The month of April means only one thing to track athletes in the Penn Community - Penn Relays. The Penn Relays have been an integral part of the University for 110 years. In the history of the event, several Penn student-athletes have shined on the track and in the field as Bruce Collins, Brian Chaput, Frances Childs and Shani Boston have all made their mark in Quakers history with their performances at this historic event.
Bruce Collins earned a permanent place in Penn's track and field annals as one of the outstanding collegiate hurdlers of the early 1970s and earned a spot in the inaugural class of the Penn Hall of Fame.
A NCAA, IC4A and Heptagonal Games champion in the 400-intermediate hurdles, Collins was the Penn Relays champion in the event in 1972 and 1973, and ran on the Carnival's shuttle hurdles relay championship teams in 1972, 1973 and 1974. In 1972, as a sophomore at Penn, he ran the fourth fastest time in the U.S. Olympic trials. His school record for the event still stands, and his best time of 13.98 seconds for the 110-meter high hurdles is the second fastest ever run by a Quaker. Collins also ran the 400-meter leg in the still-standing school record of 9:39.9 for the distance medley relay, run in 1972. Collins won the NCAA Championships in 1972 and 1974 and is the only two-time National Champion for the Quakers.
In 2004, then-senior Brian Chaput won back-to-back Penn Relays titles in the javelin to become just the second Quaker in Penn history to accomplish that feat. Chaput is also one of six NCAA Champions in the Penn history books. The 2004 graduate won the javelin at the 2003 NCAA Championships to cap of an undefeated season after winning javelin titles at the Penn Relays, the Heptagonal Championships, the IC4A Championships and NCAA East Regional. In his senior campaign, he won his third-straight Heps title and second-straight NCAA East Regional, finished runner-up at the NCAA Championships and second at the U.S. Olympic trials. He was named Mondo Outdoor Athlete of the Year for the Mid-Atlantic Region and received Academic All-American honors for the second year-in-a-row. Chaput finished his career as a two-time NCAA East Regional, two-time ICFA and three-time Heptagonal Champion. The school record holder in the event is just one of three Ivy League athletes to win the Heps title three times.
Frances Childs dominated on the track and in the field during her four years at Penn, culminating in 1988, when she co-captained the Red and Blue. Childs set four records, two of which still stand today. Childs was the former record-holder for the pentathlon and heptathlon, but her marks in the outdoor long jump (19 feet, 6 1/4 inches, set in 1985) and indoor shuttle hurdle relay (only Penn team to run in under 30 seconds) still stand.
Childs won All-Ivy league honors, both indoors and outdoors, each of her four seasons. In 1985, she won the 100-meter hurdles and long jump at Heptagonals, thus garnering first team All-Ivy status. In 1986 and 1988, Childs won the Heptathlon competition at the League Championships, and in 1987 she was the league's best long jumper.
With 4,886 points, Childs won the Penn Relays heptathlon competition in becoming Penn's first female to win a Relays championship event and was the only Quaker to do so until 2004, when freshman Shani Boston won the heptathlon. The rookie won the heptathlon, scoring 5,049 points in the seven events for the second best score in Penn program history. Boston went on to finish fourth in the event at the Heptagonal Championships
Written by Heather Palmer, associate director of athletic communications