Alan Webb's biggest challenge at the Penn Relays was keeping the baton. The South Lakes (Va.) senior, who in January became only the fourth high schooler ever to run a sub-four minute mile, anchored his team to victories in both the 4x800-meter and the distance medley relay. That was the easy part; It turns out Webb only needed to run about a 4:17 for 1,600 meters in Friday's DMR (he ran 4:04) and his teammates actually gave him the lead in Saturday's 4x800 (for good measure, Webb ran a Relays-record 1:49.1 split). But the difficult part was getting that forbidden souvenir -- a red-and-blue Penn Relays baton. After they cross the finish line, runners are supposed to return the batons Penn provides to the officials. Webb, playing the part of a petty thief, didn't. No one seemed to mind too much on Friday. But Saturday was different, as word seemed to get around about this baton-stealing kid. After crossing the line in 7:41.75 -- more than five seconds ahead of second-place Holmwood Tech (Jamaica) -- Webb embraced teammate Richard Smith. And an official used the moment to try to nab the thief, to pounce upon what he thought was an unsuspecting victim. Webb's right hand -- the hand holding the baton -- draped across Smith's back, and the official tugged at the red-and-blue cylinder, trying to pry it from Webb's grip. But Webb wouldn't let that happen. The official finally gave up, and a beaming Webb faced the crowd in the North stands, kissed the baton coyly and held it to his chest. "They weren't gonna get [the baton] from me," Webb said. "I've been waiting a long time for it." Indeed, South Lakes finished third in the DMR two years ago, and second last year. Webb ran 1,600 legs of 4:11 and 3:59.9 in 1999 and 2000, respectively. This year, Webb's blazing anchor legs didn't go to waste -- thanks to his teammates. In the DMR, Smith gave South Lakes the lead after his opening 1,200 leg. It wasn't a big lead, though. A pair of New Jersey schools, Cherokee and Christian Brothers Academy, were right behind, and by the time Webb got the baton, CBA had built a several-second cushion. Several seconds, however, was not enough. After a blistering 58.3-second first lap, Webb caught up to CBA anchor Nat Glackin. And the South Lakes phenom cruised with him through a super-slow-for-Webb 65-second lap. But 100 meters into the third lap, Webb took off. Just over two minutes later, he crossed the line in a Relays-record time of 9:59.66. "I didn't get, obviously, a big enough lead," Glackin said. "After [Webb] made his move, he kept accelerating and accelerating. I've never really run against someone that could make a push like that." That was what Webb's opponents were worried about. The plans were all basically the same -- get a big lead, hope Webb wears himself out chasing you, and then hope that somehow, someway, you can outkick him. Hope was certainly the operative word. "When you're running against somebody like Webb, you just dwell on it for a while," Glackin said. "I've been thinking about [the DMR], just running it in my head, for about two weeks." But as easy as Webb's teammates made it for him to win the DMR, that was nothing compared to the 4x800. Well, it was nothing compared to the 4x800 final. The Friday morning qualifying heat? Not so easy. Webb did anchor the fastest qualifying time in 1:50.2 (the fifth-fastest high school Relays split ever) -- but South Lakes only won by two-tenths of a second, and Webb had to come from five seconds behind. On Saturday afternoon, though, Smith ran the third leg in 1:52.7 -- the second-fastest split of the day. He got the baton in ninth and handed off to Webb with the lead. And when you give the fastest high school anchorman in the country a lead, you can basically count your chickens. They've hatched. "I owe it all to the guys ahead of me," said Webb, who was named Outstanding High School Athlete for Relay Events. "This weekend couldn't have gone any better. Three out of three races we came out on top." For Webb, who had a smile practically painted on his face all weekend, the only thing that really mattered were the victories. His teammates -- Kanda Karmo, Yonathan Kebede and Justin Smyser -- didn't run personal-record times in the three races, but that didn't bother Webb. "It doesn't matter," a beaming Webb said. "We won the race. Who cares?" o Holmwood Tech (Jamaica) absolutely dominated the girls' relay events. The school from Jamaica won the 4x100 in 44.89 (second-fastest Relay time ever), the 4x400 in 3:34.75 (fastest Relay time ever by more than three seconds) and the 4x800 in 8:50.02 (fifth-fastest Relay time ever). But Jamaica's success wasn't limited to Holmwood. The island took the top three places in the 4x100, the top two in the 4x400 and two of the top three in the 4x800. The only team to break that stranglehold was Boys & Girls (N.Y.), who broke a national record in the 4x800 but still finished nearly three seconds behind Holmwood. o But on the boys' side, Jamaica was shut out. El Dorado, from Trinidad, won the 4x100 in 40.99 seconds and Camden (N.J.) won the 4x400 in 3:11.30.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.