The Penn cross country team picked a really good day to have its best race of the season.
On Friday afternoon, the Quakers’ men’s and women’s teams squared off against a very talented collection of runners at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships. Running at Lehigh’s Goodman Campus, a course that Penn already competed on earlier this year, the Quakers stunned the field, turning in a fourth-place finish on the men’s side and a sixth-place finish on the women’s side.
For the men, who came into the race ranked ninth in the region, the goal was to put together a strong race and finish above their seed.
They blew that goal out of the water.
Penn finished fourth overall in the 39-team field, notching 152 points and averaging an overall time of 30:49 in the 10-kilometer race. The Quakers finished only behind Villanova, Princeton and Georgetown.
However, as ‘Nova and Princeton are ranked 20th and 15th nationally, respectively, and Georgetown has won seven of the last eight Regional Championships, no one on the Penn team is hanging their head.
In addition to the incredible team performance, some individual dreams were fulfilled.
Sophomore Thomas Awad finished fifth overall, claiming one of the four individual spots reserved for finishers not on the top two teams. With a time of 29:48.75, Awad punched his ticket to the NCAA National Championship meet next Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.
“Today went really well for the team.” Awad said. “Finishing fourth was really big for us, especially since we were ranked ninth in the region prior to today. This sets us up great for next year to get the rest of the team out there as well.”
Sophomore Brendan Smith and freshman Brendan Shearn also contributed to Penn’s monster day, finishing 24th and 27th, respectively.
The women also exceeded expectations, finishing sixth — despite being ranked eighth in the region — out of 39.
The Quakers, as usual, were led by freshman Cleo Whiting, who finished 23rd overall with a 6k time of 20:49.75. Close behind Whiting were sophomore Elyssa Gensib and Cleo’s sister, Clarissa, who finished back-to-back in 34th and 35th.
“Today really shows the potential that Penn women’s cross country has for the future.” Whiting said. “I am ecstatic about my individual performance, but I am mostly proud of our performance as a whole team.”
While this race marked the end of the collegiate cross country season for everyone except Awad, the men and women who competed know that they ended their season in the best way possible.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how our men and women competed today,” coach Steve Dolan said. “ It was an inspirational performance.”
It has been an impressive season for the Quakers, and while many of the Penn runners will continue competing on the winter and spring track and field teams, this group can look back with pride at the many strides it has made this season.
“I feel incredibly lucky to be a member of this group,” Whiting said. “We can only keep improving from here.”
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