Spain inside

Penn Saturday Fell Short of Its Usual Excitement

After months of waiting for the much-heralded new-look Penn Relays for 2024, which many thought would have rekindled the fire of the former Nike-sponsored USA vs. The World, fans were left crest fallen, and it wasn’t because only two of the relays on the agenda until 2019 were run. What was billed as a battle among several countries turned out to be competition among three countries versus clubs.

It was the high school Championships of America rivalries that saved the day for me.

Last year, Steve Dolan, Director of the Penn Relays said: “The Penn Relays is proud to welcome athletes from around the globe to Philadelphia,” and added that “we are honored to build on the rich history by providing an opportunity for international relay teams and individuals to compete as they prepare for the World Relays and Olympic Games.”

Nike is no more at Penn, and Penn Relays organizers also noted that “the [Olympic Development] Global Relays will again include countries from all over the world [as did the USA vs. The World] to compete in the 4×100m and 4×400m for men and women. They told us that more than 12 nations had expressed intent to compete at the 2024 Penn Relays.

What really got me excited was the announcement that all four races (two 4x1s and 4x4s) sponsored by Toyota would feature top teams in world rankings, as well as squads that competed in the 2021 Olympic finals and the 2023 World Championships.

It was disappointing enough that there was no senior US squad there, but worse that only Ghana (men), Spain (women), Portugal (men), and Jamaica (men and women) turned up, and the times run by all were not even close to what fans were used to seeing.

Jamaican men won over Ghana and track clubs in the 4×1 with a schoolboy time 39.59; Spain’s women defeated Jamaica and clubs with a schoolgirl 43.97; and Portugal men (3:05.97) won over Spain, Jamaica, and clubs. Their times looked more college ready.

No women’s 4×4 materialized, and I keep looking in the rearview mirror at top teams from the USA, Bahamas, Holland, Nigeria, China, Venezuela, Kenya, Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Germany, Australia, Morocco, Russia, Great Britain, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Saudi Arabia, France, Ethiopia, Botswana, Haiti, Japan, Namibia, Ghana, Guyana, St. Kitts & Nevis, World All-stars and Caribbean All-stars, and possibly other nations that have competed, when the meet was truly a global event that served mouth-watering clashes of 4x1s, 4x2s, 4x4s, 4x8s, and the sprint medley.

With the World Athletics World Relays in Bahamas only a week after the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, several other countries might have opted for Bahamas where prize money and Olympic qualifying times are on the line.

Jamaica did not send their A-listers to Penn and named a somewhat stronger team to the World Relays, where the USA and others will feature prominently. Could it be that the Penn Relays was a victim of the timing they have maintained for more than a decade and a quarter?

The current situation begs the question: Will Penn ever regain its Saturday afternoon mojo?Fans will be watching next year when there’ll be no World Relays to attract global teams. -Desmond Palmer. Results