The Penn Relays and Franklin Field go hand in hand. Each is in its 120th year of operation and has seen plenty of history. We'll get to see more history made in the next three days beginning Thursday at the world's oldest and largest relay carnival.
The action is nonstop. Inside the stadium and at the outside throwing area, 318 events will be conducted over 37 hours involving 1,020 high schools and 252 colleges representing eight countries, with races for those aged 9 to 79. There's also the carnival village outside the north exits of Franklin Field where you can find food or souvenirs, or simply a grassy spot to rest.
For the 15th consecutive year, Olympians will compete in Saturday's "USA vs. The World" competition. Men and women each will race the 4x100- and the 4x400-meter relays, and there will be a distance medley for men and a sprint medley for women. Caution: Because of early-afternoon NBC television coverage, the first race will start at 12:35 p.m. and the last one at 2:52 p.m.
The mighty Ducks
The carnival again welcomes Oregon, which captured both the men's and women's team titles in last month's NCAA indoor championships. Senior Phyllis Francis set an American record of 50.46 seconds in the women's 400 meters at the meet. Edward Cheserek, a freshman from St. Benedict's in North Jersey, took both the men's 3,000 and 5,000 meters.
Nine individuals and three relay teams that won NCAA titles last month also will be on hand. Special recognition goes to Dartmouth senior Abbey D'Agostino, who doubled in the 3,000 and 5,000 last month for her sixth and seventh career national championships.
Two runners whose names you may recognize this weekend are Houston freshman Cameron Burrell, son of former Penn Wood star and current Cougars coach Leroy Burrell who already has the school record in the 60 meters and will compete in the 4x100 and 4x200; and former United Stars of Philadelphia runner Chanelle Price, who won six watches at Penn competing for Tennessee and is expected to start in the Olympic Development women's mile.
The magic number
The oldest record in the Penn Relays books is the 7-minute, 11.17-second mark in the 4x800 relay set by Penn State in 1985. The Nittany Lions came within three seconds of the record last year and will give it another go, but will be challenged by Villanova among other teams.
Penn is showing off a new facility, the Irving "Moon" Mondschein Throwing Complex, which can be found past the Hollenback Center on a road that runs parallel to the Schuylkill Expressway. Mondschein, a former Quakers track and field coach, will be at Saturday's dedication.
Will a football game break out?
The carnival welcomes eight teams from the Southeastern Conference, including the perennial powerhouses from Texas A&M and Louisiana State. Florida, another strong SEC team, will not be there because its final exams begin Saturday.
Need a seat?
Tickets for Thursday and Friday are $24 for reserved and $18 for general admission. The best reserved seats for Saturday are sold out; remaining tickets (all reserved) are $52 and $42.
Checking them out
Again, the Penn Relays program remains one of the best bargains on the planet - $10 for 156 pages chock-full of entries, information, and history.
Driving around Franklin Field won't be pleasant the next three days, so you are advised to use public transportation. The Market-Frankford El stops at 30th and 34th Streets, and the regional rails can get you to University City from the Airport, Media/Elwyn, and Wilmington/Newark (schedules at www.septa.com).