Masters races to success at famous Penn Relays

The+delegation+of+five+runners+at+the+Penn+Relays+from+left+to+right%3A+Dorian+Gilmartin%2C+Judah+Francella%2C+Daniel+Medina%2C+Luke+Ferrando%2C+Vittorio+Stropoli.+
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Masters races to success at famous Penn Relays

The delegation of five runners at the Penn Relays from left to right: Dorian Gilmartin, Judah Francella, Daniel Medina, Luke Ferrando, Vittorio Stropoli.

The delegation of five runners at the Penn Relays from left to right: Dorian Gilmartin, Judah Francella, Daniel Medina, Luke Ferrando, Vittorio Stropoli.

Courtesy of Dorian Gilmartin

The delegation of five runners at the Penn Relays from left to right: Dorian Gilmartin, Judah Francella, Daniel Medina, Luke Ferrando, Vittorio Stropoli.

Courtesy of Dorian Gilmartin

Courtesy of Dorian Gilmartin

The delegation of five runners at the Penn Relays from left to right: Dorian Gilmartin, Judah Francella, Daniel Medina, Luke Ferrando, Vittorio Stropoli.

Jacob Strier, News Design Editor

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In front of thousands of spectators, a group of five student runners represented Masters at the historic Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania, racing on Apr. 25 and 26.

The runners participated in two events: the 4×100 meter race and the 4×400 meter race. Masters Track and Field Coach Chris Giesting also participated in the Penn Relays as a professional member of Team USA, where he ran the anchor 800 meter leg of the Men Sprint Medley, coming in second place to Kenya.

In the first 4×100 meter race, seniors Luke Ferrando and Vittorio Stropoli ran alongside juniors Judah Francella and Dorian Gilmartin. They dealt with adverse conditions, including rain and wind, and came in second place. The next day, freshman Daniel Medina replaced Vittorio for the 4×400 meter race.

Ferrando described the race: “The minute I stepped out, I was excited and nervous at the same time. It is like a once in a lifetime experience,” he said. It was Ferrando’s second time participating in the Penn Relays, and he plans to continue his running career at Boston University next fall.

Stropoli described his race experience as “surreal,” and described the additional challenge posed by the inclement weather. “They rush you onto the track, and before you know it, the whole thing is over, because you are only running for about 11 seconds,” Stropoli said. “The rain added an extra element: it was hard to see where you are running, I was worried I might drop the baton,” he said.

According to their coach Kenyetta Iyevbele, who ran professionally in the Penn Relays last year, baton work was one of the main skills the runners practiced in preparation for the Penn Relays. “It is important for them to get close to perfect when they are passing the baton. I think we worked on it really well. Even though it was raining, they executed it well,” she said.

According to Iyevbele, the feeling of the stadium is electric: “It is very loud, you can feel the rush because everyone is screaming,” she said. “ It is probably one of the biggest audiences they will ever run in front of: around 40,000 people,” she added. Iyevbele pointed out that the team faced challenges, including an hour delay before the race, which could have thrown off runners’ eating schedules, but she said the Masters athletes handled it well.

Coach Giesting, in addition to his work as Masters coach, battled fierce winds in his own professional race in the USA vs. the World Men Sprint Medley. “I remember going through the first 300 meters, and the wind started to hit my face. I wanted to make a move to go to the front, but there was a massive gust of wind. I waited patiently until the wind was at my back, and I made the move to second place with 300 meters to go,” Giesting said. “I pushed all the way up and tried to catch Kenya, I closed the gap a little bit and got within a second of them, but I couldn’t quite catch them at that point,” he said.

Giesting and Iyevbele are both members of the HOKA New Jersey New York Track Team, a professional group which practices at Masters on Monday and Friday mornings.

The Penn Relays proved to be a bonding experience for the five Masters athletes, according to Stropoli. Right before taking the field, the group huddled up and mentally prepared for the run. “Dorian got us in a huddle, he was joking and he calmed us down. He was trying to add comic relief, and we needed that,” Stropoli said.

For Stropoli, the race was a positive way to wrap up his Masters running career. “It was just crazy: it was probably one of the best experiences I have had in high school. It’s not just the race, it is the bonding that goes into it,” he said.

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