After a packed first two days of the 127th running of Penn Relays, the stage is set at Franklin Field for a final day that is sure to excite. WIth plenty of championships in a wide variety of events, plus several highly-anticipated Olympic Development events, there’s going to be a lot of action throughout today. A slight drizzle is still falling from yesterday, but that isn’t deterring the athletes or the spectators gathered here.
11 a.m. — Much of this morning’s action has been taken up by heats for the High School Girls’ 4x400-meter relay. With over half of the heats in the books, the fastest time so far belongs to Edwin Allen of Jamaica, whose team completed the four legs in 3:40.38.
Another highlight included Chatham of New Jersey defeating Suffern of New York by a mere one-hundredth of a second in a photo finish, where several teams were bunched close together until the final few meters.
The nine fastest teams from qualifying will advance to the Championship Final later this afternoon, while 12 more teams will qualify for a Philadelphia Area final.
Earlier this morning were several 5k race walk events. In the High School Girls’ division, Alexa Governor of New York’s Williamson took first, and Heather Durrant won the U20 women’s category. In the men’s masters, Canadian Dmitry Babenko won by over a full minute, as did Ryan Allen in the U20 men’s division and Nick Christie in the Men’s Olympic Development Open category.
1 p.m. — The high school girls continued to dominate the track throughout the late morning and early afternoon. Local Philadelphia and nearby New Jersey teams especially had their time to shine, competing in designated and competitive heats.
The Philadelphia Catholic heat was a highly contested one. Archbishop Wood had the early lead after leg one but West Catholic’s second runner, Ayana Wilson, had a huge chasedown in her heat. However, Wilson was gaining on Wood’s Sarah Demore in the final 100m when she collapsed onto the track. Bonner Prendergast ended up stealing the win from Wood. During the Philadelphia Public heat, Engineering & Science stole the show. The team finished far ahead of the pack with a final time of 4:04.98.
In the field, Penn dominated the standings in the College Men’s Pole Vault Championship. All three Quakers finished in the top five, as sophomore James Rhoads led the way in second place with a 5.22m clearance. Junior Scott Toney finished fourth at 5.12m and sophomore Benedikt Sachta followed closely behind in fifth with 4.97m.
At a press conference celebrating his induction into the Relays’ Wall of Fame, sprinter Yohan Blake — who has won two Olympic Gold Medals and is currently the second fastest person alive — recalled his time running with St. Jago’s while in high school.
“To see all the kids running reminds me of my days … the camaraderie and running against all the schools for bragging rights,” he said.
Blake also took time to address his future, saying, “I’m definitely preparing for the World Championships this year in Budapest [and] I think based on my age … the [Paris 2024] Olympics are looking to be my last [race].”
While Blake was speaking to the press, in the High School Girls’ 4x100m Championship of America, Hydel of Jamaica took first place with a 44.16 — good enough for third fastest in Relays history.
Next up was the College Women’s 4x100m Championship of America. Penn sent out a squad of freshmen Christina Nwachuku and Moforehan Abinusawa, senior Katherine Muccio, and junior Isabella Whittaker. Despite a finish of 45.28, Penn could not muster a time for the podium.
3 p.m. — The College Men’s 4x100m Championship of America brought the crowd to their feet. G.C. Foster was out ahead early and seemed prime to take home another win for the Jamaican crowd who roared in support. But Houston played spoiler, with a huge anchor leg securing them the victory in 39.40 — a mere 0.5 ahead of G.C. Foster.
The College Men’s 4xMile Championship of America came to a photo finish, with nine teams breaking out of their pace into a dead sprint. Villanova secured the title with a time of 16:14.03, marking their 21st win in the event.
Masters Men’s 100m dash 85+ was the event of the afternoon. Bob Williamson, 86, defended his title with an impressive sprint of 17.50, while 96-year-old Ed Cox finished with a time of 24.04.
In the Olympic Development Men’s 110m Hurdles Elite, three-time national champion — and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver — Devon Allen set a Relays record last year at 13.11. In this year’s race, Allen was challenged throughout by Rafael Pereira of Brazil. But in the last few yards, Allen was able to barely defeat Pereira — ultimately winning by just two-thousands of one second — at 13.457, compared to Pereira’s 13.459.
“The biggest thing is being competitive all the way through,” Allen said. “A lot of times when you run a race and you’re out front, you get a little more focused on being clean. But when you have a guy right next to you, you start to focus on him a little bit and that’s the goal; not to focus on yourself.”
Allen hails everyone from the coaches to the nutrition staff of the Eagles for their support as he runs track. Teammates even came out to support. Jake Elliott, Tyrie Cleveland, Greg Ward, Ian Book, and Tyree Jackson were among those at Franklin Field this afternoon to see his race.
