Sprinting forward: Penn Relays resume after two year hiatus

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By Amanda Markind, Staff Reporter The atmosphere is electric.  Thousands of runners in a sea of color fill Franklin Field in West Philadelphia. Over 10,000 fans scream in the stands. The noise is deafening. This is the Penn Relays. In number of participants, it is the largest track meet in the United States. The Relays...

By Amanda Markind, Staff Reporter

The atmosphere is electric. 

Thousands of runners in a sea of color fill Franklin Field in West Philadelphia. Over 10,000 fans scream in the stands. The noise is deafening.

This is the Penn Relays. In number of participants, it is the largest track meet in the United States. The Relays have been run since 1895.  Conestoga has competed since 2007. This year it is resuming after a two year hiatus due to Covid-19.

Conestoga competed in the girls 4×400 relay on April 28th and the boys 4×400 relay on April 30th. Neither team distinguished itself.  Each of the girls and boys teams finished in last place in their respective heats.

This disappointing finish by Conestoga could be attributed to the large amount of pressure that comes with running in this massive meet.  “As a team it (the added pressure) affected us poorly,” said sophomore Ben Wolf. “We cracked under the pressure.”

Although the meet itself may have produced devastating finishes this year, the Penn Relays’ pressure helps prepare Conestoga athletes for competition at a higher level. It shows them some of the pressures they will face should they choose to run in college, of which many Conestoga athletes dream.

As the Penn Relays also showcase many top collegiate and professional athletes, including many current and future olympians, it draws big crowds. This is a big contributor to the pressure runners must face. However, it is also a big part of the unique experience of running in the Penn Relays.  This first time running in front of a large crowd creates an unforgettable experience. 

“(Running alongside collegiate athletes) made me think about how I could take track into the future of my life and potentially go to school for that” said Wolf. “(The Penn Relays) was a once in a lifetime experience and I was just really lucky to be there…” said sophomore Tory Gauthier. “Overall I loved it. I want to go back and hopefully we will do better than this year.”

Compared to a normal high school track meet, The Penn Relays is an event.  A typical track meet for Conestoga would be at a high school. The Penn Relays is at Franklin Field, a football stadium that seats 50,000 people. The spectators at a high school meet usually consist of just friends and family.  The Penn Relays, which runs for three days, will draw over 100,000 people to the event. 

The high school meet consists of runners from the local area.  The Penn Relays draws schools from all over the United States, as well as from foreign countries.  In fact, the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica, which has dominated the sprint races in the recent Olympic Games, uses the Penn Relays as a showcase for its best young athletes.  The meet is so important that this year the Prime Minister of the country showed up to watch.  

“(The Penn Relays) was such a big meet. I’ve never been to something like this. There’s always something going on and you always had to be somewhere. It was just so fast-paced and chaotic,” explained Gauthier.


Amanda Markind can be reached at [email protected]

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