The track teams are gearing up for a busy weekend that starts today at the heralded Penn Relays. It doesn’t get any bigger than this during the track and field outdoor season, as Penn plays host to the nation’s most well-known track and field event.
This year’s meet will be the 111th running of the Penn Relays, which has a reputation for putting the best competition from all across the nation on the same track. Although the field of competition will change, women’s head coach Lou Duesing still holds true to his philosophy that the mindset for any meet, whether it be the Penn Relays or lesser known competitions, never changes.
“It’s kind of like that scene from Hoosiers where the coach brings his team into the visiting gymnasium and starts measuring the court,” Duesing said. “He then says to his team that all the measurements are the same as the gymnasium back home. We have to have the same kind of mentality in Philadelphia. The track is still the same length and the weights all still weigh the same. All you can hope for is your best effort.”
The Relays will mark Cornell’s second meet on the national stage — the first since Tennessee’s Sea-Ray Relays. After an impressive showing there, Cornell hopes for another outing similar to that in Knoxville.
The Red will send a group of outstanding jumpers to the meet including nationally-ranked stars such as sophomore Rayon Taylor, freshman Muhammad Halim, sophomore David Pell, senior Ryan Schmidt, and last year’s 15th overall finisher in the eastern high jump at the Relays, sophomore Sarah Wilfred. Wilfred, the fleet-footed Massachusetts native who is currently ranked 48th in the nation in the high jump, is still humbled after achieving great success during the 2005 outdoor season.
“Regardless of how I do, I’m just honored to be going,” Wilfred said. “There are so many competitors and so many good jumpers. Franklin Field will be packed.”
The Penn Relays will provide the stage where Cornell track should show off its depth, as the relay teams are projected to fare well. The women’s 4×400-meter relay should be a race to watch, as Cornell is ranked 26th and 27th nationally.
Cornell also sends a women’s 4X800-meter relay team that is running very well, having set the fastest time in the nation at the Sea-Ray Relays just two weeks ago. The team of seniors Jessica Brown, Alison Koplar, Carrie Richards, and sophomore All-American Morgan Uceny strive to impress again.
The Red hopes that the Relays will be the place where everything comes together one week before the Heps championship. Back from injury, freshman standout Saidu Ezike returns to the track. In addition, the meet should also be the place where sophomore high jumper Shawna Rossini breaks through and makes a name for herself on the national stage.
Today also marks the start of the senior class’ last national meet before the beginning of the postseason, which is set to begin on May 8. Senior steeplechaser Emory Mort, who will run as a member of the mile relay team this weekend, stands as one member of the class of ’05 who has been to the Penn Relays multiple times and knows that the Penn Relays represent what sport is all about.
“Being a senior, I go into all these meets knowing that I will be there for the last time,” Mort said. “The Penn Relays is really a special event. Being at the stadium and competing against the best runners only brings out the best in you as an athlete.”
Athletes who aren’t competing in Philadelphia will be running on Sunday at the Big Red Invitational, set to take place here at Cornell. The home meet will feature teams from Syracuse, Binghamton, Colgate, and other schools. Although the Penn Relays figures to be a meet where Cornell athletes can excel and gain notoriety on the national level, the focus of the team still remains on another Heps championship.
“As a team we want to do well and get in one last good meet before Heps,” Pell said. “You can’t afford to not jump well. May is what everyone prepares for.”