Steeplechase winner sets mark at Penn Relays

RUNNING a semi-long distance is challenging enough.

So, what draws someone into an event that adds ingredients such as four barriers and a water jump?

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West Catholic's Michelle Davis anchors the win in thePhiladelphia Catholic League 4x400 race with a time of 3:54.98yesterday at Franklin Field. Her teammates were Chante Moore, Mariame Conde and Brittany Robinson.

"You've gotta be a little masochistic," Anthony Famiglietti said, smiling.

He added: "The feeling you get in the steeplechase, when you're running that last lap [of seven-plus] and everybody's going all out, there's nothing to match it in track.

"You just can't run. You have to be wide-eyed. You have the hurdles and then that water jump. You have to be ready. If not, it can change everything."

Famiglietti, a 29-year-old University of Tennessee product originally from Long Island, N.Y., knows of what he speaks. You see, the steeplechase broke his spirit, but not beyond repair.

Famiglietti last night provided the distance-events highlight at the Penn Relays by claiming the Olympic Development portion of the steeplechase in a meet-record 8 minutes, 24.34 seconds.

Right after the race, he trotted through about three-fifths of a victory lap and exchanged hand slaps with maybe 30 people hanging over the railing that fronts Franklin Field's south stands. He then hopped into those stands, saying he needed something to drink and would be back shortly.

He noted upon his return how excited he would be to receive another Penn Relays gold watch, matching the one he received in 2004 for running a time (8:25.02) that also had represented a meet record.

"I liked it then and did have an appreciation for what it meant," he said. "But now I'm older and I realize how special it really is."

Soon, a meet official walked over with the cherished timepiece.

"That's what I'm talking about!" Famiglietti said, gushing. "I love this thing!"

Famiglietti triumphed in quite the breeze; the time for runner-up Nicodemus Naimadu was 8:42.20. This was Famiglietti's third steeplechase in as many weeks - from Knoxville, Tenn., to Walnut, Calif., to West Philly - and it's all part of a master plan.

He's no longer afraid. Not even hesitant. After suffering an injury during the 2002 USA Outdoor Championships, he kept running steeplechases, but knew deep down something was wrong.

Not wrong enough to keep him from qualifying for the 2004 Athens Olympics, but nevertheless impactful enough to gradually turn him away from his longtime favorite endeavor after he placed a disappointing eighth in the opening round of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Talking about his '02 mishap, he said: "There was an angle to the final water jump. I caught my spike and twisted my ankle. I didn't know what happened. I finished as fast as I could and won the race. I couldn't walk the next day."

Now, the 5-9, 130-pound Famiglietti is running tall.

"This was a nice time, but I can do much better," he said. "My [personal record] is 8:17. I regained my confidence doing well in other events [8 kilometers, 10,000 meters, mile], and I just reached that point where it was, 'Back to the steeplechase.' "

Just then, a woman approached from the west end of the infield.

"Here comes my wife, Karen," Famiglietti said. The two exchanged hugs and a kiss, and Anthony said, "We've been married since October. We were in New York and she's a fashion designer. It was a big sacrifice for her to go with me to Knoxville. How can you not do well when you have support like that?!" *