At the time of the 100th running of the Relay Carnival in 1994, the Penn Relays Wall of Fame was inaugurated. It was designed then to honor the great athletes and relay teams who have competed in the Relays and it continues to perform that task admirably.
Additional awards honoring the great officials, media members and families who have served the Carnival so well and faithfully through the years have followed. These awards join with the Jesse Abramson Award, which was inaugurated in 1981 following the death of the great writer for the New York Herald Tribune. Beginning with the 2000 Relays, we inaugurated a pair of awards to be presented annually, one to an active official and the other to honor a retired or deceased official. Each award is named in perpetuity for the initial honoree, and these two awards will allow us to honor our present and record our past. In effect, by honoring the present and the past, we are creating a hall of fame.
The Herman J. Mancini Award, subsequently named for its first honoree, was established to honor an active official for continued meritorious service to the Relays. Last year’s recipient of the Mancini Award was Stanley Johnson, an official at the Carnival since 1966, and the Chief Judge of the Finish since 2000.
The award for the retired official is known as the J. Kenneth Doherty Award. Ken was the heart, soul and mind of the Penn Relays from 1951 through his last year as Director in 1969. He instituted many far-reaching changes at the Carnival during his tenure, and was known and respected always as a gentleman. Last year’s recipient was Howard Schmertz. A timer for 48 years beginning in 1956, Schmertz was the longtime Millrose Games Director.
The Jesse Abramson Award was established to recognize a currently active member of the media who has consistently demonstrated a devotion to the Penn Relays, and who has helped get the story out about the world’s greatest track and field relay carnival. Jesse Abramson, one of the most respected men to ever write about track and field, made a mark that won’t soon be forgotten. Writing about the sport for more than a half century, Abramson set the standard for all other writers in the field. Going above and beyond the duties of his role, Abramson became the ultimate fan of the sport, loving everything about it and the people in it. Taking his fervor for the sport a step further, he became a meet director for the Olympic Invitational late in his career. Abramson worked at the Relays until 1978, first as a reporter, and later as a press steward.
Last year’s recipient of the Abramson Award was Harry Chaykun, for more than 30 years a scholastic sports writer for the Delaware County Times.
The final award is the Henry Steinbrenner Family Heritage Award. Through the 112 years of the Carnival, many families have displayed their loyalty to the Relays as athletes, officials and spectators. All, in their own ways, have been representative of the greater family which is the Penn Relay Carnival. The award is presented each year to a multi-generational family for its continued support of the Relays. Named for the Henry Steinbrenner family, it honors the 1927 Penn Relays 120-yard hurdles champion from MIT and his son, George, himself a hurdler at Williams College and the Lockbourne Air Base, who has been a major benefactor of the Relays. Last year’s Family Heritage Award was presented to the the Robert J. Farley family. Bob, wife Irene and daughter Erin Farley Friday have been Carnival officials totaling 100 years among them. Most of that time has been spent at the high jump pit, with Bob as the chief of the event since 1978.
For all-time officials’ awards list, please click here.