Franklin Field may be empty this weekend, but that doesn't mean the Penn Relays are going anywhere.
In place of the traditional Relays, which were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn Athletics has announced it will team up with esports giant Gen.G to broadcast a virtual edition of the annual event.
The Digital Penn Relays are presented by The United States Marine Corps and will feature participants from around the world competing in Minecraft races around a custom-built Franklin Field replica track, facing obstacles like hurdles, water, lava, and ice.
The first-of-its-kind event will be streamed live over the Relays' official Twitch site on from 12-5 p.m. on April 24, originally scheduled to be the second day of this year's Relays.
"We were already planning a digital activation with Gen.G during our traditional event, so we're even more excited to elevate our stream and showcase the rich history of The Penn Relays with the next generation of gamers of all ages," wrote Scott Ward, Executive Director of The Penn Relays, in a statement. "Even with the physical event being interrupted, we couldn't miss the opportunity to keep our community connected and celebrate our pedigree of world class track and field athletes."
Just like the real-life Relays, the competition will feature both individuals and teams and will be split into divisions based on gender and age. The virtual relays will be crafted within the framework of Gen.G's Minehut, where players can participate in four track-related mini-games.
"While students across the nation are staying home and keeping healthy, Gen.G is proud to build on its education programs digitally with The Penn Relays," wrote Jordan Sherman, Head of Revenue Operations for Gen.G. "We believe we've found the right mix of competition and entertainment, which at the same time will allow participants to still represent and cheer on their schools in this moment of time where we are devoid of all traditional sports."
Although the Penn Relays were modified during both World Wars, this year marks the first time since the competition began in 1895 that in-person races have been canceled completely.
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