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One of the main draws to Penn Relays is the competition. From Usain Bolt to the high-school freshman striving to become a household name, some of the world’s best masters, professionals, collegiates and high schoolers convene on Franklin Field for the weekend-long extravaganza.

The last category is perhaps the most noteworthy, as many of the participants will potentially find themselves competing for or against Penn in the near future.

One school that is prepping students for success at the next level is the Hopkins School in New Haven, Conn.

The coeducational Hopkins, founded in 1660, is the third-oldest independent school in the country. From grades 7-12, students from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds come together for academics and extracurriculars — including track.

The track program is comprised of over 60 athletes, and the girls team is currently undefeated. Hopkins’ involvement in Penn Relays since 2009 is a testament to their all-around achievement.

This weekend, Hopkins will send four teams to Franklin Field to compete: the 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relays for the boys and girls teams. They’ll run in the Independent Preparatory School heats.

Coach Charles O’Connell, a former member of the track team at Penn, has many fond memories of Relays, both as a participant and a coach.

“Two years ago, our boys 4×400 relay team ran 20 minutes before the USA vs. the World 4×100-meter relay, and we had the chance to see Usain Bolt, and the kids had the chance to be on the infield while the Olympic Development teams from USA and Jamaica were warming up,” O’Connell recounted. “What a thrill!”

O’Connell recognized the importance of intensive preparation but also acknowledged the role nerves can play on a stage as large as Penn Relays.

“Nothing can prepare an athlete for the excitement and thrill of running in the Penn Relays,” O’Connell admits. “Hopefully, some of our older kids can help our younger kids deal with the excitement and nervousness that will occur.”

For some, this is the toughest competition they’ve ever faced. O’Connell will look at more than just the final results as a takeaway from the meet.

“Our performance expectation is to have fun and not drop the baton, and if we do, pick it up and run as fast as we can!” O’Connell quipped. “For us, the Penn Relays is really about the excitement of the carnival atmosphere and the chance to see world-class athletes from all around the globe. If we do well in our races, that is a bonus.”

Ideally, Relays will serve as an opportunity for some of the athletes to gain exposure from colleges around the country. Hopkins already has two confirmed college recruits in the Class of 2012 and hopes to add more by the end of the season.

“The Penn Relays is an amazing event that our kids look forward to every year.”

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