Posted on March 30, 2012 at 1:34 PM
AUSTIN -- Friday morning hundreds of athletes gathered on the track and field at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the UT campus to compete in the 85th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.
The third day of events picked up at 9:30 a.m. By Friday afternoon preliminaries and finals will begin.
A mix of high school and college students participate in the annual races. In all about 40,000 people are expected in Austin for the relays.
Once they clear off the track many head downtown to celebrate.
“After you get done running you get to go hang out on 6th Street everybody knows about 6th Street so it is fun to go out and have a good time,” said runner at Sam Houston State University Darryl Hayes.
In past years the crowds have spurred public concern. In 2011 some 6th Street bars closed during relay weekend. The Highland Mall closed its own doors early one year when a crowd got out of control. This year both bar owners and mall operations say there are no plans to close their doors unless employee safety is jeopardized.
However athletes who have participated at the relays before believe there's a misunderstanding.
“I don’t believe everybody gets out of hand. You might have a couple, but I don’t think the whole event gets out of hand,” said Sam Houston State University runner Jarrick Wright.
Austin police are preparing for the weekend. APD says there have been fewer arrests during relay weekend than an average weekend. Still the department is putting out extra patrols for the crowd, which they say can rival a Halloween or Mardi Gras night.
Officers will close off roads leading into East 6th Street to keep the crowd and vehicles separate.
Friday night the concerns linked to the relays are opening up talks. A symposium scheduled on Friday at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center will include a panel of experts to discuss how racial stigmas linked to events such as the Texas Relays affect and challenge student athletes.
The free public forum is called Moving Past Racial Stigmas to Help Students Succeed, and it lasts from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.