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FunTimes Magazine

The Penn Relays' A Fun Time



The Penn Relays were founded by the University of Pennsylvania in 1893 to run alongside the university's Spring Handicap Track and Field games. The very first relay was held on April 12, 1895 with over 5,000 spectators in attendance-- the largest track and field crowd to gather in Philadelphia.

During that time in America, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were the only cities centered around track and field games, therefore the Penn Relays became one of the largest relays in the country. Then the Relays were an all-white and all-male event like most sports events of the time. The event went international in 1914.


Nowadays you see folks from all walks of life and of course women who began to compete in 1962. There are teams from the Caribbean island as well as others from the Diaspora competing and winning. In addition the Relays have opened up its competition to middle schools, high schools and colleges from all over the country. Dave Johnson the current Director, started his tenure in 1966, the 6th to manage the unique"Carnival" it has been called.

The 2015 Penn Relays marked the 120 year anniversary of the tremendously powerful athletic event. There were athletes from many countries like Botswana, Nigeria, Guyana, Australia, China, and the Bahamas. "Even though the first days were on the cold side, we want to thank all the supporters who attended anyway, keeping the total numbers near 110,000," noted Chas Dorman, Associate Director, Athletic Communication, Univ. of PA, for the past 8 years.



"Jamaica leads in participation from other countries with the great support of Team Jamaica Bickle and the many Jamaican expats in the area who gather to cheer on potential future Olympic champions for the past 50 years," Dorman said. "It's great to see the Bahamas have increased their numbers over the past several years as well."

With spectators filling the bleachers, cheering on their loved ones, countries, and schools, the energy was through the roof. 10-6ÂThe Penn Relays has grown to include many athletic and non-athletic events, vending services, and music. Of course, the main event was an overall Fun Time!

For further details:

Quotes from Penn Relays Participants

Justin Alexander Gatlin

How do you feel about being the fastest man on earth?

I feel good, I feel fast, I feel fit. It's just about maintaining that and taking that to every race. Tell us one secret that keeps you at the front of the race.


Team Nigeria

Motivation; I take every race seriously. The preparation for each race is very important to me.

How long have you been racing? 4 years--it's my second Penn Relays.

How do you feel about putting your country on the map?


I'm very happy; it's a pleasure to represent my country. I love it.

Minister Neita Headley (Team Jamaica)

What is your position?

I am the Minister with responsibility of sports for three years now.

How do you like it? I'm enjoying it ever so much. It gives me an opportunity to add to the development of our sports and our country.

Does Jamaica host a relay too? We do have relays every year. It's called the Gimson Relays. The third week of April we will have the Jamaica Invitational which will include athletes from the U.S. I believe it's important that we have this kind of competition. It's a great unifier for all of us; it brings our people together with a lot of color, good experiences, cultural exchanges with good competition and friendly rivalry.

Random racer

How are you feeling, how do you think your team is doing? I'm feeling good, this is our second competition. I've been running since 2008.


Are you having fun? No fun--just work.

Ms Leroy from Team Jamaica

Why do you think Jamaica always dominates? We work as a team. We may be from different clubs but we work as a team.

Are you guys having fun? Yes we are!

Morgan Michel (Team Australia)

How many Penn Relays have you competed in? This is our first.

How do you like your first time being in Philadelphia? I truly love it. Its way different from Australia, but it is a good experience.

Did you compete already? Yes, we raced already. We ran in the USA v. WORLD 4 x 400m and we ended up third.


Terrell Bush, Raevon Floyd-Bennett, Jonathan Barber (Hudson Catholic High school in New Jersey)

What race do you run? All - 4 X 100m relay How many Penn Relays have you attended? This is our first time How is the experience? Terrell -It is so much fun, good experience and nerve-racking Jonathan - There is a lot of competition and so much to learn from others.

Raevon- great opportunity to meet other athletes


Advice to aspiring athletes

Jonathan- Practise a lot and stay focused

Runners from the Bahamas

How is the experience? Great experience, we really enjoyed it. We hope that we can come back again. The competition is tough.


T'Reyah Johnson, Mari Pless, Nina Crawford, Autumn Robinson, Reyna Wright (Elizabeth Seton High School in Maryland)

Advice to aspiring athletes:

T'Reyah -Work hard and do not be discouraged.

Mari- Work Hard and keep trying. Nina-Train hard and warm up really good. Autumn- Push yourself and enjoy the experience. Reyna- Take advantage of opportunity you have.