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Betty J. Constanza (center) started the women’s track program at Penn. The coaching position is now endowed in her name, thanks to a gift from alumna Adria Speth (right).

After running around Franklin Field for four years, Adria Sheth gained a family, and now she’s decided to pay it back.

Sheth, a 4x400-meter runner and a 1997 College graduate, and her husband Brian, who graduated from the Wharton School the same year, have donated $1 million to endow the Betty J. Costanza Women’s Track & Field coaching position.

“It’s important that we get behind establishing women’s sports. It’s also a tribute to a pretty incredible woman who began the program and dedicated her life to bettering the lives of women athletes,” Sheth said. “It was a way to pay tribute and honor her and strengthen the track program.”

The gift, which was made earlier this year, will be an endowment of firsts.

This marks the first time a women’s varsity coaching position at Penn has been endowed in a woman’s name, as well as the first time that a former female student-athlete has endowed a coach’s position in the name of a female coach.

“[This gift] means a great deal because it gives women the [chance] to understand that there are so many opportunities to be successful in so many different ways,” said women’s track and field coach Gwen Harris, who coached against Costanza before coming to Penn.

In endowing the women’s track head coaching position, Sheth commemorates the former coach and Quakers’ legend Costanza.

“She’s a character,” Sheth quipped. “I like to joke sometimes that she was a guardian for all of us. She was a mother to 400 plus during the course of her career because she really did dedicate her life for us.”

Costanza started the program as a club team with six athletes in 1976 and was promoted to varsity status just two years later.

During her tenure, she became one of the most successful coaches in Ivy League track and field history, winning 11 Ivy League titles, 10 Big 5 championships and guiding more than 50 athletes to individual Heptagonal Championships.

“She started this program and made this program what it was,” Harris added.

Given Costanza’s lasting impact on the program, it’s not surprising that one of her athletes — Sheth was a four-year letter winner and a member of Costanza’s 1996 indoor Heptagonal Championship team — has been donating to the track program for quite some time.

The last five years she and her husband have substantially increased their donations, leading up to the endowment.

“Being a part of the team really impacted me,” Sheth said. “It was a point in our lives, where you feel a sisterhood with a common goal and you learn to think about others.”

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