The Penn Relays have been a rite of spring since 1894. Each year the Relays draw over 20,000 athletes from high school, college, and the Olympic level, and over 100,000 total fans for the three-day event. For the Red, who toil in near obscurity thanks to an ambitious travel schedule, it is a chance for the team to receive national recognition.
“The Lynah Faithful are about 4,000 strong. If the basketball team goes up to Syracuse and they sell out the dome that’s about 25,000 people, at Penn Relays on Saturday there are between 45,000 and 50,000 people,” women’s head coach Lou Duesing said. “The chance to do your thing in front of a crowd that size is pretty remarkable. Pretty much every year Bill Cosby is there and he’s out on the track and talking with people. Its described as the Penn Relay Carnival and it is. The smells of different food and people coming around woo corner — the turning point of many relays where the fans notice changes by going ‘woo’. Teams have their certain areas — Villanova always sits in a certain spot. There is a lot of tradition. You’re against many of the nations best and it’s a real event.”
The Penn Relays begin today and run through Saturday, and are held in Philadelphia at Franklin Field. Although the Relays include a wide range of athletes, the Red will at first be matched against other Ivy League foes such as Brown, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia in the Heptagonal / Ivy League division. If the Red is successful in an event, it can qualify and move on to compete against the best from the Eastern College Athletic Conference division. Last year the women’s 4×400 relay team, after winning the Heps division, won the ECAC title and were rewarded with plaques.
The women come into the meet on a high note, as the Red had nine ECAC Championship, two NCAA Regional qualifiers, and a slew of personal bests last weekend at the Leopard Invitational. Sophomore Emily McCabe won the 3000-meter run in a personal best 9:54.20 and qualified for the ECACs. In the steeplechase, junior Alyssa Simon once again qualified for the NCAA regional completing the course in 10:56.50. Juniors Kate Boyles and Alison Koplar finished first and second, respectively, in the 1500-meter, setting personal records and qualifying for the ECACs. Boyles completed the race in 4:32.50, while Koplar finished in 4:32.80. In the 4×100 relay, junior Kari Steed, freshman Cameron Washington, senior Hannah Garrity, and junior Shonda Brown ran a seasonal best and ECAC qualifier time of 46.85.
The Penn Relays will allow the Red to continue the progress it has been making all season.
“For the most part people have been improving all season long and you would like to see that continue,” Duesing said. “In a lot of field events, that’s a really hard environment to do well. Typically it has not been a great place for us. It’s just so many people, so you don’t get proper warm-ups. That’s compounded in the track events. You’re standing in the paddock when ordinarily you would be able to continue your warm-up. There are lots of things that are different. What I want to see is that people continue to be competitive.”
The women are also sending several middle distance runners to the Drake Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa.
At Lafayette last weekend, the men had four Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America qualifiers. Senior Rahim Wooley qualified for the IC4As in the 200-meter dash winning the event in a time of 21.31. Later in the 100-meter dash, Wooley set a seasonal best of 10.71. Classmate Mike Nanaszko ran a personal record of 48.32 in the 400-meter dash. The 4×400 team of sophomore Greg Simonds, sophomore Gordon Hall, senior co-captain Aldo Gonzalez, and freshman Kolby Hoover ran an IC4A qualifying time of 3:16.13. In the field, freshman David Pell and sophomore Pat McDonough finished tied for first in the high jump at 6-8 7/8, surpassing the IC4A standard. Although not an important meet in the context of the season, the Relays provide an opportunity to scout the competition and prepare for Heps.
“It’s a chance to do well next to some of the best guys in the country,” said senior co-captain Jason Hart. “I think a lot of the guys are going to be watching what the other people in the Heps are doing. In addition to trying to do well against the entire NCAA field, you’re also going to see how guys are stacking up against other Heps opponents.”
Many of the members of the track team are looking forward to the aura at the Relays.
“It is an exciting meet to be at,” Hart said. “Definitely one of my biggest memories from being a member of the track team. The atmosphere is unmatched; on the last day there are a lot of the greatest track athletes from around the country and 40,000 people at Franklin Field. If you love track it doesn’t get much better, but it doesn’t match the Heps in terms of competing for a season long goal.”
Archived article by James Rich
Sun Staff Writer