Changes on outside, fleet of foot inside

Posted: April 23, 2009

The 115th Penn Relays Carnival is embracing change this year.

That doesn't mean change on the track at Franklin Field. There still are the 264 races (relays and individuals) and nearly 60 field events that will take up more than 34 hours today, tomorrow, and Saturday.

There still are more than 12,000 contestants that range in age from grade school to more than 75 years of age. And yes, it's guaranteed you will hear "woooo" coming first from the northeast corner of the stadium and then spreading throughout the facility.

However, fans will notice change on the outside. Because of construction on the north side of Franklin Field, the carnival village has been moved to the south side of the stadium and will spill into the westbound lanes of South Street, which has been reduced to one lane to traffic.

The runners' entrance to the stadium also has been moved to the southwest corner of the stadium, at the parking lot at 33d and South. The main entrance for spectators is there as well since the southeast entrance has been closed. Only ticket holders for the north side of the stadium will be allowed in on that side.

The discus, hammer and shot-put throwing fields have become parking lots for heavy equipment used in the South Street bridge construction, so those competitions will be held at River Fields, about a 10- to 15-minute walk from Franklin Field. Signs are posted.

Also, due to the demolition of the South Street bridge, exits there off the Schuylkill Expressway are closed. With traffic now spilling off to exits at 30th Street (eastbound) and University Avenue (westbound), fans are advised more than ever to use public transportation.

The R1, R2 and R3 SEPTA regional rail lines stop at University City. The Market-Frankford line has stops at 34th and 30th Streets, just a short walk away.

Oh, you say you want to know about the meet itself? Read on:

Saluting the Olympians. According to carnival officials, 19 gold medalists in last year's Beijing Olympics had competed at the Penn Relays. Many of them are back this year for Saturday's "USA vs. the World" relays including individual gold winners LaShawn Merritt (400 meters), Angelo Taylor (400-meter hurdles), Shelly-Ann Fraser (women's 100), and Melaine Walker (women's 400 hurdles).

Same face, new place. Liam Boylan-Pett, a member of Columbia's winning 4x800 relay team in 2007, now is a graduate student at Georgetown and will compete for the Hoyas in the distance-medley relay as a fifth-year senior.

Shaunee Morgan, also a fifth-year senior and holder of a number of sprint records while at Penn, runs today for North Carolina in the women's DMR.

Love those locals. LSU's LaTavia Thomas (West Catholic) was the outstanding women's relay athlete at last year's carnival and is expected to run a leg on three relays - the 4x400, sprint medley, and 4x800 - for the Tigers.

UCLA teammates Nicole Leach (West Catholic) and Ryann Krais (Methacton) are expected to go to the line for today's first event, the women's 400-meter hurdles. Both are past winners of the outstanding high school athlete awards.

Watching the champs. Eleven athletes who won NCAA individual indoor championships last month, plus two victorious relay teams, are expected to be on hand. That includes Tennessee's Sarah Bowman, who captured the mile and anchored the Vols to a world record in the DMR, and Texas' Jacob Hernandez, the 800-meter champ and a member of the Longhorns' last two winning DMR teams at Penn.

Races to watch. The LSU women, who won four Championship of America relays last year, will be pressed by Texas A&M, runner-up at this year's NCAA indoor championships. Of note: A&M head coach Pat Henry is the former head coach of the Tigers.

The Texas men are looking to make some noise in the distance medley relay in a loaded field that includes Arkansas, Georgetown, Penn State, Providence, and Villanova.

In the men's 4x400, the teams that ranked second through seventh at the NCAA indoors (Florida State, Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M, LSU, Texas Tech) will be vying for watches.

Remember the basics. Tickets for today and tomorrow are $16 general admission and $22 reserved. For Saturday, general admission is $25 and reserved seats range in price from $32 to $48.


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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