PHILADELPHIA -- The buzz before the start of the women's 10,000 meters at the Penn Relays last night surrounded Joan Samuelson, but Villanova sophomore Carole Zajac gave the crowd a new heroine with a collegiate record of 32 minutes, 22.96 seconds.
Zajac is a native of Pittsburgh and won the high school 3,000 here two years ago. The latest in a line of Villanova stars that included Vicki Huber and Sonia O'Sullivan, Zajac is now very much a prospect for the U.S. Olympic team.
Samuelson, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist in the marathon, is trying for the Olympic trials in the 10,000 after missing the marathon trials in January with the flu. The 34-year-old will have to try again after running fourth overall in 33:21.16 last night, just one second off the qualifying mark.
"They might not be at peak level," Zajac said of Samuelson and other veterans in the race, "but it's real intimidating standing on the line with them."
Villanova had a rougher time in the featured event of the afternoon before 15,564 at Franklin Field, as the Wildcats' bid to claim their 100th Penn Relays title and a sixth straight in the women's distance medley was turned back by Big East rival Providence. Geraldine Hendricken, one of three Friars from Ireland, made up 15 meters on Villanova's Nnenna Lynch and passed her with 150 meters remaining.
Hendricken's split for the 1,500 meters was 4:36.3, as Providence finished in 11:00.79. Georgetown's Mary German also passed Lynch on the final straight, as Villanova slipped to 11:07.38.
The men's 3,000 steeplechase, won by Wisconsin's Donovan Bergstrom in 8:33.73, was a heartache for Navy junior Greg Keller. In second place with 500 meters to go, Keller stumbled at a water jump, went down, and still finished in 8:45.96, less than three seconds off the NCAA qualifying standard.
Similarly let down were the UMES women, who were angling for a spot in the championship 4x400 relay. Their seasonal best of 3:42.22 was third in their section behind UNLV and Seton Hall, and the Hawks settled for a spot in tomorrow's consolation final. Morgan State's 3:40.35, another third-place time, got the Bears in the consolation final for ECAC schools.
State women went 1-2 in their flight of the javelin, as UMES freshman Lisa Casimir threw 158 feet, 8 inches and Johns Hopkins' Sylke Knuppel reached 157- 11, both on their final throws. They would have placed third and fourth, respectively, in the championship flight. Casimir is a freshman from Dominica in the Caribbean, while Knuppel is a junior basketball player out of Glenelg High who first picked up the implement in March, 1991.
Fordham's Lauren Gubicza, whose cousin Mark pitches for the Kansas City Royals, beat defending champion Laurie Henes of North Carolina State in the college women's 3,000. Her time was 9:12.18.