Kent State track and field gets a chance to compete at Penn Relays


Matt Hafley

Junior JoAnne Pittman runs the 60 meter hurdle event during the Kent State Tune Up track and field meet on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. MATT HAFLEY

Richie Mulhall

Kent State University coach Bill Lawson said his track and field team will get “the opportunity to perform on a big stage” at the 119th annual Penn Relays held at Franklin Field this weekend in Philadelphia, Pa.The Penn Relays are arguably one of the most historic college track and field meets in the country. The meet first ran April 21, 1895 and is now the oldest and largest meet in the United States.

This year, more than 22,000 of the best college and high school student-athletes will compete in the three-day event that begins Thursday morning and ends Friday evening. Lawson is looking forward to the meet because he said it will give his athletes the opportunity to run against some of the most skilled track and field athletes in the nation.

“It gives kids an opportunity to compete against schools that they normally wouldn’t get a chance to see,” Lawson said. “The kids that perform well on a big stage [get] the opportunity to do so in the end.”

Lawson also said the meet is always a big attraction attended by a lot of people each and every season, even though it’s only an open meet with no team scoring. According to the Penn Relays website, the attendance will most likely top 110,000 for the third consecutive year. Last year, the Penn Relays attracted more than 112,416 spectators, which marked the ninth straight year and 12th time in the past 13 years that the meet recorded well over 100,000 fans.

“It’s not the most important, but it’s the biggest meet,” Lawson said.Lawson said if the weather holds up, he expects good performances all across the board from his athletes. The Penn Relays provides the team with a good opportunity to compete in multiple events to “harden [its] shells” and prepare for the Mid-American Conference Championships, which are set to take place in a few weeks.“Our goal for our athletes on both sides, men and women, is to run a number of races, not only in open events, but also in relay events,” Lawson said. “Running a lot of races and a lot of rounds will give us that experience that you can’t necessarily get at practice.”This weekend’s action in Philadelphia begins Thursday at 10 a.m. with the College Women’s 400m Hurdles Championship.Beside the Penn Relays this weekend, the Flashes will also compete in the Ashland Alumni Open Friday and Saturday at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.Richie Mulhall is the track and field reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].