For eight members of the Penn men's track and field team, it's time to kick it up a notch.
Fatigue and some seniors' conflicts with graduation limited the squad's success at the IC4A Outdoor Championships May 15-17. But tomorrow and Saturday, eight standout Quakers will face the biggest challenge of their season at the NCAA East Regional Championships in Greensboro, N.C.
At the IC4As, only junior pole vaulter Anthony Abitante and the 3200-meter relay team were able to accumulate points for the Quakers, who finished 29th out of 52 teams competing at Princeton's Weaver Stadium. Abitante cleared 4.95 meters en route to a fourth-place finish, while the 3200 team placed fifth despite recording the fastest preliminary time.
Abitante battled windy conditions and was adjusting to a new pole at Princeton, which prevented him from topping his season-best jump of 5.16 meters. That jump was the ninth-highest in the East region this year, but Abitante will have to vault himself into the top five this weekend in order to continue his season.
At Regionals, the top five finishers in individual events and the top three teams in relays advance to the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., June 10-13.
Penn's best shot at earning a spot in Fayetteville belongs to sophomore Darryll Oliver. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native anchored the 3200 relay at the IC4As and ranks fourth in the East region in the 800-meters.
"If he keeps racing and battling the way he has been lately, he's got a real good shot of making the NCAA Finals," Penn coach Charlie Powell said. "If he hits his splits, I don't know if there are many people out there on the East Coast that can beat him."
The third leg of the 3200 was run by another regional qualifier in the 800, freshman Brian Fulton, who is ranked 19th in the East. Fulton impressed his coach by qualifying for Regionals as a first-year competitor.
"[The 800] is one of the toughest events to qualify in, and to do it as a freshman - wow," Powell said.
Fulton is one of six freshman that qualified in the 800. Powell is excited about the experience his young runners will gain this weekend.
"For Brian and Darryll to get the opportunity to run at this level early on in their careers is going to make things so much better later on," he said.
By contrast, the three seniors on the Quakers' 4x100 relay team - Joey Brown, Kevin Baidoo, and Kevin Benjamin -- could be running their last race, but nostalgia won't hold them back.
"Seniors have a tendency to realize that . the urgency is there to do it this year," Powell said. "A lot of times they can pull some amazing things out."