By Renee Sterrett
The aura of mental toughness indeed invaded Ben Franklin Stadium at the Penn Relays on April 28-30, 2016. Shanice Love Excelsior (Kingston, Jamaica) threw 54.72m (179-6 feet) to break the previous Penn Relays record. The runner-up in Thursday’s event, Elna Brucker of Ally Christian (San Jose, Calif.) also was better than the previous meet record with a throw of 54.44 (178-7 feet).
The Penn Relays Carnival is the world’s oldest meet held annually at the University of Pennsylvania. The feel of the Penn Relays was exciting and thrilling as the 20,596 fans waved, cheered and clapped for the athletes as some jogged their victory laps or struggling to the finish line.
Never in history did I witness five high school girls running the 4×800 meter relay fighting to see who was going to cross the finish line first. These five girls ran the anchor on their relays. They literally ran until they didn’t have anything left in their legs and several of them collapsed at the finish line. Hannah Reale of Shenendehowa High School from Suffolk County, Long Island anchored her team to victory in the 4×800 meter relay. Their pains were intense and well-understood by the audience and other athletes at the Penn Relays. I was in awe!
Although it rained on Friday at the Penn Relays at the Ben Franklin Field, the die-hard audience still managed to clap and cheer on the athletes as they continued to perform at optimal levels. Nine teams from Tennessee, Oregon, Auburn, Clemson, St. Augustine’s, Penn, Albany, Cornell and Houston qualified for the 4×100 Championship Invitational Race on Friday.
Saturday at the Penn Relays, the sun peeked its way through the glooming gray clouds as the crowds chanted “Jamaica”, “America”, an electricity of excitement and thrilling sensations penetrated through the audience and athletes. The athletes’ performances were absolutely spellbinding from the young to the 100-year-old Ida Kneeling, setting a world record in the 100 meters. Ida was quoted as saying, “You must exercise once a day and don’t let anyone get in your way”. After Ida crossed the 100-meter line in 1:17, she dropped to the ground and begins to do push-ups. This will always be a memorable moment at the Penn Relays.
When the “USA vs. the World teams stepped onto the track, the audience stood at attention chanting “America”, “Jamaica”, while swinging their flags to represent their country. The unrestrained exuberance of the audience filled the arena with a sense of pride and joy.
For a moment the audience went silent as the cameramen positioned themselves for what was about to take place: “America vs. the World” in the 4×100, 4×200 and the 4×400 meter relays. Once again, the United States was victorious in the Women’s 4×100 and the 4×400. Although the USA men were victorious in the 4×200 and the 4×400; however, in the Men’s 4×100 meter relay, a botched handoff between Tyson Gay and Isiah Young on the final leg of the relay for the USA Red team cost them the win. Jamaica grabbed the win in the 4×100 meter relay while the USA Blue team took second place.
As the Penn Relays came to closure, the echoes of the cheering crowds and the rolling sounds of the athletes’ feet resounded from the walls of the Ben Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania, this will never be forgotten. Although the Penn Relays offers athletes from all over the world to compete against each other, it also provides an opportunity for high school athletes exposure to gain scholarships to colleges and for college athletes to become hopeful Olympians.