Through the years there are always one or two women's distance runners at a time who excel for the William and Mary women's track team.
Historically it was names like Janice Brown and Marcie Homan at the top. In more recent years it was Elaina Balouris and Emily Stites, all four multiple All-Americans.
That torch has been passed down to sophomore Regan Rome, who was outstanding at last weekend's 51st annual Colonial Relays track meet, winning the 5,000 meters, anchoring the winning 4x1,500-meter relay team, and being named CAA athlete of the week.
Rome, from Dallas, Pa., won the 5,000 meters Friday evening by 4 seconds in 16:12.82, her outdoor PR. Indoors this year, she ran 15:58.07 at Iowa State for the No. 3 time ever by a W&M runner, trailing only the 15:43.69 by Stites and the 15:46.92 by Balouris.
Saturday afternoon, along with teammates Molly Applegate (also seventh in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 10:53.19), Meghan McGovern, and Molly Breidenbaugh (also a 17:08.12 in the 5,000), Rome ran the final leg of the 4x1,500-meter team that won by 9 seconds in 18:25.32, the fastest W&M time since 2004.
Rome had competed in the 3,000 meters at this year's NCAA indoor championships, where she placed 12th, earning second-team All-American status. Earlier indoors Rome broke the W&M school record in the 3,000 with a time of 9:09.74.
Rome wasn't the only one to excel for the Tribe men and women. Redshirt junior Derek O'Connell, from Ocean Lakes High in Virginia Beach, became the first W&M pole-vaulter to win at the Colonial Relays since Charles Strode cleared 16 feet, 1 inch in 1971. Despite wind, cold and intermittent rain Saturday afternoon, O'Connell cleared 16-3 1/4 on his first attempt, the highest ever for a W&M vaulter at the Colonial Relays, then made three unsuccessful attempts at 17-0 1/4. For his efforts, he was named CAA field event athlete of the week.
In indoor track O'Connell was seventh at 17-6 1/2 at the NCAA championships, and was named first-team All-American. During a three-week period in February, he cleared 17-7, 17-7 1/4 and 17-9 1/4 , the top three heights in W&M history, with the final meet an NCAA qualifier and W&M indoor school record.
Last year O'Connell set the W&M outdoor school record at the CAA championships with a height of 17-4 1/2 . This year in outdoors he had already cleared 17-0 3/4 at the Tribe Invitational. Those six 17-foot clearances are the only ones in W&M track history. O'Connell has already exceeded the former W&M pole vault record of 16-8 1/2 by Dave Lipinski in 1977 a total of 14 times. This is his final outdoor season, but he still has one remaining year of eligibility indoors.
One of the more interesting races against the clock was Friday evening. With a record number of teams and athletes, and countless heats for all the standard track distances, it was a challenge to get in all the events by the midnight deadline to start the final heat. The track officials and organizers made it with just two minutes to spare, the final heat of the men's university division 1,500 meters starting at 11:58 p.m. Before lights were installed at Zable Stadium, the opportunity to compete that late was not there. A few late events in the past had to be illuminated by car lights around the track.
The reason for the jam-packed schedule was a record 63 colleges and universities entered this year. Along with 20 high school teams, there were 3,600 individual and relay entries for the three-day meet, Thursday through Saturday. Outside of the NCAAs and IC4A/ECAC championship meets, it's the largest team-scored track meet in the country.
For those team scores, the W&M men placed fourth and the W&M women fifth. Shippensburg (Pennsylvania) won their first Colonial Relays team title ever with 80 3/4 points, followed by Rutgers (76), Bucknell (71), W&M (70.5), Iona (51), Virginia Union (47) and Binghamton (41). For the women, Rutgers won for the third time in four years with 92 points, followed by Bucknell (81 1/2 ), Columbia (711/2 ), St. John's (58), W&M (57), James Madison and Villanova (56), and VCU and Richmond (47).
Another first Colonial Relays win in over 40 years by a W&M athlete was by Davion Hutt in the 100-meter dash in 10.74, an event previously won by W&M sports photographer Bob Keroack in 1976 in a hand-timed 9.5 for 100 yards (equivalent to a 10.4 for 100 meters), and earlier by Mike Fratkin in 1968 with a 9.6 for 100 yards.
Dawson Connell of Yorktown and York High was fifth in the 1,500 meters (3:47.88), and anchored the men's 4x1,500-meter team with Cabender Salvadori, Ryan McGorty and Ryan Gousse (also second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9:10.05) to a fourth-place 15:57.41. That open 1,500 was won by Villanova sophomore Ben Malone (3:45.73), son of former W&M middle-distance track star John Malone.
Faris Sakallah was seventh in the men's 10,000 meters in 30:52.03, and Rebecca Eudailey was eighth for the women in 37:57.79. Leia Mistowski was second in the women's hammer throw in 174-10. Grace Becker was second in the high jump in 5-5. Robert Smutsky was second in the javelin in 210-6. Redshirt W&M athlete Taylor Frenia, competing unattached, won the men's shot put in 57-3. Brian Waterfield was third in the hammer throw in 204-10.
Waterfield was W&M's third all-American this year indoors, placing 11th in the 35-pound weight throw at the NCAA championships in 67-7, good for second team All-American status. Earlier, in February at a Virginia Tech meet,
Waterfield smashed the school record in the weight throw with a toss of 71-8 1/4 . In that same meet, Frenia became the only other W&M athlete ever to break the 60-foot barrier with a throw of 62-7 3/4 . With his redshirt season this outdoor track season, Frenia will have full indoor and outdoor eligibility for 2017.