April 20, 2010

Track Teams Face Tough Opponents at Penn Relays

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After weeks of low-key meets against average competitors, the Red will travel to Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pa. to compete from Wednesday to Saturday in the 116th edition of the legendary Penn Relays.

The Penn Relays is the oldest and largest track and field event in the nation, featuring professional runners, high school teams and collegiate athletes from all over the world. This year, the crowds will be in for a special treat, as Jamaican superstar sprinter Usain Bolt will compete in the men’s 4X100 relay as part of the United States vs. The World event on Saturday.

As a teenager, Bolt ran in the Penn Relays four years in a row, but this year’s participation will seek to draw an even larger crowd than normal. The Relays usually draw more fans than perhaps any other track and field event besides the Olympics and World Championships. According to their website, the average three-day attendance figures for The Relays have been more than 104,000 each year since 1996.

Despite competing in front of the huge crowds, the Red hopes to keep its composure. Despite their high profile, the Relays will still serve as preparation for the championship meets later on in the season. The increased level of competition will help the Red in its tune up for future races.

“You’re going to get some very good competition, which makes it exciting and different,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. “You want that level of competition as you get closer and closer to the championship and the culminating part of your season because you’re trying to get ready for the end of the season.”

The Relays will feature many races that athletes normally wouldn’t compete in, such as a sprint relay medley as well as shuttle hurdles. The sprint medley relay consists of four legs run at distances of 400, 200, and 800 meters. The shuttle hurdles, on the other hand, consist of four hurdlers that run in the opposite direction from the preceding runner. The men will run 110 meters each, while the women will run 100 meters each. Despite this change, Cornell will not change the way it prepares for meets.

“It’s a crazy kind of atmosphere, but I think for the most part the kids don’t have to do anything differently than they usually do,” said men’s assistant coach Robert Johnson. “As long as they focus on running their own leg the best they can, they’re going to do well. They’re going to have fun when there’s 40-50 thousand people cheering as opposed to 40 or 50.”

As the last major meet before the Heptagonal Championships, many runners will have something to prove. Some athletes are trying to qualify for Regionals or Nationals, while others are attempting to secure their place on the Big Red roster for Heps.

Despite all this added pressure, the athletes hope to stay calm and focus on running.

“It’s like the old Hoosiers thing,” Duesing said. “Just because you’re in this big arena now, the basket is still ten feet high; 400 meters is still 400 meters.”

Original Author: Jimmy Xi