March 24, 2019 | 47° F

Rutgers prepares for historic Penn Relays

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

The Rutgers women’s track and field team will participate in its penultimate meet of the outdoor regular season this weekend at the 123rd running of the historic Penn Relays at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Hosted annually by the University of Pennsylvania since its inception in 1895, the Penn Relays is the oldest and largest track and field meet in the United States. It typically boasts upward of 15,000 competitors from high school, collegiate and independent leagues every year.

The meet will run from Thursday, April 27 to Saturday, April 29 with mixed track and field events spanning all three days.

Though the Penn Relays is a massive meet in terms of athlete involvement, its high qualification standards limit participation to only a select few student-athletes from each school. In 2016, Rutgers only sent 11 student-athletes to compete in Philadelphia, where Gabrielle Farquharson took home the 100-meter title and the team saw four total top-five placements in both track and field events.

For this year’s meet, Rutgers will send student-athletes to compete in the sprint and distance medley relays, the 4x100-meter relay, the 100-meter and several field events.

Head coach James Robinson commented on the legacy of the Penn Relays and how it highlights the development the Knights have made over the season.

“It’s a unique meet. It’s the oldest, biggest meet of its kind in the country,” he said. “We go in the tournament to run fast, jump high, jump far and throw far. You’re among the best athletes in the country. It’s a very exciting meet and provides an opportunity to put our best personnel out there.”

Robinson also discussed how the team’s Big Ten status has prepared it for high-profile meets like the Penn Relays.

“With this being our third year in the Big Ten, we’ve ramped up our scheduling with high-powered meets in anticipation of meets like the Penn Relays,” he said. “That is the best preparation you can have in the Big Ten, continuing to see top competition in the country. This meet continues to prepare us for the high-level competition as a precursor to the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.”

The Knights are coming off a weekend of split-squad action, where they earned two titles and six Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC)-qualifiers at both the Georgia Tech Invitational and the Larry Ellis Invitational hosted by Princeton University.

Rutgers was led last weekend by junior sprinter Bria Saunders, who captured the 200-meter title and set a new personal-best with an ECAC-qualifying time of 23.55 at the Georgia Tech Invitational in Atlanta.

Saunders understands the importance of a solid effort this weekend in Philadelphia, having competed in the 4x200-meter relay for a third-place result at last year’s Penn Relays.

“Penn Relays is always a fun meet. It’s kind of a ‘put it all out there and see what you can do’ in your relay,” she said. “We’re going to train for the Penn Relays, but we’re also going to train through it and get ready for Big Ten. Ultimately, the Big Ten Championships are what we’ve been training for all season. The Penn Relays will be a good experience. It’s a good opportunity to go out there and hopefully do something good. After this week, our training will definitely pick up even more.”

The junior also elaborated on where she plans to go to further her athletic development at this late point in the season.

“Being that Georgia Tech was really the last individual meet before Big Ten, going forward with my training, it’s important now to key-in on the things I need to fix. I was able to run a really great time [at Georgia Tech], but there are still things I need to work on,” she said. “There are at least a few weeks before Big Ten, so I should be able to go out there and hone in on my speed and technique so I can further my time even faster than before. You can definitely improve your time if you focus on the little things.”

Though the tradition, legacy, and sheer size of the Penn Relays could understandably intimidate any athlete, Saunders maintained a clear mission for herself and the rest of the Knights.

“Going into the coming weeks, my training is definitely going to get more intense and pick up a lot," she said. "Going forward, it’s all about the Big Ten Championships.”

For updates on the Rutgers women's track and field team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Kevin Stapleton

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