2024 Penn Relays presented by Toyota

These Seven Moments Blew Us Away At The 2024 Penn Relays

These Seven Moments Blew Us Away At The 2024 Penn Relays

The best moments lifted us off our feet and won the weekend. Here are seven of the best takeaways from The Penn Relays presented by Toyota.

Apr 30, 2024 by Cory Mull

The Penn Relays presented by Toyota gave us everything we could want and more. 

With nearly 600 races across three days, there were endless storylines and big finishes, dropped batons and epic meet and national records set. 

But the most memorable moments? 

Those stuck with us beyond the finish line. And they will remain as the season continues, as we move toward high school state championships, the NCAA calendar and the Olympic schedule in August. 

We've managed to wrangle below seven of the best moments from this year's installment of the Penn Relays


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Kelsey Chmiel's And Leah Stephens' Incredible Work Over 10K 

On the first night under the lights at Franklin Field, the women's 10,000 meter race was all about one woman: Kelsey Chmiel

The NC State graduate student and 11-time All-American was returning to a competitive environment for the first time since October, when an injury knocked her out of her final cross country season for the Wolfpack. 

The NC State women went on to win the NCAA Cross Country Championships for the third time in a row this past November, but it wasn't like they were without their leader and teammate: The New Yorker was still there to cheer the team on. 

On Thursday, as Chmiel stepped foot on the track in Philadelphia six months later, she wasn't alone, either. Her Wolfpack teammate, Leah Stephens -- who had stepped into the NC State squad in November -- was right there leading the way. 

At first, it was thought that Stephens was just expected to pace Chmiel through a certain distance. 

But as the race went along and the two teammates stood firmly together, it became about the two of them, charging ahead lockstep at Franklin Field. It became the Stephens and Chmiel show. 

Stephens pulled Chmiel along through 10,000 meters, and as the bell sounded with one lap to go, it was fitting that the duo who had led the entire way were on their way toward the finish together. 

Stephens finished in 33:09.25, while Chmiel followed in 33:15.66. Those performances were No. 31 and No. 39 in the NCAA this season. 

Surprise Powerhouse? South Florida Took Care Of Business 

Just how good was the University of South Florida this weekend in Philadelphia? 

The Bulls' sprint corps won both the men's and women's Championship of America 4x200s, won the men's 4x100, scored a finals appearance for the women in the 4x100 and then finished with a third-place effort in the men's 4x400. 

Often featuring devastating kicks and a deep roster lineup, South Florida walked away with one of the best overall performances of The Penn Relays. 

"To be honest, we weren't too worried about that (taking down Houston)," said Jaleel Croal, who ran second leg of the team's 4x100 win. "We were just going out there to run. We had one job. We got the win." 

Quincy Wilson's Star Power Grew Tenfold, Despite Multiple Setbacks

The man of the meet might have been a 16-year-old.

It would be hard to discount the Bullis School star after he took a nearly down-and-out position in the heats of the 4x400 on Saturday morning and brought them back from the death, splitting 44.37 seconds for 400 meters, which was the fastest effort ever made by a high schooler in a relay. 

That came after the team's first runner fell during contact over the first leg. Wilson passed five runners over his last leg and won the race, gave Bullis the top seed into the Championship of America and crossed the finish in 3:14.84. 

But that wasn't the end of the story. 

Bullis School experienced the very same lightning-in-a-bottle moment in the final, watching as their third runner fell during the hand-off exchange. Wilson received the final hand-off 51 seconds later and then clocked his second 44-second split, clocking a time of 44.69 on the leg.

Earlier in the morning, he had run the fastest split in history. He followed with the second-best split ever. 

It's the rare moment when a loss can be a win. 

But it is very possible that we just witnessed it. 

On Tuesday, Wilson signed with William Morris Endeavor, perhaps indicating his star power is still just forming. 

Addison Ritzenhein Has Arrived. The Niwot High Schooler Dominates The 3K

We saw a true breakthrough in real time for a high school athlete, and it took place at about 6:00 p.m. on Friday at The Penn Relays. 

There, we witnessed Niwot High School sophomore Addison Ritzenhein take off from an elite high school field in the 3,000m and never look back. 

Ritzenhein, the reigning Nike Cross Nationals champion, tore away from the field and kept building a lead that would build as big as 100 meters as she finished in a U.S. No. 1 time of 9:17.81, a performance that now sits at No. 3 all-time for the sophomore class.

That's saying something, considering the field included high school stars like Logan St. John Kletter and Zariel Macchia. 

