The old cinder track at Franklin Field, where Tom Sullivan and his Villanova teammates set the Penn Relays record in the two-mile relay in 1965, is long gone. But for Sullivan, so much about the carnival remains the same.
"Sometimes the past is not the past," said Sullivan, 72, whose relay team will be inducted this weekend on the Penn Relays Wall of Fame. "All of us have run around the same buildings there on campus. We all came in through the bullpen and huddled there for five or 10 or 15 minutes before our race, all along the wall.
"We all had that, whether it was 1920 or 1910 or 1980 or 2015. So we have the same memories that the kids are going to have this coming weekend and that's what makes it great. We did exactly what they're doing today. It's a tradition that hopefully will continue for another 100 years."
Sullivan, a retired neurologist from Oak Brook, Ill., teamed 50 years ago with Jim Orr, Al Adams, and Noel Carroll to win the two-mile relay in 7 minutes, 26.1 seconds. Sullivan ran the third leg and Orr, Adams and Carroll were leadoff, second, and anchor, respectively.
He said Adams "always gave me a lead, whether it was one inch or 10 yards." Then he'd hand the baton to Carroll, part of Villanova's Irish pipeline.
"He had this thick Irish brogue and was a big man, about 6-3 and 180 pounds," Sullivan said. "We used to joke with him; he was always late for the bus and late for getting down to practice. Jumbo would yell at him and Noel had this famous saying: 'The man who made time made plenty of it. Don't worry about it. I'll be there.' "
Jumbo, of course, was the legendary James "Jumbo" Elliott, who coached a long line of successful athletes, including 28 Olympians, in his 45 years on the Main Line before he died in 1981. Sullivan called him a "real role model and a mentor."
"He was the definition of a gentleman, a very class act," he said. "He expected us to behave and to represent Villanova when we were traveling. He always preached that you run your best. If you win, you win. If you lose, you want to be a good sport."
Sullivan almost had scheduling problems this weekend. His grandson's First Communion was scheduled for Saturday, the same day as the Wall of Fame ceremony. But he said his daughter arranged with the church to delay the occasion until next week.
As a result, the Sullivan party - he and his wife, his two daughters and their husbands, and his four grandchildren - will be coming to Penn together.
"My grandson asked me, 'Are you going to run in the Penn Relays?' I said, 'I don't think so. I don't think you want to see that,' " Sullivan said, laughing.
And like every year, he's thrilled to be back.
"It's really special," he said. "I think every high school kid or child or Olympian who's ever run at Franklin Field can say, 'Wow, I was at the Penn Relays in 19-and-so-and-so.' They'll always remember it."