The 2011 Penn Relays begin today with the start of the Men's Decathlon and Women's Heptathlon. The full event will start in earnest on Thursday. The Penn Relays is the oldest and largest track and field event in the United States. Every year over 20,000 competitors from high schools and colleges all over the world head to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to compete in the event. In all, it's expected that over 60 countries will represented. It's estimated that over 100,000 people will pack in Franklin Field over the course of the week to watch the festivities and attend the carnival.
The first Penn Relays were staged in 1895, making this year the 117th anniversary of the event. Last year's relays drew the biggest crowd in it's history when Usain Bolt competed in a new "USA vs the World" program.
One of the highlights of this years' relays should be the Villanova women's Distance Medley Relay team, who won the event at the NCAA indoor championships last month. They broke the competition record in that race and now have their sites set on the outdoor record at the Penn Relays. Villanova distance champion Sheila Reid says that the Penn Relays represents the pinnacle of the DMR at the college level.
"In my mind, the Penn Relays is the de facto national championship, since there's no DMR at outdoors. So this is the time to prove what we have. We see all the great names on the wall [at school], every day. They've got Penn Relay champions, and national champions. It's kind of funny to have one without the other. It's something that's very elusive. It would be great to put our names right up there in Villanova history, because it's very hard to do. Penn means the world to us."
The current world record in the event was set by the Villanova women in 1998. The women's distance medley relay is scheduled for 5:35 PM on Thursday.
The Men's Decathlon takes place today at 11 am and concludes tomorrow at 10 am. The women's heptathlon begins at 11:30 am today and 10:30 am on Wednesday.
The full relays will begin on Thursday with the College Women's 400 meter hurdles and the College Women's High Jump at 10 am.