Being fifth-year seniors at Georgetown, Katrina Coogan and Andrea Keklak are experienced in the ways of the Penn Relays and did not allow the damp chill enveloping Franklin Field on Thursday to keep them from what they've been waiting for their entire careers.
The Hoyas blew open the women's distance medley relay with their two middle legs - senior Heather Martin in the 400 meters and junior Sabrina Southerland in the 800 - and romped to a decisive victory over Oklahoma State and Villanova in the featured race on the first full day of the 122nd annual carnival.
With Keklak running the 1,200-meter leadoff leg and Coogan finishing up on the 1,600 anchor, Georgetown was clocked in 11 minutes, 12.73 seconds. It was the second-slowest time in the 37-year history of the event, but given the conditions and the competition no Hoya runner seemed to mind.
"At the end of the day, Penn Relays is just about competing," Coogan said. "Everyone has to deal with the weather and the elements, but it's just going out there and giving your best effort no matter what the situation, and we did that today."
The Hoyas, who last won this event in 2011, broke Villanova's four-year DMR winning streak. Minus all-American Angel Piccirillo, who is redshirting, the Wildcats employed three runners who were competing in their first Penn Relays Championship of America race as collegians and came in third in 11:21.77.
"I was really pleased," Villanova women's coach Gina Procaccio said. "I went in there hoping we could get third. I thought that would be great. You just want to see them compete tough, and I thought they all did a great job."
Temperatures hovered around 50 degrees, and the track was moistened by earlier rain as the teams warmed up. The Hoyas, who won the NCAA indoor championship last month in the distance medley with Keklak, Martin, and Coogan taking part, adjusted to the elements just fine, although they were shivering by the time they reached the media interview room after the race.
"We were talking about it. . . . This is pretty standard weather here," Keklak said. "It's somehow always cold and rainy for some reason. But I probably enjoy it more. Part of showing up to a track meet like the Penn Relays is being able to run your best no matter what the circumstances and how good the competition is, even when it's not a perfect day."
Villanova sophomore Siofra Cleirigh Buttner, who was part of two winning relays last year, took the lead after the first leg. But Martin passed the Wildcats' Sidney Hayes on the 400 split and handed the baton off to Southerland with a five-meter lead.
Southerland then helped the Hoyas established a commanding advantage with a 2:05.22 time for 800, giving Georgetown a 30-meter lead at the handoff to Coogan, who smoothly brought it home and finished 30 meters ahead of Oklahoma State (11:19.74).
"It's awesome," Coogan said. "Every year we come here, and we know we can compete, but we've never been able to hold up a [championship] wheel at the end of the day. It's really special."
With recent NCAA champions as anchors, Tennessee and Oregon posted the fastest times in relay qualifying. Felicia Brown led the Volunteers to a 44.50-second clocking in the 4x100, while the Ducks, with Raevyn Rogers on anchor, hit the line in the 4x400 in 3:36.66.