Penn Relays From Ryan Fenton’s Perspective

The Penn Relays are one of the oldest and largest Track and Field competitions in the United States. This year marks the 121st Penn Relays, which are taking place on April 23-25 at the University of Pennsylvania.

For those of you Track and Field fans who are interested in experiencing this year’s Penn Relays but are unable to be there in physical form, Flotrack has got you covered.

You can be a part of the Penn Relays’ experience by following Flotrack’s live streaming of the event at Flotrack.com. Additionally, since former Clemson runner and well-followed Track and Field commentator Ryan Fenton both works for Flotrack and is onsite for the Penn Relays, Campus Sports touched base with him.

Could you begin by telling me a little bit about yourself, and what has led to your interest in Track and Field? 

So I started running when I was pretty young. In Elementary School. There was one city-wide meet where I was from, and all the best athletes made the track team.I didn’t make it as a fourth and fifth grader. But the next year, I busted my butt and made the team.

After making the team, I grew passionate about running at a young age. I became very competitive. I won some State Championships in High School, and some ACC titles at Clemson University.

Clemson had a very strong team during the late 80s leading up to the early 2000s, winning multiple ACC titles. This tradition excited me, and the fact that I like to excel as an individual. I finished up school and joined the working world. Flotrack got off in 2007, and being that I knew the founder, as we ran the same event in college, I felt comfortable reaching out to him. At that point I had been out of the sport for two years, but I instantly jumped back into it. I have been with the company for over seven years now.

You mentioned working for Flotrack. What is Flotrack’s importance to Penn Relays and Track and Field coverage?

Penn Relays has been around for over 120 years. 2007 was the first year Flotrack started doing video coverage of events, and the Penn Relays’ first live-broadcast was with Flotrack. With the magnitude of this event (there are over 400 races in just 3 days), it is neat to be able to provide access to it.

From 2007-2010, we were able to provide the video for the Penn Relays. The Penn Relays has so much history and it is a great event to watch and be involved with.

Since you are currently at Penn Relays, could you describe the atmosphere/environment?

Well I’m currently in a basement. But, it’s interesting. When you get here, there’s kind of a quiet electricity about it; it’s the calm before the storm. It’s quiet because we’re in day one. Everyone is warming up and working the kinks out. We’re running heats upon heats of the 4×1 and 4×4 today, but tomorrow is when things start heating up.

What do you enjoy most about Penn Relays?

Obviously the element of the Jamaican presence here. It opens peoples’ eyes. As young athlete getting exposed to what else is out there is a big opportunity. Those moments help elevate an athlete. Also, there are few places you could go that have a stadium full of people so knowledgeable of what they’re watching. They know the history and the athletes. I do this on a daily basis and anyone here can spite out some facts that I wouldn’t have even known. The dedication of the fans and the history of the event is unmatched.

What are a few of the most memorable races you’ve seen at Penn Relays over the years?

In 2007 there was a really memorable race in the high school 4×400 between Long Beach Poly of California and St. Jago High School of Jamaica. It came down to the anchor. Poly was in the lead, St. Jago caught up, and Poly managed to hold them off. Both times are part of the top 5 fastest times for this event and showed two future Olympians: Yohan Blake and Bryshon Nellum. It might have been that last time a US team won the 4×400. Another historic moment was when Usain Bolt was here to anchor the Jamaican 4×100. It was so loud when he stepped on the track. There was such an excitement towards this one athlete, and it was a special moment to see. One of my personal favorites was the 2010 4×800 between Oregon and Virginia. Virginia’s freshman Robbie Andrews and Oregon Olympian Andrew Wheating matched up to anchor the event. Andrews managed to outkick Wheating in front of 40,000 people, proving that his NCAA Championship win the previous month was no fluke. It was a cool moment for a young athlete.

Who are you most excited to see race, both team and individual wise?

Jamaica for sure. Jamaicans bring a speed to America that just doesn’t exist here. The best event is the 4×400; it’s the best relay out there and the closing event of the Olympics. Jamaican schools come up super competitive, and finals are dominated by them. A few teams from Jamaica have run times that are better than or equivalent to the Penn Relays’ record. As Obea Moore, anchor of the 2007 winning 4×400 (which still stands as the meets record) is honored this weekend in the Penn Relays’ Hall of Fame, he could also witness his record being broken. Another potential historic moment is Andrew Hunter’s mile. If Hunter wins the mile, he will be the second ever to win both the 3k and the mile.

To experience the excitement that Fenton discussed in this interview, be sure to tune in and check out the 2015 Penn Relays live at Flotrack.com.

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