Continuing its exploits in the running world, the BYU women’s track and field team won the distance medley relay by a landslide last weekend at the prestigious Penn Relays, the oldest and biggest track and field competition in the country.

The DMR is a mix of four distances and a good measure of the depth and versatility of a school’s running program. Lauren Ellsworth-Barnes got things started by covering 1,200 meters in 3:18.22; she handed the baton to her sister, Alena, who ran the 400-meter leg in 53.63; she handed the baton to Claire Seymour, who ran 800 meters in 2:05.95; and Courtney Wayment, the two-time NCAA champion, ran the 1,600-meter anchor leg in a  4:32.39 (the rough equivalent of a 4:33 mile). 

The Cougars finished with a time of 10:50.22, the third fastest time in Penn Relays history and seven seconds faster than the school record set 23 years ago. They won by more than five seconds. Their closest rival was runner-up Ole Miss in 10:55.61 and Indiana in 10:59.54.

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“That was an amazing moment for these women,” said BYU coach Diljeet Taylor. “They ran with such fire and passion, and I was so proud of the confidence they carried from the start.”

The Cougars claimed their first wheel — the large, famous wood and bronze trophy that is awarded to the winners. It consists of an 18-inch bronze plaque mounted inside a large wooden wheel that is close to 3 feet tall.

The Penn Relays, held on Philadelphia’s Franklin Field, began in 1895 and has included countless Olympians and world record holders.

BYU also competed in the 4 x 800-meter relay, where things didn’t go as smoothly. The team of Meghan Hunter, Alena Ellsworth, Lauren Ellsworth-Barnes and Claire Seymour finished third with a school-record time of 8:28.24, but they were still left to wonder what might have been.

At the start of the third leg, Ellsworth-Barnes fell to the track as she received the baton from her sister Alena and later required two stitches to repair her foot, which was spiked by another runner. To the Cougars’ credit they recovered enough to get on the podium.

Penn State won the race with a time of 8:24.49, with Ohio State second in 8:25.04 and BYU third in 8:28.24 in a 12-team field.

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The Cougars also placed fifth in the 4 x 1,500-meter relay. The team of Kate Hunter, Carmen Alder, Heather Hanson and Sadie Sargent was timed in 17:29.45.

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The Cougars, who have become a powerhouse in middle-distance and distance running in recent years, also made their mark in individual races. Freshman Lexy Halladay won the steeplechase with a time of 9:59.27, and Carmen Alder was third in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:17.80 (teammate Kate Hunter was ninth in 4:21.34 and Heather Hanson 12th in 4:22.24.

“It was an incredible experience and these women will carry these memories with them for a lifetime,” said Taylor.

The BYU track team divided their ranks for the weekend. Much of the team traveled to Tucson for the Desert Heat Classic. Colten Yardley won the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 49.83, making him the fifth fastest in school history. Yardley also teamed with Jared Davis, Dallin Draper and Landon Maxfield to finish second behind Arizona State in the 4 x 100 relay with a time of 39.41.

The women’s team of Adaobi Tabugbo, Taye Raymond, Dolita Awala-Shaw and Annalise Hart placed third in the 4 x 100 relay. Their time of 44.68 broke the previous school record of 44.68 set in 2010.

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