April 28, 2011
The Penn Relays are taking place now through Saturday at Franklin Field. Officially the Penn Relay Carnival, the Relays are the longest running uninterrupted collegiate meet in the United States. The first meet was held in 1895 (a year before the first modern Olympics) and is considered the birthplace of the modern relay. The event has long drawn the top high school, collegiate and Olympic level athletes from around the country and beyond.
Among the famous athletes who have run at the event are Jesse Owens, Roger Bannister, Wilma Rudolph, Bob Beamon, Edwin Moses, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Marion Jones and just last year, Usain Bolt.
The Relays were racially integrated from day one and the Carnival took on a special significance to African Americans and was sometimes referred to as the “Negro Olympics.” Women made their debut much later, with the first female participants competing in 1962.
Surprisingly just one world record has been set at the Penn Relays, the US women set the record for 4X200 relay in 2000 with a time of 1:27.46.
This year will see more than 22,000 participants competing and with good weather predicted for Friday and Saturday the festival’s 2006 attendance record of 113,000 is in jeopardy.
Usain Bolt running for the Jamaican 4X100 relay team at the 2010 Penn Relays.