This was another reminder of who Ritzenhein is becoming. Some might see NXN as Ritzenhein's first big moment. But if you consider that the sophomore surprised many by winning, then Saturday's performance was her first chance to realize her identity as a true superstar. 

On Thursday, she signed a Name, Image and Likeness contract with On, the running company whose elite-running branch OAC features her father, Dathan Ritzenhein, as head coach. 

The Harvard Women Win Their First Championship Of America Title Since 1936

This was outrageous. Simply outrageous. 

The Harvard women, who produced a time of 10:52 in the distance medley relay in February -- with three of four women who would feature in the Championship of America race on Saturday -- set a new NCAA record with a time of 10:37.55, with anchor leg Maia Ramsden pulling away from Kimberley May with 100 meters to go. 

They won a wheel for the first time since 1936 for any Harvard program. 

Ramsden, the defending NCAA Indoor champion in the mile, produced the fastest 1,600m split in Penn Relays history, hitting 4:21.47. 

Providence's May, who's no slouch herself, went 4:23.68. 

It was the kind of race that put you in a trance. It was so fast that at points you didn't even realize just how momentous it was. 

Harvard was led by freshman Sophia Gorriaran, who went out to 3:20.26 over 1,200m; then Chloe Fair, running 53.20 over the next 400 meters; and then it was Victoria Bossong, whose 2:02.54 800m split firmly put Harvard back on the table along with Providence and Virginia. 

Bossong had run 2:02 or faster just twice in an open race before then, though both of those performance had come in the time since March. 

In the end, it was an epic final, and it was the Harvard women who downed the former record of 10:48.38, which was last accomplished by Villanova in 1988.


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On The Track Together, And Crushing It: Nuguse And Hoare Own The Men's Mile

At some point before the Penn Relays, the elite men's mile became a narrative about the OAC boys. 

With American mile record-holder Yared Nuguse, Australian 1,500m record-breaker Oliver Hoare and New Zealand's Geordie Beamish in the mix as a pacer, the mid-day Saturday race took on an endearing portrait of three professionals all looking out for one another. 

Beamish, the reigning World Indoor champion in the mile, was the man who led the way, clearing the runway for his two guys. 

He took Nuguse and Hoare just through 1,209 meters. Then it became a Hoare and Nuguse affair. 

But it was one that needed a firm reminder about the Australian and 2022 Commonwealth Games champion at 1,500m. You couldn't miss Hoare out there, with his bleached white hair. But his impact on the track was stark reminder to his past. In November, just months earlier, he was unable to walk due to a sports hernia injury that he experienced sometime in 2023. It was an injury that impact Hoare's very sense of self and forced him to reexamine the sport. 

But as he got back to the grind and came back to a center, he said things started to come back together -- what also helped were his teammates and Coffee Club podcast pals Beamish and Morgan McDonald. Health was his primary focus, and Saturday was a chance to race happy, unencumbered. 

Then there was Nuguse, racing for the fifth time since September when he broke an American mile record racing alongside Norwegian Jacob Ingebrigtsen at the Prefontaine Classic -- and in his first outdoor race since 2024. Nuguse said he wasn't the aggressive type. But he got out on Saturday from the gun, slotting behind Beamish. Then when the race got tough and Hoare took the lead at the bell, Nuguse got into position and readied. 

He finished with the win and meet record, logging a time of 3:51.06. Hoare followed not a moment later, 3:51.28. Maybe for a glance, it felt like the duo crossed the line together. 

"Being able to race with a teammate that close is always really exciting and really fun," Nuguse said. 

Maybe that was all a mirage. Or maybe it was planned, a sign of respect for two teammates with big aspirations over the next few months. 


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This North Carolina Duo Returned To The Track Following Near Tragedy

There was no better story at the Penn Relays than this one. 

Deep into the night on Thursday was the men's 5,000 meters. 

Sandwiched into the field in the first few laps were two teammates from the University of North Carolina, Patrick Anderson and Will Coogan

Few may have thought much about it. But these two teammates were returning to the track for just the third time since a major car accident nearly ended their lives just over a year ago. Anderson was raced to the hospital and suffered a skull fracture. Coogan had serious injuries.

Both survived. And both, in a stroke of good fortune, recovered, rehabbed and began the journey back. 

Both ran 1,500 meter races before that Thursday race. This 5,000 meter race represented their way back, and both used it well, moving up into the second half and drilling down in the final moments. 

Coogan put down a 63-second lap on his penultimate frame and then went 61 on his final quarter, with Anderson chasing, trying to keep up. Coogan won the night, while Anderson followed in third. 

The biggest victory was the return, and these two were back to form. 

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