring coasting home in 8:24.16.
Texas A&M raced to victory in the women's 4x400 in 3:33.52, adding that to the women's 4x100 crown it won Friday.
Penn State, which won the men's sprint medley relay Friday, kept its wits during the 4x800, a race in which at least six teams were either in or within a step of the lead throughout. On the handoff for the final leg, five teams transferred the baton at the same time, including the Lions' Casimir Loxsom to Creese.
Creese held on to his position just off the lead, then bolted into the front with almost 400 meters to go.
"I was thinking I could stay close," he said. "I picked it up with a lap to go because I felt that I had enough in me for the final 400."
And Creese hung on to that lead despite challenges from Oregon, Columbia, Villanova, and Texas A&M. He got to the line about three meters ahead of the Ducks' Elijah Greer, who brought his team home second in 7:20.22.
Villanova, with sophomore Samuel Ellison anchoring, took fourth.
The win was special for every Penn State runner but particularly for Dawson, a Coatesville graduate whose high school team won the distance medley relay in his senior year.
"It's incredible," he said. "Senior year of high school, and then my senior year of college, to finish out with wins, you can't explain it. It's awesome."
As for Loxsom, a junior who anchored the winning sprint medley relay, he said he was "so happy to get Owen [a victory] before he goes because he really deserves this [victory] wheel. He helped set up what we're trying to do here."
Awesome was a word that Princeton runners used to describe Cabral, who brought the Tigers to victory in Friday's distance medley. The senior handled a slow pace on Friday, and a much faster pace Saturday but was happier afterward because of the focus of his teammates.
"We did a really good job keeping our composure, and we dealt with the pressure and the target that was on our back," said Cabral, who anchored in 3:59.9. "To a man, we competed well and stayed levelheaded. That was more of a feat than any of our times or our kicks or anything like that."
Oregon's women stuck to business as well, one day after winning the women's 4x1500. After Laura Roesler ran a blistering 2:04.5 on the second leg, Rebecca Friday and Kesselring - two members of Friday's winning team - brought it home easily over Tennessee.
"When you've been on the track once and made the victory happen, you just want to keep going," Kesselring said. "We were really excited that it worked out once again."
In other Championship of America finals Saturday, Auburn won its first title in the 4x100 in 39.34 seconds, and University Tech of Jamaica outsprinted the field to take the 4x200 in 1:21.71.