So there is a little something for everyone.
The best race on Thursday's card is the women's distance medley relay, when Villanova, the NCAA indoor champion in the event, will attempt to win the race for the 11th time and the first time since 2006.
The Wildcats boast one of the nation's best middle-distance runners in junior Sheila Reid, who will be on the 1,600-meter anchor leg. The first three members of the indoor national champions - Emily Lipari (1,200 meters), Christie Verdier (400), and Ariann Neutts (800) - will seek to give Reid the baton in good position.
The outdoor world DMR record of 10 minutes, 48.38 seconds set by the 1988 'Nova team anchored by Olympian Vicki Huber may be in the Wildcats' range. But coach Gina Procaccio simply would be delighted with a victory, regardless of time.
"It's always an anxious week for us," Procaccio said. "But this year, I think we have the best team that we've had since we won five years ago. So that's kind of the relay we're focusing on. We have our best shot at winning there."
The Wildcats will have plenty of competition from Tennessee, looking for its third consecutive victory in the event. Anchor Phoebe Wright has graduated, but the Lady Vols boast three DMR runners with multiple Penn Relays watches, including Easton's Chanelle Price.
Brigham Young, Georgetown, Virginia, and Duke also are contenders for the championship.
The day also features heats in the college women's 4x100 and 4x400 relays, where LSU, Texas A&M, and Texas will battle for weekend sprint supremacy. The three also are expected to lead the pack in the 4x200 later this weekend.
A four-hour cluster of distance races at night will cap the first full day of competition.
Curtis, Sanchez prevail
It was a big day Wednesday for Kelly Curtis and her parents at the Penn Relays.
In the same stadium where Curtis used to accompany her parents to watch Thursday competition at the carnival, the junior from Springfield (Mass.) College won the heptathlon with 4,738 points, qualifying her for the NCAA Division III championships next month.
After the awards ceremony, Curtis posed for pictures with her ecstatic mother, while her father snapped away.
"My family got seats every year over by the sprint finish," Curtis said, pointing to the southeast part of Franklin Field. "My father inherited the seats from my grandfather. Right before I started the 800, I thought of my grandpa and what this would mean to him.
"It means a lot to my family. I know they're more excited than I am right now. It really hasn't hit me yet."
Marcos Sanchez of Turabo (Puerto Rico) posted a winning decathlon score of 7,178 points, the best at Penn in 12 years. Runner-up Anya Uzoh of Penn State also broke 7,000, scoring 7,045.
Curtis' competitive day was highlighted by a personal- best throw of 132 feet, 2 inches in the javelin. She was third in the long jump and coasted in the 800.
Melinda Wentz of West Chester ran a strong 2 minutes, 26.21 seconds in the 800 and took second with 4,632 points. Penn State freshman Brittany Howell, a Cheltenham High graduate, finished her first career heptathlon in third at 4,604.
Asked what she had learned, Howell said: "Now I know you have to have more endurance. It's not just one day. For two days you have to stay focused and have the right attitude."
Sanchez broke away in the seventh event when he hurled the discus 142-2 for a 229-point edge over Uzoh, who managed just 104-11. While he wasn't particularly pleased with his last three events, he still had a Penn Relays watch to take home.
"I lost points in the pole vault and the javelin," Sanchez said. "They weren't good. But it was a good score, it's early in the season."
Uzoh said that while his goal was to reach 7,000 points, he called it "bittersweet" not having found another 134 points to surpass Sanchez.
"Ever since high school, I wanted to get that gold watch," he said. "This is the third time at the Penn Relays since high school I've finished in second place."
Read live blogging from the Penn Relays at http://go.philly.com/pennrelays
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or email@example.com