Penn’s perennial influence on the world of track and field will be doubly recognized in November when both the Penn Relays and former Penn track star, James Edwin “Ted” Meredith, will be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
Last week, Meredith and the Relays were announced as part of the Hall’s 8th Inductee Class. Hall of Fame President Ken Avallon called the induction of Meredith, who won gold medals in both the Men’s 800-meter competition and the Men’s 4x400 Relay at the 1912 Stockholm Summer Olympics, a “no-brainer.”
“Now if you had someone win multiple gold medals in the Olympics, they’d be a superstar,” Avallon said. “They’d be all over Sports Illustrated. Everybody knows Wilbert Montgomery, Moses Malone, and Mark Howe [who are also part of the upcoming inductee class], but it’s really our duty to recognize less-known individuals, and Ted Meredith fits right in there.”
In addition to setting world records in both the 440 and 880-yard runs as a senior at Penn in 1916, Meredith also impacted the format of fellow inductee, the Penn Relays.
“Among the events added in 1915, when the Relays went to two days, were events that took advantage of Penn’s strengths,” Penn Relays Director Dave Johnson said. “We introduced the sprint medley and the distance medley. The nice thing about the sprint medley is it gave you a chance to take two guys running the 220 and another guy running the quarter-mile and throw them in with Meredith and really showcase and take advantage of his talent.”
The Relays will become the first Philadelphia sports institution to be enshrined in the Hall, joining the Palestra, which was inducted as the first and only Philly sports venue into the Hall in 2006. The Relays date back to 1895, and the event’s long history was a factor in its induction.
“We kind of got to the point where we already inducted a venue [the Palestra in 2006] and an organization [the Lighthouse Boys Soccer Club] previously, so going back chronologically, it made the most sense to have our first real special enshrinement as an institution be the Penn Relays since it was the most historic,” Avallon said.
The Relays also joins several current and local inductees such as Wilt Chamberlain, James “Jumbo” Elliott, and Carl Lewis, whose athletic careers included participating at the largest and oldest track and field competition in the country at Franklin Field.
“It’s a major showcase for local athletes to come in and star,” Johnson said. “If you live in New York and you’re into theater arts, you want to make it on Broadway. If you’re a track athlete and you live in the Philadelphia area, you want to make it at Franklin Field in the Penn Relays. If you want the very best competition in most events, Penn’s the place to be.”
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