There were record-breaking times and record-breaking crowds at the Penn Relays this year—the admission prices were record breaking too! The excitement started building weeks before with the announcement that the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, was scheduled to run for Jamaica in the USA vs. The World 4x100 meters relay on the last day of the relay carnival.
Here are a few choice moments and observations:
- The roar of the crowd for the USA vs. Jamaica 4x100 featuring Usain Bolt. Everyone put away the curry goat and fry fish to watch this one. It was electrifying to see the “yard man dem burn up the track.” Watch: http://pennrelaysonline.com/Results/results.aspx?en=241
- Jamaica won the Women USA vs. World Sprint Medley. They came second in the women’s 4x100. It was felt by many that if Shelly Ann had run the first leg instead of the last leg they would have won that race also; but what do we know?
- Jamaican ladies bringing in large bags of cooked food. Where I was sitting they were dishing out paper plates of escoveitch fish and rice and peas. None was offered to me. I watched as one guy meticulously removed the flesh from his fish leaving the skeleton completely intact.
- Some estimate 50-70% Jamaicans in attendance. Whatever the number, the gold, black and green colors of the Jamaican flag decorated the stadium and certainly spiced up the atmosphere.
- Bill Cosby was on the field as a guest starter for the kiddie races. There is a relay in memory of his slain son, Ennis Cosby.
- Jamaican commentator, Ed Barnes, provided sparkling commentary on the Champion of America 4x100 High School Girls relay which was won by Holmwood.
- Trinidad and Tobago made their first appearance and four schools were represented including the Queens Royal College. Also participating were teams from US Virgin Islands, Barbados, Bahamas and Turks & Caicos. Schools came from as far away as Namibia and Zimbabwe.
- The high number of false starts in the high school boys relays. Some events had several runners all over the track in the first few meters of the race.
- Atlanta’s Lascelles Lewis introduced me to veteran attendee Winston Brown who provided some good background on the evolution of the Relays over the years. These gentlemen have been attending Penn relays forever and can put thing in context for accidental attendees like myself.
- Who knew there were so many types of relays: 4x 1mile, 4x1500, distance medley, hurdles relays, etc.
- The older folks had their fun too. There were masters races for age groups of 40+, 50+, and 70+. One race had a participant who was 93 years old.
- KC’s only entry was the Boys 4x800 which was won by another team whose colors were also purple and white. KC placed second to Warwick Valley from New York. Watch: http://pennrelaysonline.com/Results/results.aspx?en=253
- On Friday it was freezing in the shade.
- Usain Bolt trying to leave the stadium incognito by wearing a hooded sweatshirt. He didn’t get far as he stopped to shake the hand of some official looking person. Ambassador Anthony Johnson was in his party.
- In a sign of the economic times, it was announced that Seton Hall University in New Jersey was discontinuing its Track & Field program. They did go out on a high note as their teams won two relay championships.
- UTECH put in a very good showing: they won the College Women’s Championship of America 4x400; Kimari Roach won the College Men’s 100 meters and they placed 2nd in the College Men 4x100 and 4th in the men’s 4x400 championships.
- The race I enjoyed the most was not a relay but the 3000 meters which was dominated by Bellefield Comprehensive’s Kemroy Campbell from start to finish. Campbell established a big lead and never relinquished it. It was a beauty to behold. That guy from Manchester can run, man. Watch: http://pennrelaysonline.com/Results/results.aspx?en=164