Darryll Oliver’s performance at last weekend’s NCAA East Regional Championships summed up the event for the men’s track and field team: lots of talent but little results.
None of the eight members of the Penn team were able to qualify for NCAA Championships next week, which requires finishing in the top five in an event or posting one of the best marks of the nation’s remaining athletes.
In a talent-laden field, Oliver finished fourth in his heat in the 800 meters at 1:50.28 — just over a second behind the time needed to advance to finals — which placed him 15th overall.
Though Penn coach Charlie Powell noted that the East Region is particularly strong in the 800, he believed it was simply a bad day for his star runner.
“Occasionally you’re going to find that guy that might be able to beat you on any given day,” Powell said. “But I think that if he had to run those same guys again the next day, I bet you Darryll would have figured out a way to win it. But that’s how it rolls.”
That’s how it “rolled” for many of the Quakers’ competitors on Friday and Saturday. Freshman Brian Fulton also ran in the 800, finishing fifth in his heat and 29th overall at 1:52.48. Powell attributed Fulton’s performance to lack of experience in competing against top runners week in and week out.
“I think he just kind of ran out of gas, to be very honest with you — both mentally and physically,” Powell said.
Junior triple jumper John Carelli struggled with his physical condition as well, unable to jump after injuring his hamstring during warm ups.
Meanwhile, pole vaulter Anthony Abitante battled windy conditions and could only clear the first height of 4.91 meters. As a result, he did not register a height in the pole vault.
“There were a lot of guys having trouble with the winds down there,” Powell explained. “But you have to deal with that; it’s part of the territory.”
The accomplished 4x100-meter relay team — consisting of seniors Kevin Benjamin, Joey Brown, and Kevin Baidoo and sophomore Alan Hill — tied for last among the 17 teams that finished in the preliminary heats. Their time of 41.97 was over two seconds behind the last finals qualifying time.
But Powell will never forget the mark the seniors — particularly Brown and Benjamin — made on Penn track and field.
“It really does hit you hard to not only lose their abilities but … [also] what they bring to the locker room, what they bring to team chemistry,” their coach said. “I just wish there was some way we could get them to stay for one more year.”
Though the team will miss its senior leaders next season, Powell believes the future for his athletes is “as bright as they want to make it.” With an excellent crop of freshmen arriving next season, the veteran coach can barely find enough superlatives to describe his team’s potential.
“We think that we’ve got a very, very huge upside,” he said.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.