Track treks to Penn Relays

Josh Echt

Best in nation run in prestigious Philadelphia meet

Sophomore Ryan Schroeder runs during last week’s meet in Akron. The track team will be competing at Philadelphia, Iowa and Michigan this weekend.

Credit: Andrew popik

Fifty thousand fans.

Sixteen thousand athletes.

Two-hundred, sixty-plus events.

This is the atmosphere of the biggest track meet in the United States, which started last night in Philadelphia. Last night, the relays saw Kent State junior Dominika Stokowska become the school’s first female athlete to qualify for the regional meet by placing 10th in the 400-meter hurdles. Junior Molly Hammer placed 11th in the 5,000-meter race and junior Melinda Kiss finished fourth in the 3000-meter steeplechase.

The Penn Relays’ intense crowds and jam-packed competition holds no surprises for senior Ofer Barniv. As a fourth-year competitor at the relays, Barniv said the meet’s crazy atmosphere had its challenges in the past.

“You stand out there in the bullpen 20 minutes before your race and don’t get a chance to warm up,” he said. “You have to do your warm-up and stretching when you are outside of the stadium.”

However, Barniv said he enjoyed the massive crowds, and the hectic pace was worth it.

“It’s exciting, different,” he said. “You get to hear the crowds cheering for you when you run.”

The three-day event in Philadelphia has been a tradition since 1895, making this year the 111th running of the Penn Relays. More than 260 events are scheduled, with Kent State in the middle of the foray.

“It’s the largest track and field meet in the United States,” coach Wendel McRaven said. “It’s a great opportunity to show what we’re made of.”

World athletes as well as U.S. athletes will compete at various levels of competition. Runners from ages seven to 70 will engage in the festivities.

Elementary, middle and high school athletes will show up, as well as collegiate and Olympic Development stars. Kent State will send 20 to 25 competitors this year.

“Even though we only can send 25 competitors to the meet, we have more athletes that are qualified,” McRaven said.

Last year, the Kent State men’s 4×800-meter relay won the College Championship at the Relays with a 7:31.14 clocking. This year, they will compete in the Championship of America bracket, which is a higher seed than the College Championship bracket.

“We want to make some noise in the relay events,” McRaven said. “The men’s 4×100-meter relay team has an outside shot of winning.”

McRaven also mentioned the women’s 4×400-meter relay’s potential. He also said junior Dominika Stokowska, as of Thursday, regionally qualified in the 400-meter hurdles. Senior Julie Ward also qualified nationally in the javelin throw.

“The Penn Relays are icons of track and field in America,” McRaven said.

Contact track and field reporter Josh Echt at [email protected].