Two relays ran on two beautiful days 34 years apart: what makes the story of Penn’s 4x800-meter relay record most interesting is that the relays both finished with the same time — well, sort of.
During last year’s IC4A championships, then-junior Darryll Oliver took the last handoff aiming to rewrite the school record, which stood at a hand-timed 7:24.4. However he wasn’t quite able to do it, finishing with a 7:24.64.
“For me it was an exhilarating experience because I knew we were close to the record when I got the baton,” Oliver, the 800-meter specialist, said. “I thought I had run fast enough to break the record, but we weren’t sure. I didn’t find out until that evening … that we tied the record.”
However since the adoption of automatic timing, the universal conversion of records from hand-time to automatic time is .24 seconds slower meaning that Oliver, Matt Chylak, Brian Fulton and Kevin Kiley’s fully automatic time of 7:24.64 equaled the record from 1976. But this group has another shot.
The team they will be chasing at this year’s Relays is a 1976 squad composed of John Stockel, William Huntley, Bruce Fiori and Kenneth Ashworth. The crew etched their names into Penn Track history when it went toe-to-toe with Michigan, Princeton and Villanova.
“We were racing some great teams, and we proved we belonged,” said Huntley, who later that day would go on to set the school’s 4x1500 relay record.
The team kept within striking distance throughout the entire race to finish fourth in the Championship of America.
“We just worked really well together and trained real hard. That relay team, we never thought it was anything that special, but all four of us had really good days,” said Stockel, the youngest member of the team.
But if the 2011 edition of the 4x800 relay hopes to challenge the record they share with the 1976 team, they will need to find at least one replacement.
The current team will have a healthy array of choices when it comes to replacing the recently graduated Kiley.
Freshman Robby Harwood and junior distance runner James Finucane are two of the possible options, with the latter having run a 3:47.49 in the 1500 meters this year.
But now is the time for the relay. With the large crowds and the big-meet atmosphere, Penn Relays is the perfect place for this team to become the first Penn men’s relay of any kind to set a school record since 1996.
“It was even more special running at Relays than Nationals because you had a much larger crowd … and these guys know what they’re doing,” Stockel said of his five times running at the Relays during high school and college.
“You get to see 40,000 people in the crowd going nuts you get such an adrenaline rush,” Fulton said. “And all the Jamaicans giving you ‘whoops’ as you finish.”
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