GDS’ Spring Track Competes at Penn Relays, Setting Season Best Times in Every Race

GDS’ men’s 4×400 team. Photo by Simon Kessler. 

GDS’ spring track team competed in four races at the annual Penn Relay Carnival from Thursday, April 27 to Saturday, April 29. 

The Penn Relay Carnival—commonly called Penn Relays—is the most prestigious meet that GDS races in each year. Fifteen thousand of the top runners in the world, who range from middle school to college, competed this year for one of the coveted wheels. The carnival is the world’s longest-running and most widely recognized annual relay meet. This year’s field included runners from all over the U.S. and top athletes from many other countries, such as Canada, Jamaica and South Africa. 

The high school boys’ prep school 4×400 took place on Thursday, April 27, at 3:30 p.m. GDS won the 18-school race, finishing less than a second faster than the two teams behind them. This was the first time in GDS’ history that they have won the 4×400, and they received a plaque. The team was made up of junior Nathaniel Mintzer, junior Kovan Smith, senior Nate Bazemore and junior Zach Kovner. 

Only prep schools in the Northeast competed in the 4×400. GDS competes in the race every year. 

GDS also competed in the high school boys’ 4×100 heats, in which four runners pass the baton to each other after each running 100 meters. GDS came in ninth of 159 schools. The team was made up entirely of juniors: Nathaniel Romine, Smith, Will Babcock and Mintzer. GDS was second in their heat, behind Immaculata High School, from Somerville, New Jersey.

The 4×100 time of 44.10 is a school best, breaking the record of 44.16 which the same team set earlier in April.

Babcock, who ran GDS’ third leg of the race, said, “It was a surreal feeling to be out there on such a big stage. I ran in states [D.C. State Athletic Association Outdoor Track & Field Championships] last year, but that didn’t even compare.” According to the event’s website, over the three-day span of races, more than 110,000 spectators flock to the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field to watch the runners. 

On Friday, April 28, the high school girls’ 4×100 heats took place in the morning. GDS came in sixth of nine schools in their heat, and 63rd out of 117 overall. The team was relatively young, consisting of freshman Alexandra Solomon, sophomores Sora Walker and Seva Rustgi and senior Alana Goldstock. It was, by two seconds, the fastest time of the season for the team at 53.04, and the first time this arrangement of runners had ever raced together. 

Head coach Anthony Belber pointed out that one of his favorite parts of this year’s team was its depth. “This year we are not a team built from stars. We are just a group of committed people,” he said. “The fact that our athletes can perform so well so consistently and match up well against other schools really speaks to our depth.”

The last race that GDS participated in was the high school girls’ prep school 4×400, which took place on the morning of April 29. GDS ran a time of 4:23.65, which placed the Hoppers 11th out of the 19 participating schools. The team’s makeup was similar to the girls’ 4×100, but sophomore Naomi Borek replaced Rustgi for the third leg. 

The meet was a huge success for the Hoppers, according to Belber. “It says a lot about the team that each of these athletes performed well, carried themselves with good poise in a stressful environment. They really represented the team and the school very well,” he said. He also noted that in each race the runners set a season-best time. 

Next year’s Penn Relays will be held from Thursday, April 25, 2024 through Saturday, April 27. 

GDS Spring Track’s next meet will be the Independent School League (ISL) and Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAC) B Championships on Tuesday, May 9, held at Episcopal High School.