By Hadas Kuznits

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Penn Relays begin tomorrow, in University City.  And it’s a big year for the annual event.

“This is the 120th year now,” notes Penn Relays director, Dave Johnson.  “We have about 16,000 participants this year.  They come from all over the world, but mostly from the eastern US, particularly from high schools — for the most part from Massachusetts to Virginia.  But then we get schools from Canada, from seven different islands down in the Caribbean; 33 schools alone from Jamaica this year.”

He expects about 110,000 spectators over the next several days to watch these athletes, some of whom he suspects will become future Olympians.

“And then you get to say, ‘I saw him when!’   For instance, we saw Usain Bolt here when he was in ninth and tenth grade,” Johnson notes.

Johnson says a lot has changed over the course of 120 years.

“Well, the first year there were nine relay races — five among high schools and prep schools, and four among colleges.  And now, just in those 4X400s, we probably run close to 120 races, and more than 430 races overall.”

He says for students involved with track, the Penn Relays are their biggest event of the year.

“Well, if they’re not here, a lot of them would like to be here.  And if they don’t want to be here, they’re at least aware of it and following what’s happening.”

See CBS Philly’s Guide to the Penn Relays

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