In the hubbub of championship races and world-class performances at the 2015 edition of The Penn Relays Carnival, there is just one more Penn Relays story that must be told.
The Penn Relays selected Don Rich, FloSports Director of MileSplit State Sites, as the Honorary High School Boys Referee. The honor marks the first time that Penn has recognized a non-traditional media company.
Rich's bio in the meet program reads:
For nearly two decades, if it has happened in Pennsylvania and relates to high school track & field, Don Rich is on it. Watching his children thrive in the sport made Rich wish for a way to promote these athletes and their achievements. Having run a successful ad agency with an emphasis on web development, he used those skills to create a site focused on Pennsylvania -- PennTrackXC.com. Realizing that track fans, coaches and athletes in other states were wishing for similar coverage, he joined a fledgling MileSplit Network as its COO, and grew the site and the coverage to 30 state webmasters and full national coverage until the company was acquired by Flocasts (now FloSports) in August 2013. Now as the Director of State Sites for FloSports, few people have overseen and generated more high school track & field content in the last 20 years than Rich.
Rich started covering high school track and field as a contributor to the DyeStat network in 1998. He created his own site, PennTrackXC.com in March, 2000. Rich applied for credentials to cover The Penn Relays in his first year, but was denied on-field access and covered the meet from the stands.
"Just taking photos, talking to people in the stands and writing recaps," Rich said of his first year as a press correspondent at Franklin Field. "No video interviews!"
In 2001, Rich was granted a press pass and instructed by David Johnson, the Frank Dolson Director of Penn Relays, to show up with a proper camera and not embarrass himself in front of the "mainstream press" with an amateur lens.
Rich merged PennTrackXC into the MileSplit network in 2003.
Rich, along with the other 2015 honorees, was recognized in a ceremony at the center of Franklin Field on the Saturday of the Relays. Johnson shook hands with every honoree and gave each a baton with the inscription "2015 Penn Relays Honorary Referee," as well as a gold watch detailed with the Relays insignia. The watch is the same model bestowed to every champion runner at the Relays.
When Johnson shook Rich's hand, he told the former webmaster, "Thank you for buying a big lens."
David Johnson, the Frank Dolson Director of Penn Relays, congratulates the award winners.
Meet officials contacted Rich in the weeks before Penn to inform him of the honor and to request a photo of the man forever behind-the-scenes.
"'We found a lot by you, but nothing about you,'" Rich said the officials told him. "Which means we were doing it for the right reasons. It's all about the kids."