Spry Reflects on Penn Relays as Tigers Travel to Iconic Meet

The Auburn track and field team will compete at two venues this weekend, including the historic Penn Relays in Philadelphia, marking the first time since 2019 that the relays have been held. Athletes not competing at the Penn Relays will be at the Torrin Lawrence Memorial in Athens, Ga.

Auburn head coach Ralph Spry, who is retiring at the end of this season, has a long history at the relays as a competitor in high school, college and over two decades of attending as a coach.  This will be his 30th Penn Relays after 23 trips with Auburn, five as an assistant coach and twice as a competitor.

As a high schooler representing Ole Mill Senior High School from Maryland in 1978, Spry finished second in the triple jump. He returned five years later in 1983 and claimed the Penn Relays championship in the long jump while competing at Ole Miss.

“As an athlete in high school before I ever knew I was going to coach in college, Penn Relays was a big part of my life,” Spry said. “Coming in high school, I just missed the championship in the triple jump. Then I came back as an athlete at Ole Miss and won the Penn Relays championship and it was a huge experience and accomplishment. It was something I had never experienced before with the crowd and environment.”

Spry has made it a priority to bring his teams to Philadelphia to compete in the longest-running track carnival in the United States. The 2022 version will be the first since 2019 as the last two years were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Coming back as a coach, it’s a really, really, special event. There’s now where in the country where you can get this kind of crowd, this kind of environment and the exposure on the national spotlight,” Spry said. “It’s a unique experience and that you can’t in any other competition in the United States. The city of Philadelphia, the food, the atmosphere, and the great athletes competing – there’s nothing else like it.”

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The unique five-day event features more than 15,000 participants from high schools, colleges and track clubs in North American and abroad. Held at Franklin Field on the University of Pennsylvania campus, over 100,000 spectators will be in attendance over the final three days.

“I’ve always enjoyed bringing our teams here,” Spry said. “Over my 25 years at Auburn, I’ve brought each of my teams to Penn Relays with the exception of the two Covid years. It’s great to be back and have our athletes get to experience this. I have a lot of fond memories of the Penn Relays that I’ll always cherish and I look forward to the next Auburn staff continuing the tradition of Auburn success in Philadelphia.”

The Tigers will get action underway at Franklin Field on the University of Pennsylvania campus on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. ET with Danielle Gregory and Jocelynn Budwig in the women’s hammer throw.

While 23 will be in Philadelphia, the remainder of the Tigers’ will be in Athens competing in the two-day event starting Friday.

Joining Auburn at the Lawrence Invitational are 15 schools including Georgia Tech, NC State, Virginia Tech and host Georgia.