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A Golden Time: Dartmouth Relays Prepare for 50th Edition

  • This is the victorious 400 meter relay team from the United States which took the gold medal at Tokyo Olympics Summer Games. Oct. 21, 1964. The team is made up of Paul Drayton, Gerry Ashworth, Dick Stebbins and Bob Hayes. (AP Photo)

  • Adam Nelson pumps himself up before a throw in the shot put competition yesterday at the Dartmouth Relays. Valley News - Jason Johns

  • Carl Wallin coaches Jane Higgins, 68, of Lebanon, N.H., between throws during the women's masters category at the Dartmouth Relays on January 7, 2017. Many of the members were introduced to lifting and throwing for the first time through their involvement with the group. Through training and competing together, they know what one another is capable of and they encourage each other's personal best achievement. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon's Corinne Kennedy, right, runs to a third place in the 55 meter hurdles finals at the Dartmouth Relays in Hanover, N.H., on January 9, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen)

    Copyright © Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Photographed at practice at Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., on January 30, 2017, Dartmouth College freshman Cha'Mia Rothwell is from Durham, N.C., where she competed in track and field and basketball as a high school student at Durham Academy. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, January 10, 2019

Hanover — “You know the saying ‘It’s a three-ring circus?’ ” Dartmouth College track coach Barry Harwick asked rhetorically earlier this week. “Well, we’d be happy if we only had three rings this weekend.”

Four? Five? Six? It’s uncertain how many rings’ worth of action the 50th Dartmouth Relays track meet will squeeze into roughly 72 hours of youth, high school, college and master’s competition at Leverone Field House.

The only certainty is that Harwick will be at its center, notepad in hand, jotting down observations, problems and ideas on how to best improve the show. He will answer questions on everything from the Big Green’s recruiting needs to why that sink in the women’s rest room won’t shut off.

“There are certainly times of the year when my popularity skyrockets,” said Harwick, who estimates he’s been on site for roughly 40 of the 50 Relays as a Dartmouth undergraduate and coach. “This is one of them.”

That’s because the 27th-year coach and a supporting cast which he is quick to credit have staging the Relays down to something of a science. The athletics facility staff performs yeoman’s duty, not only setting up and breaking down the event but overseeing the ingress and egress of roughly 2,000 athletes and those who come to coach and cheer for them.

A seemingly nonstop procession of buses disgorges competitors on the semicircular driveway fronting Park Street. The check-in tables are swarmed and befuddled first-time visitors sometimes wander onto the track, engendering frantic shouts as runners approach. The trash cans are nearing capacity. The public-address announcer speaks above it all, calling some heat of some race at some impending time.

“This year will be a challenge, but it’s manageable,” Harwick said, noting that the Dartmouth men’s hockey team is on the road this weekend, leaving only basketball as a contributing factor to potential automotive gridlock parking jams and pedestrian congestion.

The biggest threat is the weather. Harwick recalled a few years ago, when as much as one-third of Saturday’s high school field was absent because of snow, ice, sleet or freezing rain. He’s been keeping an eagle eye on the weather for the last two weeks, and said the next few days are forecast to be cold, but relatively clear.

“The weather sometimes creates significant financial impact,” said Harwick, whose program relies on the Relays for an economic boost. “If a team doesn’t come, then parents aren’t here buying tickets or shirts.”

One group always there is Dartmouth’s student-athletes. The Big Green competitors not only run, jump and throw, they’re also responsible for helping stage the meet. Each one has to sign up for two jobs on a spreadsheet, and the seniors get to go first.

“Being students, they prefer to have jobs they can do sitting down,” Harwick said with a chuckle. “Handing out registration packets and hip numbers, supervising the starting line or the officials area, selling programs. But there are other jobs where you have to get a little sweaty, like raking the long-jump pit or putting up the high-jump crossbar.

“What we stress is that you have to wear Dartmouth gear and be nice to everyone, because you never know how it will affect recruiting. Don’t act like you’re only there because you have to be there.”

The Dartmouth women are seeking their ninth consecutive victory at the event. The Big Green finished second last year, snapping a six-year stretch of domination.

Several celebratory twists are planned for the 50th meet, including the return of former Dartmouth track coach Vin Lananna, now the head of U.S. Track and Field. Skip Weinbel, son of former Dartmouth coach and meet founder Ken Weinbel, will be present and Gerry Ashworth, a Dartmouth graduate and an Olympic gold medalist at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, is scheduled to be on hand. Saturday, 2012 U.S. Olympic gold medalist and hurdler Aries Merritt will be at Leverone, signing autographs.

On Sunday at noon, there will be a celebratory lap around Leverone’s track by Dartmouth track alumni to mark the meet’s anniversary. Friday and Saturday’s events will be webcast by the FloCast network and Sunday’s proceedings will be on ESPN+. Viewers can watch everything from the Grafton County One-Lapper, a race for children age 9 and younger, to 84-year old pole vaulter Flo Meiler.

“When we say there’s something for everybody, it’s not just a sales pitch,” Harwick said.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.