Once the hurdles were cleared from the back straightaway, it was time for the College 100m Dash Championships. In the women’s event, TCU’s Iyana Gray won at 11.50, while Houston's Shaun Maswanganyi finished first in the men's race at 10.40 — just three-hundredths of a second ahead of Travis Williams of Albany.
5 p.m. — Following these collegiate championships, it was time for the Olympic Development Women’s 200m Elite, which high schooler Shawnti Jackson — competing as part of Team USA — comfortably won at 23.11.
Next up in the afternoon were a pair of Olympic Development Elite distance events. American Josette Andrews won the 1,500m at 4:04.88, and Geordie Beamish of New Zealand took the Benjamin Franklin Mile in style, waving for cheers from the crowd as he made his move to the front in the final 100 meters.
In the field, Penn freshman Kampton Kam finished ninth in the high jump, clearing 1.97m. His teammate, sophomore Conrad Moore, also competed but failed to clear the opening height. Senior Quaker Tamara Grahovac competed in the women’s triple jump and saved her best jump for last, scoring a 12.43 on her final attempt. In the College Women’s Pole Vault Championship, Penn sophomore Natalia Ilieva finished 10th overall after not clearing 4.13m.
While that was going on in the field, the track hosted the College 4x800m Championships of America. Penn State took first place in the women’s event and appeared poised to win the men’s event, until a late effort from Ole Miss gave the Rebels victory at 7:12.37. Penn’s team of senior Anton Idhammar, junior Denis Gallagher, freshman Alec Jackson, and sophomore Titus Bretzke finished seventh overall at 7:22.71.
Penn faced off against eight other teams in the championships of the 4x400m. The team was led by junior Isabella Whittaker, sophomore Jocelyn Niemic, and freshmen Moforehan Abinusawa and Christiana Nwachuku, who led the chasedown as an anchor to pull them for a sixth-place finish with a time of 3:34.30.
The men were next. Penn’s team consisted of freshmen Devante Heywood and Andrew O’Donnell and seniors Robbie Ruppel and Emerson Douds. They finished sixth with a time of 3:08.62 and TCU took home the crown after running it in 3:04.41.
The Olympic Development 600m returned for its second year. Headliners included Ajeé Wilson and Natoya Goule. Goule led for much of the race, but Wilson kicked up another gear in the final 100m to overtake her and finish with a time of 1:24.45.
“I knew I definitely wanted to stay off the pace a little bit, but more importantly I’m focusing on what feels comfortable and keeping a mental clock of making sure it’s not too comfortable and too slow,” Wilson said of starting initially behind Goule. “I think coming through the first leg I was easing into that territory, but having Sage [Hurta-Klecker] come in woke me up.”
After that, a Quaker team consisting of freshmen Shane Gardner and John Ruvo IV, sophomore Aaron Stillitano, and junior Dimitri Nicholson ran in the College Men’s 4x100m relay, finishing fifth at 41.28.
6 p.m. — As the day’s program — and the relays as a whole — approached its end, attention turned to wrapping up the High School Girls’ relays which had begun earlier. Some of the loudest cheers came in the 4x100m International Division, where Holmwood Tech barely edged fellow Jamaican school St. Mary by a mere 0.04 seconds.
In the afternoon’s final Championship of America race, the High School Girls’ 4x800m relay, Union Catholic of New Jersey became the first American victor since 2016 after clocking 8:44.98 — good enough for the second-fastest time by an American team in the history of the Relays.
For Penn’s final appearance of the afternoon, the Quakers competed in the College Women’s 4x800m relay. In an incredibly strong field that was ultimately won by Navy at 8:48.17, Penn finished fifth at 8:51.81.
Two of the last events were the College 4x400m relays, where Southern Illinois won both the men’s and women’s races. The women finished at 3:38.48 — two full seconds ahead of second-place UConn — but the men had to fend off a late challenge by Columbia, as the team’s 3:09.17 final time was just 0.32 ahead of the Lions’.
As the 127th running of Penn Relays draws to a close, one of track and field’s most storied traditions gains yet another exciting chapter. From high schoolers looking to make their mark in the sport, to college athletes representing their universities, to professionals seeking to better their standing, the Relays offers a unique mix of excitement that is difficult to replicate.
Current Penn athletes and high school commits made the most of the weekend, taking home medals and unforgettable memories. The Quakers showed off their skills while competing against the best the nation has to offer, capitalizing on home field familiarity during a rainy weekend at Franklin Field. While the results are important to every competitor, Penn Relays also offers a sense of joy for all involved — serving as a celebration of the sport that bonds them all together.
Sports Editors Caleb Crain and Alexis Garcia, Deputy Sports Editor Walker Carnathan, and Sports Reporters Allyson Nelson and Kristel Rambaud contributed to this story.