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Runners from across the country gathered for the Penn Relays this past weekend. Credit: Pete Lodato

With hundreds of collegiate coaches venturing to Franklin Field this weekend, it appears that the athletes will not be the only ones hitting the ground running.

In fact, for the Penn track and field program and many of its competitors, the Penn Relays is not only an important college competition, but also an opportunity to jump start next year’s recruiting process.

According to University of Tennessee Director of Track and Field J.J. Clark, one of the goals of the meet is to “re-establish a lot of contacts and make new contacts.”

However, because most seniors have already made their decisions and recruiting for juniors is restricted until July 1, coaches come to Penn Relays with different recruiting goals.

“It’s kind of a look to see what’s coming next year,” said Marcus O’Sullivan, the director of track and field at Villanova.

Both Villanova and Tennessee come to the meet with the intention of watching some of the high school races.

“I have a short list [of recruits] I want to make sure I watch,” Clark said.

Penn women’s track coach Gwen Harris also said that Penn is well aware of which recruits it plans on watching at the meet.

“Trying to figure out who is doing what is especially difficult, unless you know who you’re looking for,” Harris said.

“To come to Penn Relays, one of the biggest track meets in the world — that’s your recruiting tool right there,” she added.

Penn freshman distance runner Matt Chylak ran in the Penn Relays all four years of high school and during grade school. The Relays, he said, played a big factor in his decision to come to Philadelphia.

“[Penn Relays] as a recruiting tool is amazing,” Chylak said, adding that a key part of Penn’s track and field recruiting is “linking the Penn Relays to Penn.”

This year, the men’s track and field team hopes to take advantage of this link by hosting a new event — a Junior Day for potential recruits after Penn Relays.

The Red and Blue have 140 of the top junior runners coming to campus on Saturday night to meet with the track coaches and the athletic director and tour the campus and athletic facilities.

The women’s track team opted not to hold a similar event because of time commitments.

“It’d be really hard for me to concentrate on my team, concentrate on doing the things I do and the Junior Day as well,” Harris said.

O’Sullivan also believes that in the end, recruiting should take a backseat to coaching your team.

“You’re not there to recruit; you’re there for your own meet,” O’Sullivan said.

But for Clark, concentrating on the team and focusing on recruiting don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

“If Tennessee is out in front, people take notice,” he said.

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