Penn Relays Re-Writes The Record Books

By David Melly

May 1, 2024

Coming off a banner indoor season in the NCAA, one of the main takeaways was that we need to move our mental goalposts when it comes to distance medley relays. In the good ol’ days (8-10 years ago, when the older half of the CITIUS MAG staff was last in college), 9:30 was really movin’ for a men’s DMR and sub-11 meant you were turning heads on the women’s side. Fast forward to 2024, where neither time will put you in the top 20 in any given season. The top 13 men’s DMRs have been run since 2021, and 9 of the 10 fastest women’s marks were run this season.

With all that being said, the Harvard women’s 10:37.55 winning mark from this weekend’s Penn Relays is FAST. Harvard and runner-up Providence ran the #3 and #4 DMRs of all time, a few ticks off New Balance’s all-star world record team at 10:33.85. If Providence leadoff Shannon Flockhart’s 3:15.11 split had been subbed into a Crimson uniform, we’d be looking at a new world record. Super shoes, program depth, and training progress aside, it’s clear that the NCAA is producing pro-caliber performances – as if Maia Ramsden qualifying for the World Indoor final hadn’t made that clear already.

On the men’s side, the DMR was a relatively pedestrian affair, with the perennial Penn Relays ringers from Villanova taking the win in 9:35.90. As it turned out, everyone was saving their best stuff for the 4xmile the next day, where Nova senior Liam Murphy again anchored his team to a win over Virginia and Georgetown with a 3:54.32 split. Murphy has really ascended this year, clocking PBs from 1500m to 5000m and notching the best NCAA finish of his career to date with a 4th-place run in the 3000m indoors. And now he’s got 1/4th of a collegiate record, as Villanova’s 15:51.91 destroyed Oregon’s previous mark of 16:03.24 from 2009 and – for the first time in collegiate history – not one, not two, but THREE teams broke 16 minutes for 4xmile.

There have certainly been teams of sub-16 caliber in the past, but carrying the baton all-out for four legs on your second race of the weekend is a heavy lift that makes turning the race into a kicker’s affair tempting. So props to all three teams for keeping the pace up throughout the race, and special kudos to Georgetown for being the only team of the trio with all four runners clocking sub-four minute miles (Nova and UVA averaged sub-four, but both teams had one runner split 4:00).

Of the DMR and 4xmile/1500m, the women’s 4x1500m is now the “oldest” NCAA record having been set by Arkansas way back in 2022. It’s also a good sign of equity in the sport that all four records are held by four different schools (although Arkansas also holds the outdoor men’s DMR best, which is 4 seconds slower than its indoor counterpart). With the Penn, Drake, and Oregon Relays all on the books, the relay record keepers are probably safe to relax until next season, but if recent history is any indication, none of these marks should be etched in stone.

David Melly

David began contributing to CITIUS in 2018, and quickly cemented himself as an integral part of the team thanks to his quick wit, hot takes, undying love for the sport and willingness to get yelled at online.