The 2011 Penn Relays started with a measure of travel aggravation for the Houston Elite athletes that were traveling via the airlines. Storms that formed a line from Florida to Maine, moving east, delayed incoming flights to Philadelphia for several hours on Thursday the 28th. Alan Sims may have suffered more than others, having to spend one evening in an airport in Tennessee, sleeping unsoundly, with his noggin atop his backpack. Unfortunately for Horace Grant, he arrived at 3:30 am, the day before his race. However, the storms passed on Thursday evening, and Friday we awoke in Philadelphia to sunny skies and mild temperatures – good conditions for competition.

The official descriptive term used for the Penn Relays is “carnival – as in – “The Penn Relay Carnival”.

It’s a designation placed on the event to emphasize the energy that is ever-present as the relays unfold. I personally think the phrase ‘controlled chaos’ might be more descriptive and lean nearer the truth. I could attempt a description for those of you readers that have not been to the carnival, but I’m confident my description would end up as a vain, perhaps even lame, explanation of the atmosphere. Imagine, if you will, the most crowded day of any street festival you ever attended. Now imagine it is being attended primarily by track athletes, a swirling sea of ever-changing uniform colors, conversation, PA announcements, vibrant noise, bus engines and flowing chaos, punctuated by smiles, hugs and enormous energy. It’s an urban street scene at rush hour, attended by folk ready to race, coupled with an ethereal floating, yet delicate, happiness at being a part of something to which only ‘our kind’ belongs.

It is an inconvenient track meet. You are allowed access to one way routes only if you own the proper badge. If you suddenly need to find a ‘room of relief’, and who doesn’t at a track meet, then I hope a nasty Porta-a-John, sans paper, is OK with you. If you want to buy a bottle of water, then you make the long trek through one way passages and wait in line at concessions that have specifically recruited the slowest moving humans on earth to fetch product for you. But nevertheless, it is ‘The Penn Relays’, and it belongs to us. And, punctuating that thought, it has belonged to us longer than any other track meet in the United States. So we continue to go, smile and contribute, and share the memories with one another.

The 2011 edition was different for Houston Elite in that it book marked the transition of some of our athletes into new age groups. These transitions resulted in new team rosters, and the opportunity to share the Penn races among the HE family in new ways. Some results, like the 4×100 – 60 year old team streaking to a win, were nothing new. For some of us the 4×400 felt like the race of the dad’s team versus the kid’s team, but a challenge is why we came, so no complaints. Well, wait a minute. Let me just mention we stood in a cold wind, near the end of the day, in the paddock waiting for our 4×400 race for over an hour – without warm up pants. Of course, all the other teams did the same.

Specific congratulations go to Charles Allie and Bobby Whilden for their winning runs in the individual 100 meter races. For complete results of how your Houston Elite teammates performed at Penn, check the results below.

From my viewpoint, I will always be grateful to the Houston Elite family for the opportunity to be called your teammate, and the chance to go to the “Carnival” again.

See ya next year in Philadelphia!

Penn Relays Results:
4×100 – 60 -69: (1)  48.94 – Vance Jacobson, Charles Allie, Ron Johnson, Bill Collins
4×100 – 50 -59: (4)  48.89 – Mark Hastings, Rick Riddle, George Haywood, Greg Pizza
4×100 – 40 – 49: (4)  47.57 – Alan Sims, Ken Thomas, John Aiken, Damon Blakemore
4×400 – 50 – 59: (4)  3:56.60 – Rick Riddle, George Haywood, Mark Hastings, Horace Grant
4×400 – 60 – 69: (2)  4:20.17 – Ron Johnson, John Aiken, Earl Lee , Charlie Allie
100 meters – 55 and older: (5)  12.91 – Greg Pizza
100 meters – 60 and older: (1)  12.60 – Charles Allie
100 meters – 75 and older: (1)  13.68 – Bobby Whilden