When Anna Aagenes steps out on the track this weekend, there will be one thing running through her mind.
Today marks the opening of the 2010 Penn Relays, and this Penn senior sprinter couldn’t be more pleased to be a Quaker.
“Words cannot describe how excited I am,” Aagenes said. “There is just so much energy in Franklin Field. It’s amazing to be the home team, to have people come to where you practice every day.”
Aagenes is part of a strong senior class — which includes mid-distance runner Kellee Hand and jumper Kathryn Gevitz, among others — that will be leading the Quakers as they attempt to defend their home turf.
One senior notably absent this weekend, however, will be Jamie Massarelli, who underwent surgery Sunday after sustaining injuries to her jaw during the 4x400 last weekend at Cornell.
While the loss of Massarelli comes as a huge blow, coach Gwen Harris assured that her 51-woman squad will be more than ready to step up.
“We’d rather do it with her,” she said. “But now we’ll have to do it without her.”
While practices for the Quakers have become shorter as the women taper, resting their legs in advance of the Relays, preparation has been ongoing throughout the year.
“We have a program that we run,” Harris explained. “You can’t insert something on the spur of the moment. It has to be consistent.”
When asked about the prospect of facing more competitive schools such as Texas A&M; and Oregon, the coach was animated in her response.
“Our kids love that,” she emphasized. “The girls want to do things;
they want to go fast.”
Aagenes, who will most likely compete in the 4x400 relay, stressed the importance of focusing on teamwork, an aspect inherent in the Relays.
“Whatever relay I am a part of, I just want us to perform well as a group,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing when all four girls give it their all.”
On the men’s side, coach Charlie Powell couldn’t agree more.
“While we compete as individuals, we also compete as a team,” he said. “A relay is not just one person doing one thing. It’s four guys together pushing the baton around the track.”
Although Powell never likes to divulge his game plan, he should be anticipating big contributions from his seniors — including sprinter Ben McKean.
McKean, who will race as a part of the 4x400 relay along with freshman phenom Tim Carey, believes his team has a good chance of advancing to the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America finals.
Senior John Carelli, who will compete in all three jumping events, was quick to support this prediction.
“Our team is really strong in a lot of different areas,” he said. “The 4x400 and hurdlers are going to be great.”
Shocked at how quickly his career at Penn has passed, Carelli can’t wait to take on the Penn Relays’ tough competition one last time.
“It’s a great thing for us,” he said. “Generally these are really good athletes, and it forces you mentally to think differently and physically perform better.”
While Powell expects Carelli and the rest of his team to work hard this weekend, the coach is also reminding them to have fun.
“It’s called a carnival for a reason,” he said. “It’s a celebration of track and field. It’s a time to go out there and let it all hang out.”
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