Track and field's grandest mob scene is the Penn Relays, where last weekend 5,000 excited young athletes submitted eagerly to some amazing stockyarding and an unrelenting timetable. Like dutiful automatons, they ran on each other's heels to keep on their massive schedule. The supermeet never missed a beat. It was enough to give bigness a good name.
The stop watch is an item of fashion at Philadelphia's Franklin Field. The 35,000 fans come partly to ooh and to ah over their favorites, but mostly they come to time them.
In its 68 years of giving everybody a chance, the Penn Relays has been a track meet singularly devoted to quantity. Competitors come from diverse places: colleges of Florida, high schools of Virginia and the Virgin Islands, grammar schools of Philadelphia. Some run in Bermuda socks and tattered undershirts Just to boast on a future day that they were there. Often they must race in crowds (left), but they share an intensity of will and purpose, typified by the boy below, brooding over his chances in a relay event soon to start.
There were as many as 25 starters in an event. Jamming at the baton passing (above) was unnerving. Elbows became as vital as feet. On the hot, dry track the better man was often bumped awry, accidentally defeated by the crowd. By Saturday, the track was roughened by the relentless procession of spikes. Superior times became increasingly hard to achieve. Runners tumbled and plunged after one another (right), the elbows of the unhappy fallen grinding in the cinders.
Conquering the pockmarked track, a winner (below) lunges at the tape. Others were not so lucky. A Virgin Islands team came 1,334 miles on funds that took four months to raise. It was leading, when suddenly there was a mix-up. The baton fell. Later there were tears.
Throughout the meet there is a constant milling of athletes. They drift nervously, wait their turns and actually savor the dust cloud stirred up by fellow runners. In the featured final hours the crowd saw Olympian Frank Budd in a mighty duel with Earl Young. But big names are incidental here. The camaraderie (above) and the competition are the basics of the Penn Relays—these and the fact that when it ,s over, and only the dust remains, the management can say it ended right on time