On This Day: Arkansas claims first Penn Relays title

This day, April 29, in 2000, marked the first time the Arkansas women’s team claimed a Championship of America title in the Penn Relays.

Sporting a winning time of 10:55.0 in the distance medley relay with a crew of Jessica Dailey (3:22.4), GiGi Miller (52.1), Tawa Babatunde (2:07.3) and Tracy Robertson (4:33.2), the Razorbacks produced a world and collegiate leading time for the season to defeat BYU (10:56.12), Villanova (11:01.16) and Colorado (11:03.82).

In that year, Arkansas had the eighth-fastest time on the all-time collegiate list, while BYU became the fifth-fastest school and Colorado the 11th best.

Racing in the 4×1,500 relay the day before, the Razorbacks were runner-up in 17:37.11, becoming the No. 6 school in collegiate history, behind a 17:30.38 for Villanova. The Arkansas foursome included Robertson (4:18.6), Christin Wurth (4:28.9), Dailey (4:20.3) and Amy Yoder Begley (4:29.3).

The following year, the Razorbacks won the 4×1500 relay along with a pair of individual titles in the steeplechase and 10,000m.

A winning time of 17:34.63 set the world and collegiate leader in the 4×1,500 for the season and ranked 10th on the world and collegiate all-time list as Arkansas defeated Stanford (17:37.27), Georgetown (17:55.39) and Boston College (17:55.39).

The Razorback foursome included Andrina Byrd (4:28.9), Lilli Kleinmann (4:23.9), Wurth (4:25.8) and Robertson (4:16.0).

Kleinmann established a German national record in claiming the initial college women’s 3,000m steeplechase race held at the Penn Relays in 10:01.52, bettering the field by 18-plus seconds. She challenged the collegiate record at the time, a 9:59.50 set the previous week, in becoming the second-best performer with the second-best performance on the all-time collegiate list.

Amy Yoder Begley captured the 10k title in 34:18.11, winning by seven seconds.

Here is an excerpt from the story by Joe Juliano in the Philadelphia Inquirer on the Razorback’s first relay victory.

Happy breakthrough for women’s team from Arkansas

On a grand day for firsts at the Penn Relay, it was safe to say the women’s track teams of Arkansas and South Carolina might have had the most fun of all.

The women of Arkansas won their first Championship of America event, outdueling Villanova and Brigham Young to take the distance medley relay in 10:55.0. While the Razorbacks have 33 Championship of America victories on the men’s side, the initial women’s title felt really good.

“We were gunning for the win, we wanted to win that wheel,” said Arkansas anchor Tracy Robertson, referring to the Penn Relays plaque given to the victors. “Everyone ran really well. I thought we had a better chance to win the 4×1,500 [on Friday] but we missed it. We came out strong today and ran the best we could.”

Robertson anchored a unit that included Jessica Dailey, GiGi Miller and Tawa Babatunde.

Another excerpt follows from 2001 by Joe Juliano regarding Kleinmann’s performance.

Nearly a record performance
Lilli Kleinmann of Arkansas wins 3,000-meter steeplechase in 10:01.52

As a hurdler turned distance runner, Lilli Kleinmann had a fascination with the steeplechase, that unique combination of stamina, hurdling, and the ability to withstand a few jarring dunks into a water pit without breaking stride.

So, when the steeplechase was introduced to track and field last year as an exhibition event in the U.S. Olympic trials, Kleinmann was a willing participant. When the event made its debut last night in the Penn Relays, the Arkansas sophomore from Germany came within a few strides of a national collegiate record.

On a clear and pleasant evening at Franklin Field, Kleinmann crossed the finish line in the 3,000-meter event in 10 minutes, 1.52 seconds, beating her nearest competitor by more than 18 seconds. She fell just short of the NCAA record of 9:59.50 set last week by Elizabeth Jackson of Brigham Young.

Still, Kleinmann, the Southeastern Conference cross country champion, has found an event she really likes. Last night marked her second competitive steeplechase race.

“I’ve always wanted to run the steeplechase,” she said. “I started out in track running the hurdles when I was 10 or 12 years old because I’m tall. I also did the long jump. I watched the guys run the steeplechase and wanted to do it. I was pretty tall, and I felt the steeplechase would be the best event for me. But I had to wait about 10 years.”

The jumping is something that comes naturally to the 5-foot-10 Kleinmann, but she acknowledged that the frequent jarring landings over the hurdles are something she still needs to get accustomed to.

“I’m not used to it right now,” she said. “My muscles are sore. I have a bit of a hip flexor. I haven’t been doing much speed work. But the nationals are where it counts.

“I lowered my time from 10:17 to 10:01. I wanted to break 10 minutes, but there was no one there to push myself. But that’s all right. It’s probably better that I save something for the 4×1,500 relay. We want to win that relay.”

It’s a loaded relay team, with Kleinmann joining NCAA champion Tracy Robertson and all-American Amy Yoder Begley. But because Kleinmann and Begley, who competed in the 10,000 meters, ran last night, it remains to be seen how fresh they will be today.

Begley was in command throughout the 10,000 meters and finished first in 34:18.11.