Despite crowds that topped 115,000 over three days, the Penn Relays did not intimidate the Penn track and field teams.
After earning a spot in Saturday’s 4x400 ECAC final, sophomore Victoria Strickland was adamant about the Quakers’ desire to defend their home turf, especially on the women’s side.
“We earned this position out here,” she said. “We worked so hard this year … so why leave anything back?”
Strickland, along with junior Kali Strother and sophomores Paige Madison and Leah Brown, combined to finish seventh in the event finals. Their time of 3:45.64 was the second best of the year.
Considering that coach Gwen Harris had not initially planned to enter the four runners in the event as a result of injuries, she was more than pleased with the finish.
“We had some things that didn’t help us a lot,” the coach said. “We had to use some different people, but we also found out whether those people can step up and do a good job. We learned some stuff today.”
Yet the performance of the 4x400 team in the ECAC finals was nowhere near the most significant of the weekend.
In Friday’s sprint medley relay against the top competition in the nation, Brown, Strother, Madison and senior Halloran Cope finished the race in the five spot. Their time of 3:56.90 is the third best in Penn’s history and was better than that of several schools from powerhouse conferences like the ACC and the Big 12.
In the women’s field events, the Quakers’ performances were highlighted by jumper Kathryn Gevitz’s ninth-place finish out of 28 in the long jump, and 13th out of 26 in the triple jump.
Meanwhile, the Penn men started their Relays off with a bang.
On Thursday, junior Luke Grau competed in the 5,000 meters, finishing fourth in the 41-man field. Grau was only four seconds behind the first-place finisher with his time of 14:28.85 — good enough to qualify him for IC4A’s, the next level of NCAA qualifying.
However, the next day brought disappointment early on as the 4x100 relay team failed to complete the first handoff.
According to Powell, this was the Red and Blue’s “only real downer” of the weekend.
Yet Powell’s squad rebounded quickly as the 4x400 relay team posted a finish of 3:13.11 — its best time of the season — later that night. Finishing second, the foursome of Darryll Oliver, Tim Carey, Jeremy Sinclair and Ben McKean advanced to the next day’s IC4A final — one of two events that the Quakers would compete in on the final day.
In the first of the two, the 4x800 Championship of America race, the Quakers beat Arkansas and LSU. The foursome of Oliver, sophomore Brian Fulton and freshmen Matt Chylak and Kevin Foy finished in 10th, with a time of 7:28.31.
“It gives you a whole new perspective on what kind of level you’re running at when you look next to you and see Oregon and Tennessee,” Fulton said of the heightened competition. “All these schools that you use to watch on TV when you were a kid.”
Citing injuries, Powell swapped Oliver for freshman Allante Keels in the 4x400 IC4A final later that day. The team finished a disappointing eighth with a time of 3:17.68.
“We were hoping to get a little better,” he said. “But we got banged around in some of the exchanges.”
Powell also wishes James Foreman could have competed in the polevault, but the junior is currently nursing a hamstring injury and has the rest of the season to consider.
“We’re getting ready for IC4A’s and Hep Championships,” Powell said. “So we had to be careful about what we did.”
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