Notable Celebrities That Have Competed At Penn Relays or Drake Relays

By Jesse Squire

April 24, 2018

Many of the most famous athletes in the history of the world have run at the Drake Relays or Penn Relays. The list includes track stars such as Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Usain Bolt, Roger Bannister, Paavo Nurmi and Jim Ryun. It includes athletes famous for other sports, such as Wilt Chamberlain and Jim Brown. It includes track stars more famous for being portrayed on film than for running, such as Lord Burghley and Eric Liddell.

But what about people who later became famous for reasons other than being great athletes?

Here are some people who you know, but may not have known that they competed at the Penn or Drake Relays


The star of such artistic and intellectual films as Old School and Idiocracy went to St. Mark’s High School in Dallas, Texas. They took a trip to the 1988 Penn Relays where he ran on the 4×800 relay.


The ESPN anchor was a high jumper at Missouri, one good enough to get into the 1987 Drake Relays but not quite good enough to make an impact. That year he was one of fourteen jumpers who did not clear the opening height.


The rapper and record producer was a football star and quarter-miler for New York’s Mount Saint Michael’s Academy. He led off his team’s 4×400 relay at the 1987 Penn Relays.


The best-selling solo recording artist in US history went to Oklahoma State on a track scholarship to throw the javelin. In between weekend gigs at local venues in Stillwater he managed a 14th-place finish at the 1984 Drake Relays.


Sander and Rawson are both known for track and field but in ways other than participating. Both ran on winning college relays in 1963, Sander on Fordham’s 4 x mile and Rawson on Boston College’s distance medley. Sander’s greatest achievement in track and field was rehabbing Manhattan’s Fort Washington Avenue Armory from a derelict into the nation’s premiere indoor track facility. Rawson has been a track and road running announcer for decades and was instrumental in getting those sports on ESPN.


The Socialist senator from Vermont was a decent runner in his youth and anchored James Madison High School’s distance medley relay at the 1960 Penn Relays.


You probably knew that Knight, the cofounder of Nike and the 28th richest person in the world, ran on the track team at Oregon. You may not have known that he was a Drake Relays champion since west coast teams were a rarity at Drake in his day. He was part of the record-setting 4 x mile relay team in 1959.


The longtime Yankees owner and sometimes Seinfeld “star” ran the 400 hurdles for Williams College at the 1952 Penn Relays.


White ran on Army’s shuttle hurdle relay that finished second at the 1952 Penn Relays. His teammate “Buzz” Aldrin was a pole vaulter who took second at the ’51 Penn Relays and 6th in ’50. Both eventually joined the NASA astronaut program. White was the first man to walk in space and Aldrin was the second to walk on the moon. White was among the three astronauts who died in a launchpad fire in January, 1967.


Weaver was a TV star best known for playing Chester Goode on Gunsmoke and Sam McCloud on McCloud. He was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1973 to 1975. He was a jumper at Oklahoma and, then known as Bill, finished fourth in the 1948 Drake Relays triple jump.


The 40th President of the United States of America never competed at the Drake Relays, but he did serve as its radio announcer starting in 1934. In the photo below, “Dutch” is the man in the hat behind the microphone below.

Jesse Squire

I was second in the 1980 Olympic* long jump. (*Cub Scout Olympics, Pack 99, 9-10 age group.)