While witnessing the Penn Relays is one thing, participating in the longtime Philadelphia tradition is a different story.
Matt Kaycon will get his first chance to compete in the University of Pennsylvania hosted event – which will take place from Thursday, April 25, to Saturday, April 27 – when he checks in as the mile leg in Temple’s distance medley relay.
“I’m definitely excited,” Kaycon said. “I’ve been to the Penn Relays before, but this is just my first opportunity to compete in it. I’m not going to let a big crowd intimidate me. It’s only going to push me and motivate me to run even faster. I’m excited and I can’t wait to get out there.”
The sophomore will be a part of a Temple DMR lineup that will likely include sophomore Cullen Davis (1200-meter), junior Will Kellar (800m) and possibly graduate senior Allan Harding (400m), Kaycon said.
Like any other event in the Penn Relays, competition will be top-notch in the men’s DMR, and the medals hard to come by. While tougher competition poses a challenge in the medal department, it can help with a runner’s time and ability to run in bigger meets.
“When it comes to running, if you have competition that’s where you are or even better than you, it’s only going to make you run faster,” Kaycon said. “We’re going to get to Penn Relays and there’s going to be a lot of hype there. We’re going to go in and hopefully have the right mentality and we’re going to do what we have to do to compete at our best.”
“It’s absolutely beneficial with better competition,” Kellar said. “When we go to [meets featuring lesser competition], there’s not a whole lot of benefit to it. I’d rather go to a meet, be sixth or seventh in my heat and get a [personal record time] than go and win in a slow race. I’d rather run in big heats all the time. It’s more exciting to get to race in a meet with higher competition.”
This year’s version of the Penn Relays will bridge right into the championship season, starting with the Atlantic 10 Championship meet May 4-5.
While partaking in a major event one week prior to the A-10 meet can be hard from a fatigue standpoint for some, Kellar has been battling injury instead.
The junior has dealt with a nagging, bruised callus bone since the fall that has kept him off the track for a bulk of the indoor and outdoor seasons.
While the stress and energy requirement of a big competition can hurt an everyday runner pushing through a full season, running against schools from all parts of the country in a fast-paced race appears to be the perfect championship season warm-up for Kellar.
“It’s tough on your body racing every weekend, but this weekend is a nice tune-up,” Kellar said. “I’m not in the best shape that I could be and [this weekend] is good for me. For other guys, having a race right before the conference meet is sort of an extra burden. It’s two different perspectives. It just depends on how the season’s been going and how long you’ve been racing for.”
“It would’ve been nice if it was two weeks before the A-10 meet just so we could get a little bit of a break,” Kaycon, primarily a 3K steeplechase runner, said. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt us too bad. I’m only the mile leg for the DMR, so I’m going to use that to my advantage and do what I have to do and get the rest I have to get in for the A-10 meet.”
With Temple being one of the local colleges running in the globally renowned event, the Penn Relays presents an opportunity for runners to go out and represent not only their school, but also Philadelphia itself.
“It’s kind of interesting,” Kellar said. “When you’re rocking the Temple gear or other Philadelphia schools like Penn or [Saint Joseph’s University], you get recognition from people working there. You get a lot of side comments like, ‘We’re excited to have you here.’ I didn’t realize that until last year that people are excited about the local competition running in it. A lot of the people watching the meet are seeing schools running that they went to and they like seeing their former schools compete. It’s really cool to be there and to be a part of that.”
“Everyone knows about Penn Relays and everyone asks that first like, ‘Oh, have you ever run at Penn Relays?’ It’s cool to be a part of that saying you’re there and being a part of a Philadelphia tradition.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @daParent93.