Main Line Sports Thursday, May 1, 2003 Main Line Times
109th Penn Relays
Cosby, Mancini uphold tradition of Penn
Relays By David Block
PHILADELPHIA – Former Ardmore resident Herman Mancini knows more about the Penn Relays than most people. Last weekend was Mancini’s 67th straight year clerking in runners at the Penn Relays.
Although 1937 was the first time the 90-year-old Mancini (he will be 91 in
September) clerked in Penn Relays athletes, it wasn’t the first time he ‘attended’ the event. In 1929, Mancini came with the West Catholic High School track team.
The five-foot Mancini recalled the event: “I was never an athlete. I never ran. In 1929 I was West Catholic High’s track manager. I went to the Penn Relays with the team and really enjoyed it.
“When I started as a Penn Relays clerk, there were about 4,000 runners. Now there’s about 15,000. The track was cinder. Women didn’t compete back then. Over 12 years ago, we had about five or six events for women. With Title
IX, women’s events started to multiply so much that we had to have a special day (Thursday) for them.”
Several years ago, Mancini’s Penn Relay streak was in jeopardy, as he underwent surgery.
“I was in the hospital,” said Mancini. “They told me I couldn’t leave, but it was right before the Penn Relays, so I checked myself out of the hospital.”
Mancini traveled from Florida to the Penn Relays against doctor’s orders.
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Mancini said, “I am so attached to the Penn Relays that nothing can keep me away.”
Among the runners Mancini remembers interacting with over the years was a young college Temple athlete named Bill Cosby.
“I remember putting him on the track,” said Mancini.
Cosby, who has attended the Penn Relays for several decades, reminisced last weekend about one of the most memorable Penn Relays races he ever saw.
“It was 1955,” said Cosby. “I saw Charlie Jenkins of Villanova catch Josh Culbreath of Morgan State. Charlie made up about 30 yards. That was something, and I’ll never forget it.”
Asked if he had special memories of competing, Cosby jokingly said, “I was on a sprint medley relay team that was so bad that they started our race at
7 a.m. to make sure we finished in time.”
Mancini sees the Penn Relays becoming an even bigger event than it is now.
“More teams want to compete,” said Mancini. “One problem is starting all the events on time. Some officials and I talked among ourselves and thought that some additional days should be added to the Penn Relays so more people would be accommodated.”
Mancini plans to attend the Penn Relays until he is no longer physically able.
“I enjoy working with the boys and girls,” said Mancini. “The Penn Relays are my life.”