Reported by Jennifer Reardon, Temple University

Like the sound of the gun going off to signal the start of a race, Dolores Ginyard has been a staple when it comes to the Penn Relays.

A 50-year staple, in fact.

“When I first started coming as a girl of 12 or 13, it was a half a day on Saturday,” Ginyard said. “It started at noon. My uncle bought all these seats and brought the whole family down because he knew how much I loved sports.”

Ginyard has been coming ever since. As the first, and current, girls’ high school track coach at Norristown High School, she arrives early Thursday through Saturday in order to watch her kids run.

“I can sit here all day and watch them run,” Ginyard said. “I cheer for Norristown all the time. But my favorite event is the 4X400. High school, college, olympic development, it doesn’t matter. I like the old mile relay.”

In all the years she’s been attending, her most memorable mile relay involved Morgan State, which held the lead going into the final lap of the race.

“I remember the year Morgan was running the 4X400 and we just knew they had the last leg and out of nowhere comes Villanova,” Ginyard said. “We all swore Villanova ran across the field.”

Prior to Title IX, that 4X400 only included men. Ginyard, in fact, remembers watching women’s track teams debut at the Penn Relays.

“The only women we saw at the Penn Relays were with the track clubs,” Ginyard said. “We were never in the track meets (until the late 70s). It was always just the boys.”

Once the girls joined the field, Ginyard made sure she was there.

“I just got attached. Once they decided they were going to have girls sports I’ve been here ever since,” Ginyard said. “I think it [the Penn Relays] is the greatest outdoor track meet in the world. I have gone to world games and everything but the greatest is the Penn Relays.”