Michigan's 'Fab Four' breaks record in 4x800

Tennessee's 23-year-old standard fell to the Wolverines' quartet in a time of 8:18.78.

Posted: April 29, 2007

Meet the latest incarnation of a fabulous group of Michigan athletes.

The Wolverines' foursome of Geena Gall, Nicole Edwards, Anna Willard and Katie Erdman - the "Fab Four" from here on out - cemented their legacy by smashing another collegiate record at the Penn Relays yesterday.

On Friday, they broke the 4x1,500-meter relay mark held by Villanova since 1990. Yesterday in breezy conditions, the same quartet astonishingly knocked off a 23-year-old record in the 4x800.

The Fab Four finished at 8 minutes, 18.78 seconds, narrowly ahead of Tennessee's mark of 8:20.22, set in 1984 - a few years before the young Michigan women were even a glint in their parents' eyes.

"We knew the 4x8 record was definitely harder to break than the 4x15," said Edwards, Friday's anchor and yesterday's 2:05.7 second leg. "Today before the race, [coach Mike McGuire] reminded us, 'This is probably the best team that we'll ever be able to put together. This is one chance that you have in your life. Don't waste it.' "

So, unlike a certain "Fab Five" that never won a national championship in basketball, this group delivered.

For two legs, though, it looked as if Michigan had greater concerns. Tennessee, appropriately, ran stride-for-stride with Michigan and was looking to add another relay win after taking the distance medley on Thursday.

But Willard, who ran a brilliant third leg in the 4x1,500, broke away and the rest was left to Erdman. However, as opposed to Edwards' last leg on Friday, Erdman did not know what split she needed for the mark because of the increased crowd noise.

"With 200 meters to go," Erdman said, "I just told myself, 'Look, if we miss by two-tenths it comes on my shoulders as the last leg.' "

She ran 2:02.6, just enough.

The Fab Four, of course, is not done. The Wolverines still have the Big Ten championships at Penn State this week and, in June, nationals. But yesterday, they basked in the moment.

"This is probably the best memory I'll have my entire collegiate career," said Edwards, a junior. "I'm not even done my career, but I can't tell how anything can top this. I'll remember it for a long, long, long time."

The Texas men became the latest to win multiple distance relays. For decades it was Villanova, then Arkansas, and in 2005 Michigan snagged three plaques.

Yesterday, the Longhorns added to Friday's distance medley relay crown with a stirring 4 x mile victory run in 16:21.57. Up until last year when they won the DMR, the Longhorns had never claimed one of the distance relays at Penn.

"It's good to win that second one, because the first one everybody figures, 'Aw, it's a fluke,' " said Jake Morse, who ran a 4:06.9 third leg. "But we knew it wasn't a fluke. . . . We definitely blew the fluke out of the water."

Junior Leonel Manzano, who was the anchor of both winning foursomes, kicked past Wisconsin's Chris Solinsky with 250 meters left.

"It didn't seem like he was going to go," said Manzano, who finished in 4:03.5. "It seemed like he wanted me to take it, so I was like, 'All right, I'll go.' "

Florida State added to Friday's sprint medley relay title with a convincing victory in the college men's 4x200. Seminoles anchor Walter Dix cruised the foursome home in 1:21.73, more than a second faster than Middle Tennessee State.

Florida State's attempt to win three sprint relays was thwarted by LSU in the 4x100. The Tigers, two-time defending champs, made it three in a row, finishing in 39.73 seconds to the Seminoles' 39.78. LSU also snared its second straight title in the 4x400, easily winning with a time of 3:07.34.

South Carolina's Shalonda Soloman nipped LSU's Kelly Ann Baptiste as the Gamecocks claimed the college women's 4x200, denying the Tigers a sweep in the sprints. South Carolina burned to a time of 1:31.56 to LSU's 1:31.58. The Gamecocks also won the 4x400 (3:29.78), with Winslow Township product Krystal Cantey running leadoff.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane

at 215-854-4745

or jmclane@phillynews.com.

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