PHILADELPHIA – While they had one of the most successful years in Georgetown history, a big win has eluded the men’s distance squad. During cross country season, the Hoyas were one strong performance away from a Big East Championship and a top-five finish at Nationals. During indoors, they had Big East runner-up finishes in the 1,000 meters, 3000m, 4x800m and distance medley relay. At the Indoor Nationals, Andrew Bumbalough was runner-up in the 3000m, and a dropped baton derailed a legitimate shot at a distance medley relay win.

This weekend, at the 114th Penn Relays that drew crowds of nearly 50,000, Bumbalough and the Hoyas went for that elusive win in the 4xmile relay, taking a shot at favorite Texas late in the race when a conservative approach could have locked down second place.

In the relay, the Hoyas entered with one of the deepest lineups. Junior Mike Banks started, running well through the first part of the race but fading in the final 400m to hand off in 10th.

“I haven’t really figured out why exactly, it was just a poor race on my part. I tensed up, I guess,” Banks said. “I wasn’t able to close. It was just bad.”

Things only got worse in the next leg, as sophomore Levi Miller, stuck in no-man’s land behind the pack, only let the gap widen. However, as senior Matt Debole took the stick, he ran a solid 4:04.3 on a gusty day, cutting the 100-m gap in half.

“You have to kind of embrace it, you know, you’re at Penn Relays, and no matter how far back you are, you’re not out of the race,” said Debole.

With over 50m to make up, Bumbalough took the baton with a head of steam. As leaders Texas and Michigan let the pack come back, Bumbalough worked hard through 800m to put the Hoyas right back in the race. Then, with 600m to go, he made a decisive move, going for the win and pulling along side Texas’ Leo Manzano, arguably the most prolific collegiate distance runner in the nation.

However, with 300m to go, and having already expended a good deal of energy bridging the gap, Bumbalough could not kick it up another gear, as the pack took off trying to run down a streaking Manzano. Bumbalough held steady down the stretch, and the Hoyas finished fifth.

“When things don’t necessarily go right, and people don’t necessarily run as best they can, then it’s kind of frustrating. … On paper, our team had a really good shot at finishing second, we definitely should have been second, maybe even having a chance to win. And that’s frustrating because I know at what level our guys are,” Bumbalough said.

In the distance medley relay on Friday, the Hoyas ran well in all four legs but couldn’t quite match Stanford and Texas’ speed in the middle of the race. Debole started off with a 2:56.8 1200m leg and handed off a few steps behind the leader. Sophomore Danny Harris and Banks both ran well in the 400m and 800m legs respectively, but by the time the baton got to anchor Bumbalough, the gap had widened to nearly 30m. Bumbalough ran one of the fastest splits of the day with a 3:58.9 but finished fourth.

“I got right there in really good position, but Texas, Stanford and Villanova just took off at a gear I really just didn’t have after having to make up that ground. I just didn’t have that extra gear, and they just kind of left me in the dust,” Bumbalough said.

“It’s not something that discourages me. It’s motivation … all the pieces are there,” Bumbalough said.

Another reason for the Blue and Gray to remain positive as they head to the outdoor postseason is that the sprinters are hitting their stride. For the second week in a row, the 4x100m relay team of junior Kenny Mitchell and freshmen Chris Kinney, Sean Suber and Spenser Carter notched an outstanding performance, taking first in the IC4A 4x100m with a time of 41.03 seconds. Carter exploded out of the exchange to erase any doubt in the final leg.

“Getting it done when we needed to get it done speaks volumes because we won when it counts, regardless of who we raced against, what the time was, as long as we got through the finish line first,” Mitchell said.

The team was the first Georgetown 4x100m team to reach the Penn Relays in over 20 years.

“For us to run one and win that IC4A section was definitely a thrill, and I feel like all the guys did a great job at that,” Head Coach Pat Henner said.

On the women’s side, the Hoyas faced some of the fiercest Penn Relays competition in years but were still able to hold their own. On Thursday, the Hoyas lined up against Michigan and Tennessee, who put together two of the fastest distance medley relay teams in meet history. Georgetown countered with senior Joanna Rodgers, senior Ashley Hubbard, junior Maggie Infeld and senior Liz Maloy to record the fifth fastest time in Georgetown history, taking fourth in 11:05.67.

“Our women’s [Distance Medley Relay] was a historic level effort. For us to run 11:05, year after year that will win Penn Relays. I was very happy with that relay squad; every one of them ran really well,” Henner said.

On Friday, the women lined up in the 4x1500m relay with Rodgers, Maloy, Infeld and sophomore Avril Ogrodnick. Ogrodnick took the lead for most of the first leg but handed off to Maloy in fourth. Maloy put the Hoyas in first, and Infeld handed off to Rodgers in second. Rodgers was not quite with the leaders, nor hanging back with the next team, had a disappointing race and was passed in the last stretch to finish fourth.

“I was upset because I let my team down, my coach down, myself down. It was like I wasn’t even there.” Rodgers said. “I just completely wasn’t focused on the race.”

However, the next day Rodgers came back and opened up the 4x800m relay with a 2:09.5 split to hand off in first. Hubbard took over, running her leg in 2:08.8 and maintaining the lead. Sophomore Renee Tomlin took the stick and also ran well, but the Hoyas dropped to third. Infeld battled Boston College down the stretch and came up just short to finish in fourth with a time of 8:49.8.

“Today I was just really mad at how I did yesterday, and I really wanted to make up for how I did, for my teammates and for myself, so I just went out there and gave it everything,” Rodgers said.

“That’s something special to come back the next day and to run such an incredible lead off leg on the 4x800m.” Henner said. “To see an athlete come back after disappointment, that to me is the essence of sport.”

Another bright spot for the women was the relay team of sophomores Sarah Wernik and Abigail Johnson and seniors Alex Baptiste and Hubbard, who took second in the ECAC 4x400m relay with a time of 3:45.66. Johnson looked impressive for the Hoyas, putting them in a great position after her strong second leg.

“Abigail Johnson is a big time athlete, and now she’s learning how to be a big time athlete … just a few minor things here or there and she’s going to take it to a whole new level,” Henner said.

Coming up for the Hoyas are Big Easts this weekend, with Regionals and the NCAA Outdoor Championship following soon after.

Despite the fact that the senior-laden women’s squad only has a few meets left to run together, the team is staying loose, as Maloy explained: “We got nothing to loose, it’s not like there’s a lot of pressure on us. This is our last chance, and we’re just going to go have fun.”

On the men’s side, the historic accomplishments that have occurred this season far outweigh the few narrow misses they’ve had.

“There’s been a couple times when I’ve felt like we’ve come up short, but I think overall the guys all realize that hey, we’re doing some real special things,” Henner said.

Added Miller: “Even though [the 4x1600m] didn’t go as well as we had hoped, I think everyone knows that it’s not that we’re not ready to be at the top level. We know that once Nationals comes around, we’re going to have a better group there than we’ve e

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