After 125 years, the Penn Relays has been canceled for the first time, due to the coronavirus, meet officials announced on Monday.
The decision obviously is not a surprise. The meet, which annually brings together youth, high school, collegiate, pro and Masters athletes, was scheduled for April 23-25 at Franklin Field.
Meet officials in a statement said they are exploring the option of holding a scaled-down one-day meet in late May or early June.
“No one associated with the Penn Relays has ever wanted to see a cancellation,” meet director Dave Johnson said in a statement on the Relays web site. “While participating in the meet as an athlete, coach or official remains a bucket list goal for many, the event has long served as an annual homecoming for families, friends, teams and social groups. Without the Penn Relays, springtime in Philadelphia will not be the same. We will be back for the 2021 Penn Relays on April 22 through 24 at Franklin Field, when we hope to see brighter days and be reunited with Penn Relays family.”
Penn Relays officials emphasized that the one-day meet won’t replace the Penn Relays and won’t be called the Penn Relays but hopefully will allow some of the athletes who would have participated next month to compete at Franklin Field later this spring.
“The University of Pennsylvania has hosted the Penn Relays for 125 consecutive years through the World Wars and other world-wide health issues,” said Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, Penn’s director of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics. “This spirit of perseverance and resiliency will continue as we plan for a track meet later in the year when the health and safety of our community is more certain.”
The Penn Relays, first held April 21, 1895, is the oldest and largest annual track meet in the United States, generally drawing more than 100,000 spectators over its three days.