Courtesy Wade Jessie O’Connell is one of many Hoyas to post national qualifying times this season.

A small group of Georgetown runners produced some big results last weekend at the Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind., as the men’s team set a new school record and the women’s team continued to post championship-qualifying times.

With the distance runners, jumpers and pole-vaulters staying home to continue preparation for the Armory Invitational and Big East Championships later this month, Georgetown’s sprinters capitalized on the opportunity to obtain championship-qualifying marks and led the way with an NCAA provisional qualifying time and a new school record in the men’s 4 x 440yd relay.

Running on Notre Dame’s oversized track, the team of freshman Chris Bonner, junior Ali Najjar and seniors James Graham and Robert Wingate-Robinson crossed the line in 3:10.36, to topple Georgetown’s previous school record of 3:10.69, which was set at the IC4A Indoor Championship in March 2000. The converted time places the team on the NCAA qualifiers list in the 4 x 400m, and Associate Head Coach Andrew Valmon said that he believes the group can improve upon the performance as the season progresses.

Working against the team, Valmon noted, was the fact that every member also ran individual events and that each runner had to recover prior to the relay. Bonner previously ran a personal record in the 400m, and Wingate-Robinson raced in the 200m just 35 minutes before the relay.

“[Wingate-Robinson] ran well, and with that short a recovery, that was very good for him,” Valmon said. “Bonner seemed a little fatigued from the PR, but we had some really good legs.”

On the women’s side, Georgetown also won the 4 x 440yd, as freshman Danielle Rodgers, senior Jamillah Bowman, and juniors onica Hargrove and Kori Hamilton timed 3:41.62 to edge runner-up Notre Dame by 1.1 seconds. Hamilton provided another highlight on the individual side, as she placed third in the 800m with a personal best time of 2:09.10.

Traditionally more of a 400m runner, and an All-American in the 4 x 400m relay, Hamilton has excelled at longer distances so far this season. With the graduation of star half-miler Tyrona Heath, Hamilton’s success in the 800m comes at a key time, as the team prepares to fill the position left by Heath on Georgetown’s historically strong distance medley relay.

“We try to find the event where someone is going to have the most success, and right now, it looks like [Hamilton] is having the most success in the 800m,” Valmon said. “To be successful in this sport, you need to have range, whether you go up, or go down – you need to have a variety of different races, otherwise you go back to the same task every weekend, and it’s going to be tough to maintain that focus for nine months of running the same event. I think [expanding an athlete’s range] is a great idea, because it gives the athletes a chance to dabble in different events, and remain fresh all the time – mentally, more so than physically or anything else.”

Najjar is undergoing a similar process this season, as he toggles between the 400m and 800m. He ran an NCAA provisional time in the 800m earlier this season, and in addition to his role on the relay last weekend, also placed third in the open 800m with a time of 1:50.84. Junior Jesse O’Connell, also on the NCAA 800m qualifiers list, edged Najjar for second place with a time of 1:50.54.

“The purpose for them was to try to break 1:50, but I felt like once they went through the quarter in 55 seconds, and the 600 in 1:23, the pace was too slow,” Valmon said. “It was an ideal race for a rabbit. In the Meyo mile, where they had four men run sub-four minutes they had a couple rabbits, and the women’s half [mile], where they ran fast, they had a couple rabbits, so I felt like this was a perfect place to have them. But it wasn’t the case, and we had to do the work up front. We were running on a big track with small competition, and it wasn’t like the competition was actually going to take us to the times – we had to do it ourselves.”

Despite narrowly missing the goal in the men’s 800m, Valmon said he was pleased with the team’s overall performance.

“It was a good meet; we accomplished a lot, and I think we’ll have confidence going into the conference meet, which is what we wanted,” Valmon said. “Overall, it was a successful trip because we were close to accomplishing everything we went there for. Obviously, we didn’t fully get it done, but we did get it done in terms of the work that we needed and seeing how good we could be on those two relays. Now I think the four ladies and four men know they can run with some of the best teams in the country – it’s just a matter of having the right timing to put it together.”

Next weekend the team will travel to New York City for the Armory Invitational.

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