April 22, 2009

Bulldogs to Compete at 115th Penn Relays

April 22, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - This weekend a select group of Bulldogs will compete in the 115th Annual Penn Relays. Hosted by Penn, the three-day long Carnival takes place on Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pa. It is the largest and longest-running track meet in the world, and this year almost 250 colleges will send athletes, along with nearly 1,000 high schools and athletes from around the world, to total more than 22,000 entries. Yale will send three relay teams and several individual competitors.

The Penn Relays have their start in a 1895 meet to inaugurate the opening of Franklin Field. According to the official Penn Relays website, Penn first hosted a relay race in 1893 as a way to make its usual competition more exciting, with four men each running a quarter mile. Two years later they invited high schools and colleges to a day of nine events: four for collegiate runners, four for high schoolers and the collegiate championship race. The NCAA Championships were not held until 1921, so Penn Relays was the only place for competition from around the country for many years.

In 1910 "Carnival" was officially added to the event's name because of the tent camp that evolved from spectators and athletes coming together around Franklin Field. Until 1913, there were no passing zones and no batons involved; the athlete running a succeeding leg would stand on the starting line and wait to be tagged.

Women competed for the first time in 1962, though a broad range of events was not developed until 1968. The Relays switched to metric events in 1976.

The Penn Relays are responsible for making relays a central part of track and field competition. They set the standard for adding relays to the 1912 Olympic program. A more in-depth history of the meet can be found here.

This year Yale will send 4x100-meter, 4x400-meter and 4x800-meter relay teams. All relay competitors compete first in heats, and the fastest eight teams in each heat compete the next day in the Championship of America final. The next eight teams in the ECAC compete in the ECAC Championship final, and then the closest eight teams following the above compete in the College final. For the 4x400-meter relay there is also a separate Heptagonal event.

Last year Yale's 4x800-meter relay team made it to the Championship of America final, and finished in 8:53.55 for seventh place amongst the best college teams in the country. The team included Meredith Leenhouts '08, sophomore Kate Grace, senior Kathryn Schleckser and junior Stephany Reaves.

Yale's distance medley relay team also finished well last year, as the team of Grace (1200m), Mary Kuder '08 (400m), Reaves (800m) and Leenhouts (1600m) finished in 11:30.34, which is one of the fastest times in the event in Yale history.

Bulldogs also ran in the 4x100 and 4x400 meter relays, finishing in times of 48.82 and 3:50.18, respectively.

In individual events, senior Jennifer Lin competed in the 400-meter hurdles. This year, Lin qualified for the ECAC Championships in the event with a time of 1:02.04 at the Harvard-Yale vs. Oxford-Cambridge meet over a week ago, and she may be trying to get close to the NCAA regional standard this weekend, which is about two seconds faster than her current time.

Other Bulldogs who have recently competed well individually include 3,000-meter steeplechase competitors Bevin Peters (senior) and Anne Lovelance (freshman). Peters also qualified for the ECAC Championships on April 10th in a personal best of 10:50.48. Lovelace won the steeplechase last weekend against Harvard in 11:02.50.

Sophomore Grace should be an outstanding athlete in whatever distance she competes in. She performs well in both sprints and middle to long-distance events: last weekend she both qualified for the ECAC Championships in the 1,500-meter run in a personal best of 4:30.31 and anchored Yale's 4x100-meter relay. Grace has already qualified for the NCAA Regional Championships in her signature event, the 800-meter run.

Junior Claudia Duncan won the 400-meter dash at Harvard last weekend in 56.32 seconds, and has run it faster. She should also be a big help in the relays, which is what she has mostly been running.

The historic race is always a good place for personal records and late qualifying times for championships. The Bulldogs will all be testing themselves against the top athletes in the country, as well as against other Ivy League competitors. This year they will all be paying especially close attention because the Heptagonal Championships will also be hosted by Penn at Franklin Field on May 9 and 10.

Events start on Thursday and end Saturday. A complete schedule of events can be found here. Results will be posted live at ThePennRelays.com and will be posted on YaleBulldogs.com at the end of each day of competition.

On Sunday Yale will host the Springtime Invitational. Held every year on the Sunday after Penn Relays at the Cuyler-Dwyer track complex, this is the Bulldogs' last meet before Heptagonal Championships May 9-10.

Bulldogs who do not compete at Penn Relays will have fresh legs before the home crowd, while some of those who will travel to Philadelphia will take the day off.

Field events will start at 10 a.m. and running events at 12 p.m. There are no set times for the following events; the meet will run on an open schedule where each event will start as soon as the last one has cleared the track. Buses will be available to transport spectators between Payne Whitney Gym and the track complex every 15 minutes, starting at 8:00 a.m.

Report by Kyle Eichner '12, Yale Sports Publicity