They were cold.

They were cold, literally.

"Actually, freezing," Georgetown's Sabrina Southerland said of the conditions on the first full day of competition at the 122th Penn Relays.

They were cold in another way, as well - clinical, focused, undeterred by the elements or the stage, by the recent history or the competition.

"Basically, we knew we just had to go out and do our jobs," Georgetown's Katrina Coogan said after anchoring her team to an imposing victory in the distance medley relay Championship of America race late Thursday afternoon on the refurbished track at Franklin Field.

This was a race devoid of drama but loaded with significance for the Hoyas.

Running in a chilly mist, Southerland broke away from the field with a split of 2 minutes, 5.22 seconds in the 800-meter leg, giving Coogan a lead of close to 40 meters when the fifth-year senior took the baton for the final 1,600-meter leg.

Coogan never was threatened, running her split in 4:44:07 to bring the Hoyas home in 11:12:73 - a comfortable margin of victory of more than five seconds over second-place Oklahoma State.

The seeming ease of the victory, the relatively slow time, the sparse crowd and the Hoyas' steely-eyed approach in difficult conditions couldn't mask a greater truth: This triumph struck a deep chord.

For the Hoyas, this felt a little like a dramatic win in record-setting time before a roaring crowd on a pristine day.

Or, at least, they said it did between shivers in the interview room a good 20 minutes after the finish.

"It was awesome," Coogan said.

Georgetown coach Michael Smith spoke at length about the significance of winning a Championship of America race, of capturing another "Wheel" - the large round trophy - to display in the lobby of McDonough Gymnasium on the Georgetown campus.

"This win means a lot to a lot of people who watched from afar," Smith said. "People who either ran for Georgetown here at Penn or had kids who ran here and know what this event means to us."

Villanova had owned this race in recent years, winning four in a row. But without star Angel Piccirillo, who is red-shirting this spring to recuperate from a foot injury, the Wildcats weren't able to mount a sustained charge for the victory.

Oklahoma State seemed a legitimate threat to win the Cowboys' first Championship of America race since 1954, especially with NCAA indoor mile champion Kaela Edwards on the anchor.

But all other contenders fell away as the Hoyas methodically circled the track. Coogan was correct when she noted, "It was kind of like our race. We were in control."

It was a special win for all the Hoyas, for Smith and his younger runners, and for followers of the proud program that sometimes has operated in Villanova's lengthy shadow in this meet.

For Coogan and fellow fifth-year senior Andrea Keklak, it carried extra meaning. They had been here before and had fallen short, beaten to the tape by Villanova in this race or another top team in other events.

"Every year I felt like we came here, and I thought we were capable, but we were never able to hold up the wheel," Coogan said. "To be able to do it now, in my last year, it's really special."

Coogan said her key was "staying calm" while running with such a sizable lead on the anchor leg.

In other words, she had to play it cool.

@PhilAnastasia