Fifty Years In The Making
In 1963 the Fordham University track squad went to the Penn Relays without expectations of bringing home a Championship of America wagon wheel trophy in the four-mile relay.
But The Armory's own Dr. Norbert Sander was on that squad with Matt Cucciara, Joe McGovern and Tom Kenney and the Rams didn't just bring home the hardware, they shattered the meet record by 29 seconds, becoming the first team to break 17 minutes (16:42.7).
"What I remember is we went from a position before the race of having very little expectation to during the race having an incredible amazement that we were in the race," Sander recalled. "Afterward our emotions went to utter non-belief that we won. After I ran my leg I knew I had done something beyond what I had ever done before. I remember when I handed off to our third leg, Joe McGovern, that I had confidence because Joe and Tom Kenney were our two best legs.
"After I handed the baton off I said, 'We can run with anybody now.'"
That group is one of four relay teams being enshrined on the Relays' Wall of Fame, which has been honoring the meet's greatest teams for 20 years now. Among the other headliners making it to the Wall this year are the 1969 Villanova two-mile relay (featuring Marty Liquori) as well as individual entrants Alberto Salazar and DeHart Hubbard.
This marks the first Fordham relay team to be inducted in the famed Penn Relays’ Wall of Fame.
Dr. Sander and the other inductees will be honored April 26 at The Palestra and April 27 at Franklin Field. The 119th running of the Relays takes place April 25-27.
"It’s a great honor not only for myself but for the team," said Sander, the 1974 winner of the New York City Marathon. "It's a team honor that extends to the Fordham track and field teams of that era. Some of them have not been honored, but frankly, were just as good. We are receiving this for all our Fordham teams and coach Artie O’Connor. This is in his honor and for all those teams from that era."
Cardinal Spellman graduate Michelle Bennett, who starred at Villanova, is also being inducted after running on seven victorious Championship of America teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The Wall of Fame, a Penn Relays tradition begun in 1994 at the time of the 100th running, now boasts 85 relay teams and 95 individual athletes. Those inductees are honored solely for their accomplishments at the Penn Relays.
The Relays take place April 25-27 this year and a variety of standouts at all levels — youth, high school, college, professional and masters — will compete before 100,000 fans.