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Walt Murphy's News
Last Updated: June 2, 2003

Memories from Penn
Jack Shepard

Track and Field News' H.S. editor lives in California, but has become a regular at Penn

"I first came to Penn in 1988. If you remember, that was the year a western contingent of T&FN staffers came to the meet, including Scott Davis, Garry Hill, and myself- the first time for each of us. I have missed two years since then (both pre-'94 and not by my choice), so Penn has become a "must" stop in my yearly track travels.

I suspect my reason for coming the first time was that it was one of America's great relay meets and I had never been to an in-season meet on the East Coast. All my eastern friends had kidded me for years to come and see a "real" meet. And it gave me a chance to see much of the prep talent on the East Coast, which in those days did not travel around the country as much as today.

And of course, once you have experienced Penn, it draws you back. It isn't so much that it is great track, but it is the overall experience of the weekend-- the "iffy" weather, the big crowds, the noise, sunbathers in the upper deck on the warmest of days, and the general celebration of the first warm weekend in the area. "Spring hasn't begun until Penn is run."

Hightlights and memories abound even though I am a piker in number of years in attendance compared to my Eastern brethren. Probably the best was in '88 when I ran in that "historic" media relay as the eastern and western factions of T&FN faced off. I ran 2nd leg against Walt Murphy and handed off to our speedster, distance-runner Rich McCann. Quite embarrassing however was getting "smoked" by a young girl from the Penn SID office (and the rest of the field too). And who can forget the roar from the crowd as the "whales", Bob Hersh and Scott Davis battled down the stretch  with Bob attacking Scott with his baton when Scott inched by him near the finish.

And it is the renewal of friendships for another year of track, first in the press box on Thursday and Friday and then for the annual Friday night dinner at the Sheraton and more recently in the back room at the White Dog. Often, it is the only time I see some of my eastern friends who do not come west, even for the biggest of meets.

And for me, a lover of fine wine, it is extra special to get together for dinner with Arnie Shiffrin at the currently-hip Philadelphia eateries on Thursday and Saturday nights. We always have great food and wine to celebrate Arnie's birthday and we still commiserate over the fact that William Reed (Arnie worked with him at Central) never reached his potential. Of course, being honored as an Honorary Meet Referee in 1988 is special and I have proudly worn my Penn watch everywhere since then.

However, I have begun to have a dread as each year's meet approaches. Other than the miserably cold weather my first year in '88, my ventures east have been met with generally nice weather, even getting me down to a t-shirt some Saturday afternoons when the sun, slowly creeping up through the press area, finally reaches our "timers" row. I feel the odds are building that I will encounter cold weather again and I don't think I can bring enough clothing to keep this soft Southern California body from low 40s weather."