MR. LESTER WRIGHT SENIOR OF SHORE AC LOWERS WORLD 100-METER RECORD TO 26.34 SECONDS BEFORE HUGE CROWD AT 126TH PENN RELAYS!!!
By Elliott Denman
PHILADELPHIA - Penn Relays officials weren't as fast as the senior member of the competition cast of the venerable track and field carnival that closed out its 126th year just after 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, at historic Franklin Field.
The official Penn Relays program is 160 pages thick, 80 pages on every team and individual entry, and schedule item, in the three-day 2022 meet; then 80 pages more devoted to the records set in every race on the card, from Harvard's 4x440 yards relay win in 1895, to the array of winners in 2019, when the meet was last held in full fashion, and before the pandemic erased the 2020 meet and the 2021 event was held as a strictly-limited localized event for nearby colleges.
But nowhere did that program list records in the Masters division, those events, individual races and relays, for the stalwart men and women racers age 40 and over, who love running at Penn just as much as all the youngsters.
And that's why, when Lester Wright Senior of Long Branch, representing Shore Athletic Club, crossed the finish line of the men's 80-and-up 100-meter dash in 26.34 seconds about 1:30 p.m.
on Saturday, one day after his 100th birthday, the fuller magnitude of the achievement was not made clear to all on the premises.
Sure he earned loud rounds of applause from the nation's biggest track meet audience -specially so when his 26.34-second performance earned seventh place over-all in a nine-man field, and the two he beat were mere lads of 86 and 92. Over-all winner was Bob Williamson of the Potomac Valley Track Club, age 84, in 17.33, but Mr. Wright was within striking distance of two others, age 85 and 84, who ran 24.17 and 26.11.
Not until sometime Sunday did he get verification of the quality of his performance - it was world record! Nothing about it had been announced to the Franklin Field audience.
One day after his race, by now safely home in Long Branch, he finally was told he had set a world record.
The charts were belatedly consulted. And they showed that the accepted world 100-meter record by a man age 100 to 104 was 26.95, and had been set by a Californian, Donald Pellmann, at San Diego on Sept. 20, 2015.
Mr. Wright had slashed the world record by all of 0.61 seconds, a very long span of time in track and field terms,
"Amazing, amazing, amazing," said his delighted teammates and lots more.
Well, what's next for Mr. Wright?
"I'd like to take a crack at the (M100) 200 and 400-meter records, too, sometime soon," he said. The M100 200-meter world record is 1:17.59 and was set by South Africa's Philip Rabinowitz in 2004. The M100 400-meter world record is 3:41.00 and was set by Austria's Erwin Jaskulski in 2003.
Shore AC officials were quick to say they'd try to plan record-attempt races at the 36th annual NJ International Meet/National Club Championships, which they are organizing for July 1-2 at Monmouth University's Joe Compagni Track.