PHILADELPHIA – Texas A&M freshman LaQue Moen-Davis won the Penn Relays championship division of the long jump amid bright skies and cool temperatures inside Franklin Field with an opening round leap of 21 feet, 2.5 inches (6.47).
Later in the evening Aggie senior Henry Lelei (La-lay) won the championship 5,000 meters in 13:45.30 to break the A&M record of 13:46.37 set in the 1985 Texas Relays by Arturo Barrios.
It marks the first time an Aggie has won the long jump at the Penn Relays since the event was added for the women in 1978. Moen-Davis’ mark, aided by a 3.3 wind, becomes the 10th best mark in Penn Relays history. It’s also the second best winning mark over the past 10 years.
“At first I didn’t know how good the first jump was, it just felt good coming out of the run I had,” Moen-Davis said. “It’s nice to have a big mark that everyone else has to chase, but I was trying to get after my own mark too.”
After producing the winning mark on her opening jump, Moen-Davis followed with marks of 20-7 (6.27), foul, 20-9.75w (6.34w), foul, foul. Her 21-2.5 measurement is fourth best collegiately and tops in the SEC under any conditions. Any of the marks by Moen-Davis would have won the competition.
“A couple of the fouls I had where in the same distance range of my first jump,” noted Moen-Davis. “I kept trying to get out further than the first mark I had.”
Runner-up to Moen-Davis was Jamaican La Toya Powell of Turabo with a 20-6.25 (6.25w) effort while North Carolina’s Chrishawn Williams, third at last week’s ACC meet, finished third with a 20-1.75 (6.14).
“It felt good to be out here competing and it was a good atmosphere, so I had fun,” said Moen-Davis, an Omaha, Nebraska native who is familiar with windy, 50 degree conditions. “This is my type of weather, so it was a good day to go out and get after it.”
Lelei had a challenger in Eastern Kentucky’s Eade Meddles for the first half of the race, but when Lelei pushed the pace he ended up winning by 10 seconds. Mark Allen of American placed second in 14:05.64 while Meddles placed third in 14:07.38. Other Aggies in the race included Ryan Miller (14:31.14) in 14th and MacLean O’Donnell (14:50.26) in 21st.
“It’s a big thing getting a record,” stated Lelei. “I know it’s not easy, so to break a record that has stood for 28 years is very special. I wonder how long my record will remain. I think I need to run around 13:30 for my record to last that long.”
Opening with a 2:47.6 in the first 1,000 meters, Lelei went 2:44.9 to lead the field through 2,000 meters. Then a 2:40.2 on the third 1,000 pulled Lelei away from the field with Meddles on his shoulder. After a 2:49.3 on the fourth 1,000, Lelei put the race away with a 2:43.3 finish.
“I was consistent with laps between 64 and 66 seconds and it was easy to run them in the cool weather we had this evening,” said Lelei. “I was hoping the runner with me could have lasted another lap or two. It was good to have him with me, he helped push me for a while.”
Lelei’s previous career best in the outdoor 5,000 was a 13:50.03 set last season at the USC Invitational in Los Angeles.
“I wanted to get a good qualifying time for NCAAs,” said Lelei, who is the collegiate leader in the steeplechase this season with an 8:32.94. “It gets my confidence going in being able to double in the steeplechase and 5,000 later this season.”
Texas A&M women’s distance medley team placed second in the college division with a solid time of 11:30.23, finishing behind the winning time of 11:24.37 for Boston College. Placing behind the Aggies were Duke (11:36.30), Delaware (11:38.36), La Salle (11:39.94), Rutgers (11:46.40), Temple (11:47.08) and South Carolina (11:47.93).
Running on the DMR for A&M was the foursome of Ashley Chamberlain (3:40.33), Donique’ Flemings (54.89), Aliese Hyde (2:09.98), and Sophie Blake (4:45.05). Hyde moved the Aggies into fourth place when she handed the baton off to Blake, who managed to advance A&M into second place with a couple laps remaining in the race.
“It’s incredible racing here with the atmosphere, it’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before,” stated Blake on her first Penn Relays experience. “I spent the whole first lap warming up. Then on the last three laps I was racing like I do a 1,500 and focusing on the girl in front of me. Then I just kept picking off the ones in front of me.”
Contesting this event more during the indoor season, the Aggies produced one of the fastest times in school history with their performance at Penn. The A&M outdoor school record is a 11:26.06 set in 2001. Last year the Aggies set the indoor school record of 11:29.89 with Hyde also part of that effort.
Isaac Spencer produced a career best time of 8:49.43 to finish second in the Championship race of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, moving to No. 4 on the A&M all-time list. Eastern Kentucky’s Ole Hesselbjerg won the event in 8:47.52 while Spencer finished ahead of Indiana’s Joshua Roche (8:55.88), and Kentucky’s Luis Orta (8:56.32). Aggie Stephen Curry clocked 9:15.47 to place 16th.
“I haven’t been in a race like that, where everyone is shoulder to shoulder, pushing and shoving,” noted Spencer, who won the college division steeplechase at Penn a year ago in 9:02.20. “Going over the barriers I didn’t feel like my technique was perfect. At the end when I made my move so did the leader, so the gap between remained the same.
“I was a little bitter at the end. I even told coach that the better man didn’t win tonight. He was still happy with me setting a PR and thinks I can run a lot faster if I concentrate a little more. It’s a good race to learn from because all the next races for me are championship races. I need to learn to get use to those types of races.”
In qualifying relay races the Aggie women led the field advancing to Friday’s Championship of America final with a time of 44.33 seconds. Oregon posted the second best time of 44.34 while LSU turned in a 44.36. The rest of the eight-team final will consist of UTech of Jamaica (44.73), Kentucky (44.87), Johnson C. Smith (45.04), G.C. Foster (45.07) and Norfolk State (45.41).
Texas A&M ran the sprint relay with the foursome of LaKeidra Stewart, Ashton Purvis, Kamaria Brown and Ashley Collier. The Aggies, who are the current collegiate leaders with a 42.56 from the Texas Relays, have won the past four Penn Relays 4x100 finals and will seek to become the first school to win a Championship of America 4x100 title five consecutive years during Friday’s race at 11:50 p.m. (CST).
The top qualifying time in the women’s 4x400 also belonged to Texas A&M as they won the opening heat in 3:34.72 with the quartet of Olivia Ekpone (54.3), Ibukun Mayungbe (53.6), LaKeidra Stewart (53.9) and Kamaria Brown (52.9). Finishing second in the heat with the Aggies was George Mason in 3:37.17.
As A&M attempts to defend their Penn Relays title in the 4x400 on Saturday evening they will be joined by UTech (3:35.22), Oregon (3:35.37), LSU (3:36.81), George Mason (3:37.17), St. Augustine’s (3:38.95), Hampton (3:39.38) and Penn State (3:39.53).
In the championship race of the women’s 5,000 the trio of Aggies placed 14th, 15th and 18th with Amanda Jenkins (16:47.80), Hillary Montgomery (16:53.28) and Grace Fletcher (16:57.52).
Jena Hemann placed eighth in the college division high jump with a clearance of 5-6 while Annie Kunz had three misses at the opening height. The women’s college long jump had Jordan Wilson (17-10.75) placing 17th and Jennifer Madu (17-7) finishing 20th.