The Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Pennsylvania announced on Monday that the 2020 Penn Relays, scheduled for April 23 through 25, has been cancelled “due to the evolving coronavirus public health threat.”
A large number of Caribbean athletes, predominantly Jamaican, compete in the illustrious games annually.
The Penn Relays, which has been contested uninterrupted since 1895, celebrated its 125th consecutive running last year.
Organizers said Penn “will endeavor to host a substitute track meet at a later date in late May or early June.”
“Based on the current novel coronavirus pandemic, we cannot, in good faith, hold an event in six weeks without putting our participants, spectators, officials, volunteers and staff through undeserved health risks,” said Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, the T. Gibbs Kane, Jr. W’69 Director of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Pennsylvania, in a statement.
“We remain hopeful that the recent measures put in place by many health organizations, government officials and academic institutions will prevent the spread of this disease, and the world will slowly begin to return to normal,” she added. “A piece of that normality is competition and participation through sports.
“Therefore, in an effort to provide that opportunity, the Penn Relays will look to host a track meet when the health and safety of our community is more certain,” continued Calhoun, stating that the scope of the track meet will not be the standard Penn Relays format.
She said the three-day event will shorten into a one-day event, “designed to provide the opportunity for youth, high school, and open runners to persevere and enjoy a competitive and festive atmosphere, which they might have missed this spring.”
“No one associated with the Penn Relays has ever wanted to see a cancellation,” said Dave Johnson, the Frank Dolson Director of the Penn Relays. “While participating in the meet as an athlete, coach or official remains a bucket list goal for many, the event has long served as an annual homecoming for families, friends, teams and social groups.
“Without the Penn Relays, springtime in Philadelphia will not be the same,” he added. “We will be back for the 2021 Penn Relays on April 22 through 24 at Franklin Field, when we hope to see brighter days and be reunited with Penn Relays family.”
The Penn Relays said it has adapted to worldwide conditions in the past.
It said the meet was altered in 1917 and 1918 when several colleges, including most Ivy League institutions, curtailed their track programs during World War I.
During World War II, travel restrictions reduced participation and spectator attendance while gas rationing was in effect in 1943 and 1944, Penn Relays said.
“After a fantastic year planning and celebrating our first 125 years, this momentary pause will allow us to kick off the strategic vision of the next 125 years of the Penn Relays,” said Scott Ward, Executive Director of the Penn Relays.
“Promotion and exposure of the Penn Relays brand throughout the year with the creation of additional events for the track and field community of all ages is our first step,” he added. “We desire to celebrate running and healthy lifestyles within the community, and we will look to reach broader markets through our events and advance our entertainment value with increased fan experience initiatives.
“Instead of focusing on our inability to host the event this year, we’re excited to foster resiliency and see what the future will bring,” Ward continued.
By default, Penn Relays said all ticket orders will be credited toward the 2021 event.
However, it said refunds for the sale price of 2020 tickets will be available by request.
Penn Relays said per ticket fees and order processing fees will not be refunded.
By processing a refund, it said the account holder agrees to have all eligible Thursday, Friday and Saturday tickets removed from their account.
“Account holders will not be eligible for ticket renewal rates and must purchase at general public rates for the 2021 Penn Relays,” the statement said. “Should you wish to move forward with a ticket refund, you may not have access to the same seat location for the 2021 Penn Relays.”
The deadline to request a refund is March 27, 2020, Penn Relays said.
If you have questions, please contact the Penn Athletics Ticket Office at (215) 898-6151 between 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday-Friday, or by email at [email protected]