Two weekends ago, Penn’s senior-less 4x800-meter relay followed up on their Ivy title and beat Fordham to capture the only win of the day for the Quakers at the IC4A championships.
As usual, watching from the sidelines was Penn senior Darryll Oliver.
“I think it’s a testament to the depth that we have,” middle-distance coach Robin Martin said of the victory. “With Darryll coming along, it changed the way the middle distance sees itself.”
The senior raced to second place in the individual 800m with season-best and near-personal best of 1:48.46. The performance has him sitting at No. 20 in the nation going into this week’s NCAA East Preliminary Round in Bloomington, Ind. where he will be joined by fellow Quakers senior Luke Grau, sophomore Tim Carey and freshman Maalik Reynolds.
“I’m pretty excited,” Oliver said. “I feel pretty healthy and I feel that my past experiences have prepared me well for the race.”
The soft-spoken and humble Oliver came to Penn with high hopes after finishing second in the New York City Public School Athletic League Championships his senior year of high school. However, Oliver’s coming out party at Penn did not happen until he was a sophomore.
In the trials of the 2009 Outdoor Heptagonal Championships, he lowered his personal best by a second, enough to set up an encounter with Columbia’s Jeff Moriarty in the finals. Despite going up against one of the best in the Ivy League, Oliver was able to hold off Moriarty on three separate occasions en route to a Heps title.
“Darryll doesn’t have any fear and so where a lot of people would be intimidated by this guy who was leading the Ivy League and was this untouchable figure, Darryll didn’t care,” said Martin who was an 11-time Ivy champion with the Red and Blue and a two-time All-American.
The following year, Oliver suffered a series of injuries but continued to contribute to the team. In his second race of the season, he ran a 1:49 in his second race, further building his confidence.
“Being able to contribute to the 4x800 showed that I still had a lot in me and it showed me how much of the race was mental,” Oliver said. “These tough races, the turnaround races I would call them, help you at the bigger stages.”
Oliver’s resurgence has helped him occupy a unique place in Penn history. Sitting fourth all-time on Penn’s 800-meter list, he is sandwiched between Martin and Tim Kaijala, a senior captain during Oliver’s freshman year and someone he has looked up to.
And now, after four years, Oliver will have one last chance to inspire his younger teammates and finish up a stellar Penn track career at the NCAA track and field Championships.
“I remember after running IC4A’s, two of my teammates that ran on the 4x800, said that they admired the way I run my race,” said Oliver.
“I’m continuing the tradition of being a role model and inspiration of other teammates just the way I looked up to my senior captain my freshman year.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.