Penn Relays on Saturday, April 26, 2014

Credit: Sophia Lee

Anyone associated with Penn — at least anyone who doesn’t live in a hole — should know that the 120th running of the prestigious Penn Relays took place at Franklin Field this weekend.

So how do you approach looking back on one of the world’s largest track meets?

Boasting hundreds of different track and field events watched by over 100,000 spectators, the Relays certainly yielded a lot of moments to look back upon.

For Penn’s athletes, the first noteworthy moment came soon after the Relays started.

Freshman Noel Jancewicz got the Red and Blue off to an incredible start, winning the heptathlon over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday with the third-highest score in school history — 5035.

In doing so, the rookie became only the third Penn athlete in history to win the event.

“It was a big start to the Relays for Penn,” coach Steve Dolan said. “And it did give us some momentum going into [Thursday].”

On Thursday, several Quakers rode that momentum into the Penn record books, including senior Kersie Jhabvala and freshman Brendan Shearn in the 10,000-meter race and freshman Cleo Whiting in the 3000m.

Friday was a relatively slow day for Penn’s athletes, but the Quakers certainly went out in style on Saturday.

Sophomore distance-runner Thomas Awad was victorious in the Olympic development mile, posting a time of 3:58.34 and becoming only the second athlete in school history to break the four-minute mile.

Meanwhile, off the track, senior Maalik Reynolds won the high-jump for the second time in his career with an outdoor season best leap of 2.19m. He is the first Penn athlete to win multiple events at the Relays in 107 years.

The stars carried the day for the Red and Blue, as this year marks the first time since 1922 that Penn won three individual event titles at the Relays.

And the Quakers very nearly gained a fourth individual victory, as sophomore Sam Mattis led a much-improved throwing team with a runner-up finish in the discus championships.

The most impressive collegiate performer of the meet very well may have been Edward Cheserek, Oregon’s freshman distance-runner sensation who led both his distance medley relay and 4x1600m teams to victory.

But many of the most electrifying moments of this year’s Penn Relays came from the professionals in the much-anticipated ‘USA vs. the World’ matchups on Saturday.

As per usual, the Jamaican national program made its presence felt throughout the day, both on and off the track. Saturday boasted nearly 50,000 total spectators, and at times it seemed that at least half of them were decked out in green and yellow to root for Jamaica.

And those clad in Jamaica’s colors had a lot to cheer about early on, as the Jamaican women’s 4x100m relay handily defeated the U.S. team.

But it did not take long for the USA to get its revenge.

In the 4x100m relay, the U.S. men’s team — featuring Olympians Justin Gatlin and Walter Dix — fell significantly behind to a Usain Bolt-less Jamaican squad following a shaky first exchange. But the U.S. would battle back, gaining ground on the Jamaicans and forcing a photo finish.

In the most exhilarating conclusion to a race of the entire weekend, the U.S. edged out Jamaica by 0.01 seconds, the equivalent of a mere two-inch difference between the teams.

The Jamaican section was not convinced, responding with a chorus of boos which the rest of the crowd ultimately drowned out with a spirited chant of ‘USA! USA!’.

Another highlight for the U.S. men’s national team came in the distance medley relay, in which reigning Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano ran an incredibly tactical final leg to secure an American victory over Australia.

While the Relays may be over, the track and field season is far from done for the Quakers.

Moving forward, the Quakers will prepare for postseason competition, starting with the outdoor Heptagonal championships in two weekends.

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