Yale faces the finest in 111th Penn Relays

Last Saturday, the men’s and women’s track teams of Yale and Harvard continued one of the longest rivalries in American sports. The Eli men and women buried their Cantab counterparts on a rain-soaked Dewitt-Cuyler Field, but few took notice.

From today until Saturday, the men’s and women’s track teams will compete in the storied Penn Relays in Philadelphia, and, without a doubt, the sports world will be watching.

The 111th running of the annual meet at Franklin Field will feature the country’s top individuals and teams. Of the nation’s top five men’s teams, only Arizona will be missing this weekend. No. 1 Arkansas will compete, as will No. 2 Florida and its electrifying sprinter Kerron Clement, who broke Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson’s 1995 world indoor record in the 400 meters at the NCAA indoor championships in March. Clement finished in 44.57.

Brandon Giles ’08, a member of Yale’s vaunted — by Ivy League standards — 4×100 meters relay team, admitted that while he is not ready to compete with the world’s fastest sprinters, he is looking forward to his first Relays.

“I’m excited,” Giles said of his first trip to the historic meet. “It should be a real good meet. There’s going to be a lot of really good competition. I don’t really know what to expect but it should be crazy. I’m sure it’ll be a lot of fun. I’m a little nervous, but excited more than anything.”

Track and Field media outlets like trackshark.com have been abuzz all week in anticipation of the Relays, which provide a preliminary round of competition for the teams and individuals that will be competing in June’s NCAA Championships in Sacramento.

“For schools like Arkansas, Michigan, it’s like a national championship,” Jihad Beauchman ’06 said.

While he is legendary by Yale standards — he owns the school indoor and outdoor records in the high jump as well as the indoor in the triple jump — Beauchman is not highly regarded on a national scale. He, like Yale’s other competitors this weekend, will compete in supplementary heats with other well-established but not elite college performers. Only a select few participants are chosen to compete in the invitational heats.

Not being the main attraction does not faze Beauchman, however. When the high and triple jumper is competing, the full crowd at Franklin Field is guaranteed to jumpstart his adrenaline.

“I just love the Penn Relays so much,” he said. “With the atmosphere, it’s just great. There are so many people and everybody’s right there. Thousands upon thousands of people — especially on Saturday. Saturday’s the best [because the crowd is biggest]. There are so many fans on the straightaway coming home, it just breeds big jumps.”

Because of the size of the Penn Relays — over 100 colleges from all NCAA divisions will be competing — not all of Yale’s athletes will make the trip. Most of the men and women staying home will compete in Sunday’s Yale Invitational.

While the allure of the celebrated Penn Relays and its carnival atmosphere are next on Yale’s schedule, the team is keeping its eye on next weekend’s Heptagonal Championships in New York.

The Eli women placed second at the Indoor Heps in February, while the men placed fourth.

Beauchman said that the team would love nothing more than to move up into the top three.

“We’re really geared for this week but in the back of our minds is the more important meet in New York next weekend at Heps. That’s what were really gunning for — the top three.”

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