First held on April, 21 1895, the Penn Relays is not only the oldest, but also the largest track and field meet in the United States. Held annually at Franklin Field in Philadelphia during the last full week in April ever since, this elite athletic competition features over 100 different events and typically draws upwards of 15,000 participants from high schools, colleges, and track clubs from all over the USA, as well as abroad. As such, more athletes compete at the Penn Relays than do at any other track and field event across the globe. And it is safe to say that Saturday at the Relays is the climax, as attendance has been known to top 50,000 on that day—especially when Jamaica’s Usain Bolt participated in 2010. Not surprisingly, Jamaica has had a dominant presence at Penn Relays for many, many years prior. What’s more, it is the opinion of many Penn Relays attendees that the Jamaican high school teams are Saturday’s main attraction.
This year’s 125th running of the Relays was no different, as Jamaica’s top high school teams, such as Kingston College, Calabar, St. Jago, Jamaica College, and the Edwin Allen Girls meant business where putting their best foot forward and making their mark was concerned. In the High School Boys Championships of America 4x100m relay, Spanish Town’s St. Jago High school captured their first win in 12 years, upsetting the much favored and 2019 Boys’ Champs (at the Championships in Jamaica in March), Kingston College. The St. Jago winning quartet consisted of Rasheed Broadbell, Vashaun Vascianna, Javari Thomas and Kavian Kerr. Jamaica’s senior women’s team also did their bit in winning a pair of relays. Perhaps most notably, in the 4×100 meter relay two-time Olympic gold medalist Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce handled the team’s opening leg duties and spearheaded a lead they never relinquished and won the race against the USA women, their primary rival, in dominant fashion.
Jamaica Senior Men’s Team – Penn Relays 2019 – Philadelphia, USA
Aside from the action and excitement on the track, the post-Penn Relays activities are just as awesome. In keeping with tradition, droves of Jamaican team fans as well as athletes make the short jaunt to an area adjacent to Franklin Field after the conclusion of competition to congregate and enjoy great food and music, as well as awards presentations. Nuff respect goes out to Team Jamaica Bickle at this year’s event in marking its 25th anniversary of accommodating the health, well-being, and appetites of the Jamaican high school athletes who make the trek from the island to participate in the Penn Relays. And of course, kudos to all other sponsors—notably Grace Foods—for their commitment and contributions of resources over the years at the Relays. Fittingly, on prominent display at the track, was Grace’s banner advertising its coconut water with its “Nuff Hydration” slogan with an image of the one and only—Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce. And this year also marked a special anniversary year for the Penn Relays in being the 125th running of the the track and field meet.
Photography by Nick Ford