Charles Knight remembers how exciting it was as a senior at Germantown High School running in the Penn Relays. Knight will never forget running in front of those huge crowds at Franklin Field. It was certainly a highlight of his scholastic career.
“Our coach Bill McMahon would only let the seniors run,” said Knight, who now goes by Charles Knight El. “The only thing I could do was wait until my senior year. I was just hoping he would let me run that year. I know it was a big time thing. It was a chance to run for the school. We had a good (mile relay) team. We had some good sprinters — Kerry Streets, Mike Dupree and Eddie Lowe.”
The Bears certainly did have some outstanding sprinters. In 1971, they won the Public League mile relay championship at the Penn Relays. Germantown had a winning time of 3:24.5. In preparation for the country’s major track and field carnival, the Bears participated in other meets.
“It was exciting running at the Penn Relays with all those people down there,” Knight said. “It was a good experience. But you know we also ran in the Martin Luther King Games before the Penn Relays. That was big meet at that time. The other thing, I ran for the Philadelphia Hawks in the summer time. So, I was well prepared for the competition.”
High school track and field was really special during the ‘70s in the Public League. The league had a number of great teams such as Bartram and Overbrook. Knight was the Bears’ most versatile performer. Germantown defeated Bartram, 34-31 to win the Public League track and field championship his senior year. Knight was a big reason why the Bears won the league title. In the championship meet, he won the 120 high hurdles and 440-yard dash.
“I had to run against Wayne Matthews from Bartram in the quarter,” Knight said. “I think we were one point ahead. Mr. McMahon put me in the 440. That was really something for me. I ran the 120 high hurdles. It was a close meet. Wayne Matthews was a great runner. I was able to win the quarter. I think that helped us a lot. But I think Kerry Streets winning the 100-yard dash was really big for us.”
Knight graduated from Germantown High in 1971. After that, he spent 24 years in the Navy. He’s a retired Navy chief. He’s married and lives in Suffolk, Va. On December 3, 2011, his brother, Steffen Knight organized a special night for him at the Platinum Grille in Chestnut Hill. He also started the Charles Knight (EL) Track Scholarship.
“I had a great time that day,” Knight said. “I came in there and saw Mr. McMahon and all those people. I had a lot of family and friends there. They started a scholarship fund. It’s nice to be able to help somebody go to school. We can give some money to students who need help to pay for books.”
Knight’s track and field prowess will be able to make a difference in the lives of young people from Germantown.