This year, Penn Relays will be free for students with a PennCard. The past two years, the third day of the competition cost $12.50 to students. The Penn Relays, the world’s oldest and largest track meet, will take place from April 26-28 on Franklin Field.

Credit: Laura Francis / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Did you know you could have paid $12.50 to watch the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt?

For less than the price of two Chipotle burritos or a pizza at Allegros, you could have seen what many fans call the most exciting ten seconds in sports.

For $12.50 you could have watched the third-fastest man in the world, Asafa Powell, or eight-time World Championship gold medalist Allyson Felix.

Imagine seeing one of the largest gathering of Jamaicans in the United States or the world’s oldest relay meet.

And now you can see it all for free.

On Monday, the Penn Relays sent an email out to students stating that Penn students could reserve free tickets for the Saturday of Penn Relays simply by using their PennCard.

And the Penn Relays got it right. Because for the most part, Penn students don’t want to go to a track meet.

“I’ve never been particularly aware of a great Penn undergraduate attendance as long as I’ve been around, which goes back to 1968,” Penn Relays Director Dave Johnson told me after a Relays press conference Wednesday.

“I don’t think that’s anything you could have avoided, given the age of the event. You figure somebody’s a spectator for 40, 50 years, but only an undergraduate for four years.”

He was brutally honest, but quite correct. Track is a participant sport, not a spectator sport, he said.

Perhaps you used to run high-school track. There is a good chance that your high school is one of the 1,047 high schools registered to compete at this year’s edition. That doesn’t necessarily mean you want to watch.

Especially in the midst of reading days and the usually-gorgeous late-April weather, it’s doubtful that more than a few dozen students will make the trek to Franklin Field.

And that’s a shame. Luckily, the organizing committee understands that.

That’s why the meet did a service to the campus and members of the Penn community by not charging for tickets. By making tickets free, the Penn Relays are doing everything in their power to draw as many fans as possible.

It’s okay, though. Franklin Field isn’t in danger of filling up to a robust attendance of 52,593, just like the men’s basketball team isn’t in danger of selling out an early December game against Delaware at the Palestra. It’s just about getting new fans to support a great sporting event at a historic stadium.

Drawing anyone and everyone with incentive of free entertainment is very savvy. It just takes one afternoon for somebody to catch Penn Relays fever.

“Bro when do Penn relay tickets come on sale?” read a text a Spanish friend sent to me yesterday. I’m pretty sure he had never seen a track race other than the Olympics before last year’s Relays. But after I told him tickets were free, he was ecstatic.

“Wicked! Ye man lets go again this year fr sure. Will usain come?”

Nah, he probably won’t. But that won’t mean the Relays won’t be any less exciting.

And hell yeah, let’s go.

SUSHAAN MODI is a sophomore international studies and business major from Demarest, N.J., and is Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at Modi@theDP.com.

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