By Steve Holt, Copy Editor
A handful of Wildcat track and field athletes are competing at one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious meets, the Penn Relays Carnival, Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia.
The ACU men’s team has won eight relay events in its history at the 108-year-old meet, which has grown from 5,000 spectators in 1895 to 100,000 in 2002. The meet will feature the nation’s best athletes from the nation’s best teams.
Head coach Jon Murray said it is just a privilege to participate in such a meet, and one reason exists why he takes athletes to it every year: competition.
“It is great going up there and competing on that stage,” Murray said. “It’s a great opportunity to compete against the best.”
Junior Christie VanWyk, who has the fastest 100-meter dash time in Division II, will compete in the event at Penn.
One woman from ACU is competing at the relays. Freshman standout Yuliya Stashkiv participated Thursday in the 3,000-meter run, her favorite event. Stashkiv ran a high school time in the event that is better than the school record, and the Penn Relays are the perfect stage for her to break Rachida Asname’s event record of 9:26.82.
“I think sub-9:30s are an accurate prediction,” Murray said. “It depends on the weather.”
On the men’s side, the 4×100-, 4×400-meter, 4xmile and distance medley relays will participate among fast competition. Murray said Penn is unique from the other national relay meets.
“Penn is the only meet where everyone competes together,” he said of the meet, which makes no distinction between university divisions.
More than 22,000 athletes, half of whom will be from high schools, are expected to participate in this year’s relays.
After this weekend, ACU will play host to two consecutive home meets. The Lone Star Conference Championships will take place May 2-3, and the ACU Open will occur May 8 at Elmer Gray Stadium. Murray said these two meets will be important to qualify more athletes for the NCAA Division II Championships in Edwardsville, Ill; May 22-24.
“We still have a few holes we want to fill,” Murray said, “but we are in a comfortable position. Conference is our next big weekend-we just need good weather.”