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Joe Juliano looks back at 43 years at the Penn Relays

There have been some amazing athletes and performances over the last four-plus decades. Here is a look at some of them.

Jamaican runner Usain Bolt waves to his fans after running the final leg to win the 400 relay at the Penn Relays on Saturday afternoon, April 24, 2010.
Jamaican runner Usain Bolt waves to his fans after running the final leg to win the 400 relay at the Penn Relays on Saturday afternoon, April 24, 2010.Read moreLaurence Kesterson / File photo

Staff writer Joe Juliano has covered the Penn Relays for each of the last 43 years, and his presence at this week’s 125th means he will have been part of 35 percent of the carnival.

He has seen some amazing athletes and performances. Here is a look at some of them:

Top 3 moments

1) 1979: Renaldo Nehemiah completes a relay triple for Maryland after making up 25 meters on the anchor leg to win the 4x400.

“I grew up wanting to run in the Penn Relays," Nehemiah recalled earlier this month. "This was one of those make-or-break environments. I always tell everybody, ‘This is where you’re either made or not made.’ You’ve got to put up or shut up. And you want to be able to put up. I was just fortunate. Then when you have 30- or 40-plus thousand fans, which you rarely get, and then the crowds are into every race, it adds extra incentive for you to perform.

“That day for me, it was more about self-preservation. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed when I got the stick. I was upset for my team. When I got the last stick, that [first-place] guy was way over there [pointing] so I just wanted to make it look respectable. I figured I was going to die at some point, but at least the fans would say, ‘He gave it a gallant try.’ But when the noise started coming and the closer I got, I was recognizing how close I was by how much louder they were screaming. That kind of sustained me through, helped me run through the pain that I was feeling.

“I had to come from behind in all three races, insurmountable odds against phenomenal athletes. Then I was a hurdler, and nobody knew that I had that kind of talent until that day. I also call that kind of my coming-out party. I was that high school sensation, but this is the first time that people got to see what all that was about, and that kind of catapulted my career. It took off from there.”

2) 2010: Usain Bolt returns to the Penn Relays as a triple Olympic gold medalist and anchors Jamaica to a meet-record time in 4x100 before 54,000-plus screaming fans.

“There was a great atmosphere, similar to what we find at European track meets," Bolt recalled this week. "I think there were more Jamaican flags in the stadium than U.S. flags.

"The Jamaican fans always make a lot of noise and create a great energy. Every stride I did in my warmup got a cheer.”

3) 2017: Oregon women wrap up a relay triple with their third carnival record of the meet in the 4x400.

“We always looked forward to coming to Penn," Raevyn Rogers, who anchored the sprint medley and ran the second leg in the 4x400, said last week. "If we’re going to come all the way here, a six-hour flight, then we’re going to make it worth it. It was always fun because they don’t get to see Oregon as much. So when we’d get the reactions we did from high schoolers and just other people on the East Coast being happy to finally see us in person, it was a different type of experience.

"I wouldn’t say we’re celebrities, but that’s what it felt like because we were coming so far. So I always enjoyed coming with Oregon.”

More athletes to remember

Edwin Moses, 1976: The previously unknown Morehouse College athlete stepped into the limelight with his victory in the 400-meter hurdles. He would win the Olympic gold medal about three months later. Moses said in 2012: “I was coming from a school with no track, no stadium, no nothing, just jumping fences on a day-to-day basis. So once I won at the Penn Relays, psychologically I knew I had made it to the big time.”

Justin Gatlin, 2001-18: Gatlin’s Tennessee Volunteers did not win any relays his first season, but they came back with three relay titles in 2002, with Gatlin running a leg on all three. Thus began a relationship that continues with the carnival to this day, though interrupted from 2006-09 because of a doping suspension. He has collected 11 watches in USA vs. the World relays.

Emily Lipari, 2012-14: Lipari anchored five Championship of America relays to victory for Villanova, including three — distance medley, 4x1500, 4x800 — in her senior year. She was a two-time winner of the award for the carnival’s outstanding athlete for women’s relay events.

Sydney Maree, 1979-81: Maree, who came to Villanova from South Africa, won seven watches as a Wildcat, and six came courtesy of his legendary kick on the anchor leg. He continued to run individual events after graduation, capturing three 5,000-meter titles.

Derek Drouin, 2010-13: The Canadian Olympian won three high-jump championships representing Indiana. He ended his third title run by establishing a carnival record of 7 feet, 7¾ inches.

Laura Gerraughty, 2002-06: Gerraughty, of North Carolina, won four shot-put championships over a five-year span, including a carnival-record effort of 60-6 in 2003.

Gabby Mayo, 2009-11: The Texas A&M sprinter and hurdler won seven watches in her three seasons of competition at Penn. In 2010, she was part of two relay teams that set collegiate records, the 4x200 and the shuttle hurdle.

Darvis “Doc” Patton, 2000-13: Patton was part of a pair of record-setting Texas Christian sprint relay teams, the 4x200 in 2000 and the 4x100 in 2001, and the marks still stand. He later won seven watches as part of victorious relay units in the USA vs. the World relay competition.

Joetta Clark, 1978-84: Clark’s first Penn Relays title came in the 1978 high school mile while a student at Columbia High in Maplewood, N.J. She later anchored Tennessee in the 4x800 relay to a pair of victories in 1982 and 1984, both national college records at the time.

Everett Hosack (2002-03) and Ida Keeling (2016): Hosack, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, ran at Penn as a 100-year-old in 2002, setting a world record for his age group in the 100 meters with a time of 43.0 seconds, and came back the next year to cross the line in 55.73. Keeling, all 4-foot-6 of her, also made a visit to Franklin Field in 2016 at the age of 100. The New York native captivated fans with her power-walking style and finished the 100 in 1:17.33, a world record for her age group.

Five oldest Penn Relays college records

Penn State, men’s 4x800, 7:11.17, 1985

Villanova, women’s distance medley, 10:48.38, 1988

Arkansas, men’s distance medley, 9:20.10, 1989

Abilene Christian, men’s sprint medley, 3:12.88, 1995

Texas Christian, men’s 4x200, 1:19.63, 2000

Five oldest Penn Relays USA vs. the World/Olympic Development records

Santa Monica Track Club, men’s 4x200, 1:19.11, 1992

USA Red, men’s 4x400, 2:56.60, 2000

USA Red, men’s sprint medley, 3:12.10, 2005

Kenya, men’s distance medley, 9:15.56, 2006

Jamaica, women’s sprint medley, 3:34.56, 2009

Most relay victories at Penn Relays


Villanova 94

Penn 56

Arkansas 43

Michigan 42

Tennessee 33


Louisiana State 46

Villanova 42

Texas 24

Tennessee 21

Texas A&M 18