After 25 years of overseeing the Penn Relays, the world's largest and oldest track and field competition, Director Dave Johnson announced his retirement from the position Thursday.
Johnson has spent more than 30 years on the Penn Relays staff and will continue to monitor the event next year, but in a reduced capacity from his current job.
"Dave has left an indelible mark on the Penn Relays during his more than three decades of leadership of this beloved relay carnival," Penn Director of Athletics M. Grace Calhoun wrote in a statement. "As the longest-tenured Director of the Penn Relays during its 126-year tenure, his appreciation and love for the event is unrivaled."
As a lifelong fan of the Relays, Johnson got his first taste of the event as an alternate for his high school's mile relay team in 1968. Since that year, he has only missed one iteration of the competition. He was brought into the Penn Relays office in 1988 as Associate Director, and was hired as Director just seven years later.
Over his quarter-century at the helm of the competition, Johnson expanded the Relays to include thousands of athletes from around the world and facilitated the implementation of technology to modernize the event. He also introduced the famous "USA vs. The World" races on the final day of competition, where fans can see some of the best athletes in the world racing around the Franklin Field track to represent their nations.
"He has continued to ensure equitable access for all competitors, and the introduction of advanced technology and the highest level of competition have grown the event significantly," Calhoun wrote. "Throughout his career, he has shown sincere care for the sport of track and field, the Penn Relays and the University of Pennsylvania. We will dearly miss Dave in this role but look forward to his continued guidance and involvement in the years ahead."
Johnson also steered the Relays through the COVID-19 pandemic. Teaming up with Gen.G, the Relays went virtual this year, offering competitors a chance to race on a Minecraft model of Franklin Field through four different courses. The event was streamed on Twitch and watched by thousands of fans around the globe.
The 2021 Penn Relays are scheduled for April 22-24, and a search for Johnson's successor will begin in January.
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