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Rising junior Leslie Kovach (No. 3) is one of several Quakers who saw vast improvements due to the help of new cross country head coach Blake Boldon.

Penn finally has a cross country coach.

On Monday, Athletic Director Steve Bilsky announced that assistant track coach Blake Boldon would be promoted to head coach of both the men’s and women’s cross country team – marking a separation from the head of the track teams.

The move is a major step to legitimizing the program and is a clear show of support from the administration as it is the first time the Quakers have ever named an overarching head of both men’s and women’s cross country.

“It puts an emphasis on cross country,” Boldon said. “It holds me directly accountable for our performance and recruiting. I can put my full energy into building that team. Secondly, it can help relieve our head track coaches from this commitment.”

Boldon joined the Penn track and field team last year as a long-distance coach and helped spur many athletes to personal bests. For example, his work with sophomore Leslie Kovach has allowed her to flourish. This year, Kovach reached the NCAA Championships and became just the second outdoor All-American in Penn women’s history, setting records in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races along the way. His work with freshman Conner Paez also resulted in a strong indoor season and a spot at the USATF Junior National Championships.

“I look forward to building those relationships with the kids we have. One thing I say to recruits is that one of the best measures — and it may sound silly — of a good college coach is how many weddings they’re invited to.”

The appointment is also a great move for middle distance coach Robin Martin.

Martin first met Boldon more than a year ago at the USA Track and Field coaching class on endurance. They immediately hit it off and became good friends.

“When this position came open I was really excited to introduce coach Boldon and [track and field] head coach [Charlie] Powell,” Martin said. “He’s really excited about bringing this cross country [team] to its former glory. He’s excited about it and that enthusiasm carries over to other athletes.”

Coming out of high school Boldon was an unheralded prospect who joined the program at Missouri State, the only school to give him an opportunity to run. By the end of his collegiate career, he was a sub four-minute miler and five-time Missouri Valley Conference champion.

He went on to coach under national championship coach Bob Braman at Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference and later on, became a head coach at University of Alabama-Birmingham before coming to Philadelphia.

“[Being] a head coach at a school like Penn is tremendous,” Boldon said. “Anyone who is a young coach or a young professional is thinking about where that next job is – well now with this position and situation, this is the job.”

The Quakers have yet to confirm a final schedule, but will likely open up the season in early September.

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