This year’s Penn Relays (April 26-28) - the largest track and field meet in the United States - served as a major warm-up for some of the world’s top runners ahead of the London Summer Olympics.
World's oldest relay carnival
This was the 118th edition of the Penn Relays, the oldest relay carnival in the world. Traditionally for the world’s elite athletes, it’s the first major meet of the outdoor track and field season.
And for runners like World 100 meters champion Carmelita Jeter of the United States, it’s a special experience, especially with such passionate fans. “I love being in that corner and hearing the people that have had seats there for the past two and three years, and they’re like, ‘Carmelita!!!’ They’re screaming my name," she said. "And I remember them from seeing them from years before.”
This year’s Penn Relays featured 21 countries, the largest international field ever.
Featuring athletes at various levels
Every year this event draws huge crowds for each of the three days of exciting action, featuring high school, college and professional athletes.
Doug Hatler came this year to not only watch his high school son compete, but also the elite runners. “If you like track and field - and I love track and field - you get to see a little bit of everybody," he said. "You get to see the best women in the world. You get to see the best men in the world. You get to experience just the buzz in the crowd.”
Many of the professional athletes said this was a good early season test before the London Olympics in July. The featured events were the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400-meter relays.
American Angelo Taylor, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, said it was a good opportunity to gauge fitness and technique. "You know as an elite athlete you have to pace yourself and prepare yourself to peak at the right time, so by the time the Olympic Games come, you know everybody will be on top of their game [in their best shape]," he stated.
Team USA already appears on top of the game, a good sign ahead of London. For the first time ever at the Penn Relays, the Americans swept the races against the international competition. After the final race, the stadium’s public address announcer took delight, describing it this way:
Allyson Felix, a 2008 Olympics relay gold medalist, was on both the 4x100 and 4x400 winning teams, and both broke the Penn Relays records. "I felt good on both relays," she said. "It’s hard to say which one was better, but it was great that we were able to set records in both.”
Now the goal for the Americans will be to stay injury free and peak for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field qualifying trials in late June in the northwest state of Oregon.