A Personal Perspective of the Penn Relays

By Gary Fanelli

PHILADELPHIA, PA—The 125th Running of the Penn Relays took place April 24, 25, 26, and 27 at Franklin Field, University of Pennsylvania, and it did not disappoint.

Thousands of runners ran, jumped, threw, before an audience of over 44,000 cheering wildly for every race and event.

A few of  my highlights were meeting many people and seeing old friends, coaches, and officials. Old competitors I raced against  from so many different teams and events etc. and sharing the Penn Relays fun.  A real “homecoming” for me, as I started racing here as a schoolboy in 1961. 

One highlight was on Thursday, in the Girls High School 3000m Championship, My longtime friend, Kirby Smith, alerted me he would be coming out to watch Gwyneth Young, from Cedar Crest run the 3000m.  Gwyneth than ran a strong, competitive race,  closing with a strong kick and finished 5th place in a top USA Field. Her time (9:39), was just a few seconds off the winning time of 9:34 by Brooke Bauber.

I met a photographer out on the field Thursday night named Robert Parker. We talked and he told me he went to the Havre De Grace School For Colored People and ran track for them back in the 1960s. The school is now a Museum, located just outside of Baltimore, MD. 

I enjoyed every day of the Relays.

On Friday something unique happened—a “tornado warning” was declared by the U.S Weather Service and the entire stadium at Franklin  Field had to be cleared. We were allowed to huddle underneath in the corridors. I must say it was overwhelmingly claustrophobic…the Meet resumed in one hour’s time, but causing a real setback. In all my years attending the Penn Relays this had never happened before.

This year I was supposed to run in  a Masters 4×400m Relay for Men 60 +, but from recently having an  “Arthroscopic Cleanup” for my right knee’s torn Meniscus, I felt I was not ready to go. The team is called  The Survivors and the other three team members are all Cancer survivors. They found a substitute to take my place, and off they ran, finishing respectably. 

One of the highlights of the entire Penn Relays came on Thursday afternoon. The University of Pennsylvania Women’s Team had qualified for the Womens  Distance Medley Relay Championships of America. I was sitting in their Team area. They went on to win this really thrilling battle against the top teams in the U.S. Villanova, Indiana, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, etc. The cheering was so loud  for this event. What a thrill for all. This is the first time in the history of the Penn Relays that the Penn Women’s Team won this event.

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