THE 2016 PENN RELAYS….
AND THE STRUCTURE OF MATTER
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
PHILADELPHIA – I’ve always been intrigued by the structure of matter.
The topic has forever gripped me.
It gets you down to the basics of all that is…or are.
Then again, I just haven’t had the time to get down to advanced study.
I hereby confess that I’ve been walking right by The Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter for years and years without bothering to actually step inside.
It’s located on 33rd Street in the University City section of Philadelphia, on the Penn campus, about two blocks away from another building where I really have been studying the action – the last few days of each April particularly – for years and years, at least 50 of them.
That, of course, is Franklin Field.
The question youn need to ask: Are their activities mutually exclusive-or are they somehow deeply entwined?
Never the deepest of thinkers, I happen to believe it is the latter.
Those who perform the greatest and grandest of deeds – at Franklin Field’s signature event – the University of Pennsylvania Relay Carnival, for instance – surely must have their essential matter structured in different form than the rest of us.
I prefer “right.”
To rise to this grandest of occasions – emerging triumphant before the nation’s largest annual assemblage of track fans – over 44,000 at the Saturday finale session of this year’s 122nd renewal of the Penn Relays – surely must require some essential matter above and beyond the normal variety.
I hereby put it to you that the essential matter of such as Thomas Awad, Fedrick Dacres, Traves Smikle, Jordan Geist and Ida Keeling are worthy of the Laboratory’s special scrutiny.
The host team, the Penn Quakers, hadn’t won a Championship of America – the designation given to Penn Relays winners – since the year 1959. (For a race requiring going around the track, that is; Penn’s shuttle hurdlers had won in 1972-73-74.)
But Thomas Awad’s sensational 4:00.3 anchor mile turned back the tide of history and gave the home team a 16:26.30 triumph and reason to rejoice all over its campus. Keaton Naff (4:08.0), Chris Hatler (4:06.7) and Nick Tuck (4:11.3) set the stage and Awad did the rest.
Coming around the final turn, he seemed locked in third or fourth, but with perhaps 160 meters to go, he found another gear and won it decisively over Indiana, Georgetown and Iona. Forget that Penn’s time was the Relay’s slowest winner in eight years.
They had structured their race magnificently. They had done it all when it mattered. Analyzed Penn coach Steve Dolan, “He (Awad) was super mature today; because it’s a using of energy; there are only so many times you can change speedfrom such distance before you can actually accelerate.” His sum-up: “to be in a Penn uniform and to win at this stage of the Penn Relays is about as good as it gets; it was a magical moment out there for all of us.”
To Awad, “this has always been the dream, to win a big relay here; to finally do it, it’s awesome.”
To Naff, “it ‘s huge, it’s great to see dreams come true like this.”
What really matters about the The University of the West Indies, located in Mona, Jamaiaca, often recognized as the Caribeann area’s top university, is that it is structured to produce world-class recipients of degrees in such fields as biotechnology, marine sciences, economic, environmental and nuclear studies, the
humanities and law.
Does athletics success fall under the category of humanities?
Perhaps it should because in Fedrick Dacres and Traves Smikle, the UWI-Mona campus is now home to two of the world’s most promising young discus throwers.
Gone, obviously, are the days when the Jamaica track and field establishment’s focus was structured solely on the shortest of speed events and nothing else mattered.
No longer, a point driven home emphatically by Dacres and Smikle at the Relays.
Not only did they get off rousing discus throws, but Dacres (213-10, a Penn Relays
record) and Smikle (208-0) relegated Penn’s own NCAA champion, Sam Mattis, to
third place at 196-7.
Back on March 19, Mattis unleashed a discus throw heard (well, sort of) around the track and fiedl world. It landed 221-3 away and was at that point the longest in world of for the year.
But progress on the world list waits for no athlete. Mattis’s world lead lasted just four weeks.
South Africa’s Victor Hogan whirled one out to 221-10 on April 15; Dacres surpassed it with his 223-2 a week later, and Piotr Malachowski of Poland now tops the year list with his 223-2 in the Doha Diamond League opener.
Will the 30-year-old world record of 243-0 by Germany’s Jurgen Schult be under serious attack this year? Well, why not?
What matters is that no world record – even one as ancient as Schult’s – is structured to last forever.
Well, they often say that about Michael Carter’s national scholastic shot put record of 81-3 1/2, set in 1979, too. Then again, few have put that premise to the test in recent years.
Jordan Geist, however, may be just such a young athlete.
With his mighty toss of 73-0 3/4, the Western Pennsylvania, out of Knoch High School, demolished the Penn Relays record of 72-9 that New Jerseyan Nick Vena had posted in 2011.
Most amazing factoids here are that Geist isn’t that big a guy, and that he’s only a junior.
The Penn Relays throws are staged outside Franklin Field, at the “Moon” Mondschein Throwing Center, but knowledgeable Relays fans made sure to catch the action.
“I love the attention,” Geist once told an interviewer, about throwing in front of crowds. “It is like a charger for me. Every set of eyes I have watching me adds a little bit of energy and adrenaline, especially when they are clapping and cheering and really letting their presence be known.”
He’d aleady been a legend in Western Pennsylvania. Now he’s gone national – and soon likely, international.
The young man is clearly structured for huge things ahead. Does it matter to Michael Carter that his 37-year-old record may soon be endangered? Likely and hopefully.
Finally, there was Ida Keeling, who set a world 100-meter record of 1:17:37 for Masters women in the 100-year-old bracket.
The centenarian, a resident of the Riverdale section of the Bronx, had run 100 meters in 59.80 at age 99, so the Penn Relays performance was no real surprise.
“I thank God every day for my blessings,” she said after crossing the finish line.
A spotlighted men’s entry was Champ Goldie of Haddonfield, N.J., who ran it in 45.70. And he’s a youth of 99. For years, the 100-meter event for runners 75-and-up had been a Saturday feature event, but now, the 80-and-upds have joined the fun. The 2016 Penn schedule was structured by Relays Director Dave Johnson to add the 100 dash for 80-and-ups. It mattered that the Penn Carnival was not just for the kids, he rightfully reckoned. You might say that, on these final days of April 2016, that Franklin Field had eveolved into a branch office of that other laboratory, two blocks away.