PHILADELPHIA — Heading into the Penn Relays, head coach Jim VanHootegem knew that his team could be competitive if they were up to the challenge.
On day one, his Sooners proved they were ready to rise to the occasion. OU won the women's championship shot put and the women's college DMR. The women's 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays both advanced to their respective Championship of America finals.
“We weren't perfect in our execution today, but I'm very pleased with the competitive efforts,” said VanHootegem.
“We talked about advancing in the sprints and going for wins in finals. I saw a lot of that today.”
Jess Woodard, from neighboring Marlton, N.J., took the championship section of the shot put with a throw of 55-11 in the third round. Meia Gordon threw 50-9.25 to finish seventh.
“I thought it was really cool seeing Jess win a Championship of America event. She is a local product, so it is especially meaningful for her.”
Kelsey McKee, Medinah Spencer, Hayley Redwine and Belle Wallace ran 11:32.84 to win the women's college section of the DMR. McKee handed off to Spencer with the Sooners in the lead, and it was a lead OU wouldn't relinquish.
The 4x100 women's relay team of Bianca Brazil, Ama Pipi, Amanda Van Buren and Leya Buchanan raced around Franklin Field in 45.03 to finish fifth overall. That time advanced them to Friday's Championship of America final at noon CT.
Pipi, Mukes, Daunicia Demerson and Payton Baker took to the track later, clocking 3:34.58 in the 4x400-meter relay. They finished second overall to advance to the Championship of the America finals Saturday afternoon. Their time is seventh all-time in OU history.
Spencer started off the success on the track by posting a personal-best 59.62 to finish 10th in the 400 hurdles. That time is tied for sixth in school history. Mia Mukes ran 1:01.82.
The success on the track carried through to the very last events of the day, with several personal bests being set.
As the sun started to fade, the final events on the track completed the day. First up was the 3,000-meter steeplechase with Liam Meirow, Sarah Scott and Emma Dahl. Meirow recorded a 9:07.93 to finish 13th overall and 10th among college runners. Dahl and Scott followed with nearly identical times in their separate heats. Dahl ran a personal-best time of 10:31.36, which was 15thoverall and 14th among college runners. Her time moved her up to second on the all-time list, behind Scott. Scott ran 10:31.70 to finish directly behind Dahl in the standings.
In the women's 5000-meters, Brittany Tretbar ran a personal-best 16:39.78, placing her seventh in school history in the event. She finished 10th overall, and eighth among college runners. Isabella Rose also ran a personal best with her time of 16:51.48 to take 15th overall and 11th among college competitors. Rose moved into the top 10 with her time with the 10th-best time in program history. Elena Arriaza completed the OU entries in the event with 17:18.83. Eric Alldritt put an exclamation point on the night with his own personal best in the 5000 meters with his time of 14:31.69.
After Woodard's start, the success continued in the field events. Ashley Bryant followed up her win in the hammer throw last weekend at the John Jacobs Invitational with a season-best mark of 202-7 and a third-place finish in the championship section.
In the championship pole vault, Meagan Gray finished as the runner-up, clearing a height of 13-5.25.
Baileh Simms recorded a 19-3.50 to place seventh in the championship long jump.
Opening the day was the women's college discus where Jenny Carmichael finished eighth after recording a 157-1. Sierra Sheen's best mark was 137-5.
Ending the night in the field events was Gabby Kearney in the javelin. Kearney threw 154-2 for a third-place finish.
The Sooners will look to keep the momentum going with tomorrow's 17 events, starting with the men's 400-meter hurdles at 8 a.m. CT.
“We set a tone today and tomorrow is another big day. We need to keep our focus and keep up the competitive efforts," VanHootegem added.
NBC Sports has extended the coverage for tomorrow by 30 minutes, and will have live coverage from 4:30-6 p.m.. Live results will be available through http://pennrelaysonline.com. A recap will be posted at the end of the day, with updates throughout the day on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (OU_Track).