Danielle Tauro never got to run at the Penn Relays Carnival this year.

The former Southern Regional High School standout did show, however, why she is one of the captains of the University of Michigan women's track and field team.

Tauro, a junior, was to anchor the Wolverines' team in Thursday's college women's distance medley at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.

But Michigan's race was over less than 30 seconds after the starting gun sounded.

The Wolverines' leadoff runner, Jenny Morgan, got tangled in the pack on the first turn and was knocked to the ground.

She was not injured seriously, but she was shaken up and couldn't recover in time for the restart.

The starting gun sounded again moments later. This time, without the Wolverines.

"When a moment like that happens, it's so heartbreaking," Tauro said Friday in a telephone interview from Michigan. "It's so unfortunate. Words can't even describe the feeling."

Tauro was visibly upset but she acted as Michigan's leader.

"I was a little emotional after it," Tauro said. "But I felt it was my responsibility to bring everyone together."

Tauro then gathered the other two Michigan runners - sophomore Brittani Williams and freshman Rebecca Addison - together.

"The freshman, Becca, had no idea what was going on," Tauro said.

"She was all pumped and ready to go. I had to go up and make sure she was aware of what was happening.

"We had to make sure we were moving forward from this. We had our moment of tears and then we had to gather ourselves, do a really hard workout and get our legs back under us for the rest of the season."

Few New Jersey high school track and field athletes can match Tauro's scholastic career. The Stafford Township resident won the 1,600-meter run at the Meet of Champions all four years (2004-07) at Southern. Tauro represented the U.S. at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing, China.

Her role as captain shows how far she has come at Michigan.

When she first arrived in Ann Arbor, she was one of the youngsest runners on a veteran team.

Now, she's one of the oldest on a team filled with promising sophomores and freshmen.

"The dynamics of our team have changed so much," said Tauro, who lives in Manahawkin. "We graduated a lot of people who were really intense."

One of Michigan's freshmen is Jill Smith, a 2009 Southern graduate. Smith's college career is off to a promising start.

She won the 800 run at the Big 10 indoor championships in February was named the conference's indoor freshman of the year.

Smith and Tauro are former high school teammates and best friends. Smith ran the opening 1,200 leg and Tauro the 1,600 anchor leg when Southern won the high school girls Championship of America race at the 2007 Penn Relays. No other local high school team has won a Championship of America race.

Smith, however, is not running this spring. She is redshirting with a knee injury and did not come to the Penn Relays.

"It's tough not having Jill right now," Tauro said. "I don't treat her like any ordinary freshman. I treat her like a sister. She's like an upperclassman. We've had a lot of experience. We know how important different things in training are. She is someone I could talk to and confide in and get really good feedback from her."

Tauro is in the midst of a solid outdoor season. She won the 800 and mile runs at the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner Kersee Invitational in Westwood, Calif., on April 9-10.

"I feel like I haven't had the opportunity to run fast yet (this spring)," she said. "(Penn) was going to be a good opportunity."

Tauro is a two-time All-American for having been part of the Wolverines' distance medley teams as a freshman and sophomore.

Tauro believes that if she keeps getting better, Smith gets healthy and the rest of the Michigan freshmen mature that the best of her college career is still to come.

Tauro ran the opening leg on Michigan's distance medley team that won the college women's Championship of America race in 2008. Their time of 10:49.58 was the second fastest in Penn Relays history.

A similar performance at Franklin Field in 2011 would help Tauro forget about what happened Thursday.

Notes: Phoebe Wright and Jackie Areson led Tennessee to its second straight Penn Relays women's distance medley victory and third in four years.

The Volunteers finished in 10 minutes, 54.65 seconds - the ninth-fastest time in event history.

"The last 200 meters was really painful," Areson said. "Before that, it felt really easy, and I was surprised. I was like, 'When is it going to get hard?' I've never won a huge thing like Penn Relays. I had to remember to just run it in for us."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Contact Michael McGarry:

609-272-7185