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April 25, 2008

Philadelphia, PA – There are just two known-families to win Championship of America titles at Penn Relays and the Gamecock track and field team has the third generation of one of those families, sophomore Brandi Cross. They will be honored tomorrow at Penn Relays.

Brandi Cross came to Penn Relays eight years ago as a 12 year old and knew already she wanted to run at Penn Relays. It was cold that day, she survived on beef patties; and her two parents, two grandparents and sister all stayed in one hotel room, but she knew she had to run in college at Penn Relays so she could win a watch.

She knew years before that day eight years ago because she had heard both her father, Tyrone Cross, and her grandfather, Douglas K. Cross, trade barbs with each other about their Championship of America Penn Relays watches. When Brandi’s Gamecock 4×400 relay won the Championship of America title last season, she knew she had arrived.

The History The grandfather – Douglas K. Cross The grandfather, Douglas K. Cross, ran the anchor leg for the 4×100 relay Championship of America winners in 1961 for McKinnley High School in Washington, D.C. They ran a 43.4. He ran for Johnson C. Smith in college and he was on a track scholarship.

“It’s awesome. It’s been over 50 years of running – it’s three generations,” said Granddaddy Cross. “I still have the watch from 1961 and the plaque at my house. I use to tell Brandi she wasn’t gonna make it in track and field until she got that Penn Relays watch and when she got it, she talked a lot of junk about it.”

(did she always want to run track?): “She didn’t really have a choice. We are quarter-mile family. Her momma was (Monique), her daddy, her grandmother (Mary) and if she has some children they better run the quarter and win a watch, too.

“I told her ‘you just gotta get it. You won’t have any fun it you don’t win’. She came last year and got it the first time. That’s a big deal. Winning is always fun.”

The father – Tyrone Hamilton Cross The father, Tyrone Hamilton Cross, ran for the Fairmont Heights Senior Heights High School (Chapel Oak, Md.) and ran a leg of the 4x800m relay Championship of America title winner. “We had the best 4×4, too, but didn’t run the 4×4 because it was too close, so we just ran the 4×8.” He later ran in college for Texas Southern University in Houston.

“This meet was the ultimate thing for us in high school,” said Brandi’s father (Tyrone). “All we talked about was Penn, Penn, Penn. We didn’t think then we didn’t needed to go to the Olympics or the NCAAs – we really felt we just won the largest meet in the world when we won the 4×8. I know people go to Drake and Texas Relays, but this is the big meet for us on the East Coast.

“I still have my watch,” said Father Cross. “The only reason Brandi started running was to compete with me because she saw all my medals and awards. When she was little I would run with her and correct her form. As she got older, she would be running faster and faster and I would tell her ‘good job – go ahead’. She got better and better so I would shorten the distances even more so I could still run with her and win. I am a former law enforcement and I ran in the Police Olympics (Edmonton, Canada) and ran 53.00 in the open 400m for master’s and she ran 53 in the seventh grade in the same year and I knew it was time to quit racing her.

“She has always been very competitive. When she broke her first national record (AAU, 55.11, still national record for AAU Junior Olympics) – I told her that was 40 years behind her in track and field. She jumped on me and I said ‘thank your grandma, grand- daddy, mom, aunts and uncles because everyone in our family runs’. My grandmother would talk to her about her backstretch; I would say this and that and granddaddy would say ‘lean at the tape!’ She can’t remember what she did when she does it, but she puts together all these good elements that help her run a good quarter.”

“She didn’t run at Penn Relays in high school because it’s the same weekend as the Texas regionals. She wouldn’t have gone to South Carolina if they didn’t run Penn Relays. It was a real concern for her and Coach Frye said ‘why sure we do’. We had a common bond already with Penn Relays.”

The granddaughter – Brandi Cross Brandi Cross won her first Championship of America relay title last year with South Carolina’s 4x400m relay.

“After we won last year, I ran off the track and showed my family my watch. I then talked a little smack. I said ‘It’s not old school or old old school – but new school and mine looks better!’ It was really on my mind before I ran. I wanted a watch bad. Right before my race my granddaddy said ‘I got mine, your daddy got his. Go for it!’ I caught the girl from Texas A and M and gave the baton to (anchor) Natasha Hastings. I was really happy for my Daddy because he kept saying ‘go get it’. It meant so much to me to win a title.”

“She wanted to run so bad here when she was 12 and they only let little local kids run,” said Tyrone Cross. “When we got back to Texas she had changed. She wanted to run even more. She had never seen the pros run before and seeing it in person was great. It was more educational for her.”

“When I went home last semester I saw the South Carolina 4×2 from 2000 that we had on tape. I didn’t know them at the time, but I know them now,” said Brandi. “Now, I want another watch!”

Cross will have her chance twice tomorrow as South Carolina will run in two finals: the 4x200m relay Championship of America and the 4x400m relay Championship of America.