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A newcomer to the Penn Relays

Bill Dolan checked to see whom he was racing against in the mile at the Penn Relays and noticed something interesting.

Clearview's Billy Dolan. (Tom Gralish/Staff Photographer)
Clearview's Billy Dolan. (Tom Gralish/Staff Photographer)Read more

Bill Dolan checked to see whom he was racing against in the mile at the Penn Relays and noticed something interesting.

One of his competitors had the label "RSA" next to his name.

Not knowing what this meant, the Clearview senior looked it up and found that RSA stood for the Republic of South Africa.

That's when Dolan realized the depth of the competition at Penn. He then tried to look up some of the unknown opponents' statistics and couldn't find them online.

"It's very intimidating," said Dolan, who will compete in the Relays for the first time on Friday. "Some of the kids I've raced before, that are from the United States, so I know what I'm expecting from them, but there's a lot of other competition."

Dolan is just learning about the level of his competition, but he made it a goal to reach the Penn Relays years ago.

The race requires a mile time better than 4 minutes, 20 seconds to qualify, and Dolan achieved that in his final race of the indoor track season. He ran a 4:17.01 to finish 17th at the New Balance National Meet in New York.

"You just always hear about how great it is and how prestigious it is," Dolan said. "I just really wanted to be a part of that."

One of the people Dolan heard from was his father. Pat Dolan thought he could crack a six-minute mile despite never having run track. He couldn't, but he continued to run. He improved and has competed in 10 masters and corporate events at the Penn Relays. He will again on Friday, two hours after his son races in the mile.

"It's all track conversation at home," Bill Dolan said. "That's what my mom gets annoyed about."

Dolan has goals for the race. He would like to set a personal record and finish the race in the top six. More than anything, though, Dolan wants to enjoy the experience without as much pressure.

"I just get a vibe that it's just a crazy place to be," said Dolan, a Notre Dame recruit. "It's just runners everywhere. Since this isn't the actual state meet, I'm not going to put as much pressure on myself. I still want to run as best as I can. It's like the carnival. I want to go there to have fun and race as best as I can, do as best as I can without putting as much pressure."

Before he was selected to race in the Penn Relays, Dolan had his own list of achievements on which he could fall back. His mile time is the fastest time in Gloucester County history. He finished fourth at the Meet of Champions in the 1,600 meters and was the top competitor from South Jersey.

"Billy is, quite simply, the greatest athlete I've ever had the pleasure of coaching," Clearview coach Dennis Weaver said. "I've used the term before - he's like the Terminator. He just doesn't stop. . . . He's probably one of the most determined, focused individuals in the history of this school."

This year, Dolan wants to break 4:10, win the Meet of Champions, and earn all-America status by placing in the top six at the national race.

After this weekend, Dolan will have no problem knowing what he's up against.