RUNNING WITH THE BIG DOGS — The S-GI girls track team is pictured in Philadelphia, Pa. at the Penn Relays. Photo submitted by Sandy Forshee
SPRINGVILLE — On April 24, a select group of Springville-Griffith Institute boys and girls track team members boarded a bus and traveled to Philadelphia, Pa. for the Penn Relays, held at the University of Pennsylvania. The Penn Relays are the longest-running track competition in the country, after it first started in 1895. This year, the 119th Penn Relays Carnival featured 425 races and 33 hours of competition, during four days. More athletes have run at Penn Relays than at any other meet, in the world. It draws the most spectators of all events, too, other than the Olympics and the World Championships.
Girls varsity track coach Mark Heichberger recalled that Springville has been going to the event for 14 years. There were 333 relay teams at the venue, this year, including the USA 4-by-100 Olympic team of Justin Gatlin, Mike Rodgers, Doc Patton and Ryan Bailey. The United States women’s 4-by-400 Olympic team of Jessica Beard, Natasha Hastings, Dee Dee Trotter and Francena McCorory also competed, at the meet. World record holder Usain Bolt has also gone to Penn Relays, in years past.
“I think the most important part, of going to the Penn Relays, is the fact that the girls and boys get to see track at its highest level,” Heichberger said. “It’s really a meet that is as close to the Olympics you can get. The caliber athletes, that you see there, you can’t find anywhere, around here. It’s really just a great experience and it gives them something to shoot for. They’re seeing Division 1, 2, 3, junior college athletes compete. They get to see every level of track and field, at its best.”
The Lady Griff’s 4-by-100 team of Lexi Lines, Tia Woodarek, Brittney Luther and Joelle Adamczyk set their personal record, in the event, with a time of 55.98 seconds. Their time placed them in the middle of the 333-team pack.
The 30 S-GI track athletes took a walking tour of Philadelphia, saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the United States Mint. For two days, the team had workouts near the famous, “Rocky Steps” from the movie “Rocky.”
“We have been allowed to attend this meet annually, and we are grateful to the school board and administration, for believing in our program,” Heichberger said. “We were able to watch some of the best track and field athletes in the world, not only compete, but warm up and stretch out, too. This is always an amazing opportunity, for our student-athletes.”