In a search to take Penn men’s track and field recruiting to the next level, coach Robin Martin set up four open houses for athletes over the summer, sent out a mailing to every recruitable athlete in the U.S. — roughly 2,400 letters —and put 4,000 miles on his car traveling to various meets from coast to coast.
The countless summer hours logged apparently paid off, as this week the team announced an exciting recruiting class of nine athletes, four of whom are or have been ranked nationally in the top 10 in their respective events.
“To say I’m excited is an understatement,” said Martin, who took over on an interim basis for Charlie Powell in December. “It was definitely worth every phone call and every letter we sent.”
To say the least, it has been an up-and-down roller coaster ride for the program this winter.
In mid-December, long-time head man Powell surprisingly announced his retirement after spending a quarter-century at the helm. Less than 24 hours later, he took a new job with SPIRE Track & Field Academy.
But the new recruiting class has helped Penn move on. The Class of 2016 is one of the strongest incoming classes the team has had in the last 50 years, according to Martin.
“We really went all out and spent our entire summer just working really hard,” Martin said of the Penn coaching staff. “It helps when you’re selling something you really believe in.”
Two of the recruits, Drew Magaha and Thomas Pitt, come from local high schools.
Magaha, of Upper Moreland High School in Montgomery County, is a middle-distance runner who had the ninth-fastest time in the nation in the 1,500 and 47th in the 800 in the 2011 outdoor season. In his junior year, he won the Class AAA Pennsylvania state title in the 1,600, clocking in at 4:07.32.
“I really believe he’s the best middle-distance recruit in the country,” Martin said. “He’s very talented and he’s very tough. When you combine those two things, it’s pretty magical.”
Pitt, of Malvern Prep in Chester County, is described as one of the best high jumpers in Pennsylvania by the Penn coaches. The high jump is already one of the Quakers’ strongest areas, featuring sophomore All-American Maalik Reynolds.
Additional ranked recruits include Samuel Mattis, a discus thrower from East Brunswick, N.J.; Thomas Awad, a distance runner from East Norwich, N.Y.; and Brendan Smith, a steeplechaser from Fayetteville, N.Y.
Of all the incoming athletes, Mattis’ resume may be the most impressive thus far.
He has already won the New Jersey state title and New Balance Outdoor National Championship in discus throwing. A versatile athlete, Mattis won Penn Relays last year and also placed second in the New Jersey championships in shot put.
“Quite frankly, he’s the number one discus thrower in the country,” Martin said of his star recruit. “He threw 192 feet with the college discus [last year], and with that kind of throw, he’d be top five in the NCAAs as a high school junior, to give you an idea of how special this kid is.”
Martin believes there is no ceiling for the Quakers in the coming years.
“I think that we’re going to contend for an Ivy League title but I’m also talking about contending on a national level,” he said.
“Penn can be a top-10 program in the United States.”
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