- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2007

No major sporting event in the world showcases its greatest athletes from virtually cradle to grave as the Penn Relay Carnival does.

Now in its 113th year, the three-day meet at Franklin Field in Philadelphia dazzles with 33 hours of competition, which finished yesterday. It included more than 425 races — at least one every five minutes — as well as a host of field events.

According to meet officials, the athletes range in age from younger than 8 to older than 80, including 100-year-old Everett Hosack five years ago.

Many of the high school kids who run at Penn may never run track in college, but the memory of running in a stadium packed to capacity with 50,000 track fanatics will be etched in their minds forever.

One area athlete destined for college greatness is Matthew Centrowitz of Broadneck High in Annapolis. In the mile, the Oregon-bound senior finished in 4:08.38, with a blistering 60-second last lap, setting a new meet record for a high schooler. It doesn’t hurt that he has solid genetics. Centrowitz’s father, Matt, was a four-time U.S. champion in the 5,000 meters (1979 to 1982), former U.S. 5,000-meter record-holder and two-time Olympian (1976, 1980).

However, most of the college kids likely will pursue professional careers off the track, so running Penn may be the pinnacle of their track dreams. Unless, of course, they re-emerge years later as masters athletes.

Centrowitz broke one of Penn’s oldest records, which was in 1972, a 4:08.7 effort by Gordon Oliver of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. Oliver was the Maryland high school indoor and outdoor mile and 880-yard champion as well as the 1971 Eastern States cross country champion. Oliver was a walk-on at Georgetown and won numerous collegiate races between 800 and 10,000 meters, although he failed to break the four-minute mile by the slightest of margins.

I have been friends with Oliver for more than a decade, and nearly every year he has asked me if someone had broken his record. He had hoped Alan Webb would do it in 2000 or 2001, but Webb, loyal to a fault, would always bypass the mile to help his South Lakes High teammates win the relay races.

Cross bidding — The Montgomery County Road Runners may make a bid to play host to the USA Track & Field Cross Country Championships.

At last month’s MCRRC board of directors meeting, the Board approved the allocation of $300 to support an exploratory committee headed by Joel Carrier to determine the feasibility of the club holding a USATF Cross Country Championship Event. The 2007 championships were organized by the Boulder (Colo.) Running Club in February.

According to minutes from the board meeting, the first step would be to start an exploratory committee to look at the possibilities of submitting a bid. Actually, the first step would be for MCRRC to rejoin USATF. According to the USATF Web site, the club has not renewed its USATF membership.

The event includes six races: junior boys and girls, masters men and women, and open men and women. The open and junior races serve as qualifiers for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

Bids are due by Nov. 28 at the USATF Annual Meeting, with the winning bid being announced on or around the 2008 USATF Cross Country Championships. According to the MCRRC minutes, the bid price is not cheap. For Boulder, the price was in the range of $40,000.

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