New York City. It is said that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
The athletes of Penn track and field will have their chance to prove their worth in the Big Apple on Saturday when they compete in the Columbia Invitational. The meet will be held in the historic Fort Washington Avenue Armory, which has been a Manhattan mainstay since 1911.
The meet will serve as the first major test of the year for the Quakers, who have mainly competed against lesser competition for the duration of the indoor campaign.
Penn’s coaches and athletes are especially excited for the meet, the scope of which extends far beyond any previous meet.
The Red and Blue have mostly used previous meets to train and get into form, but this one is a different story. Following weeks of going through the motions, the Quakers are ready to show the rest of the Ivy League what they bring to the table.
“We’re expecting to go out and actually be able to compete, start to PR and really show off what we can do,” junior middle distance runner Mato Bekelja said.
After seeing his freshman athletes step up on numerous occasions, most notably in last week’s meet at Haverford, coach Steve Dolan is ready for his veterans to perform at their highest level yet this season.
“We had some great freshman performances, but I think you’ll see some other event groups where we have some really strong juniors and seniors that will be noteworthy this weekend,” he said.
This will be the first meet of the year in which Penn will field close to a full squad in competition, but the team is confident nonetheless.
“There will be some new faces,” Dolan said. “But then there will be some people take it to another level who have already competed well.”
“We want to show the Ivy League that Penn is not someone to be fooled with,” Bekelja added.
In true Dolan fashion, though, the program has set their sights far beyond the consequences of this coming meet. As always, the ultimate focus of the team rests on the Ivy Championships.
“It’s really a month until the Ivy Championships, so we’d like to build through February,” Dolan said.
Of course, in the wake of freshman runner Madison Holleran’s suicide, the team’s focus will not
rest solely on the meet ahead.
“There isn’t a day that we don’t think about Madison,” Bekelja said.
“Everyone knows that we have had a real challenge emotionally,” Dolan added. “The team has been amazing in pulling together and supporting each other.”
But the Quakers have endeavored to rally together to honor Holleran, and they see this meet as another perfect occasion to do just that.
“It’s going to be with us for a long time,” Dolan said. “But this is what we do. We love to compete in track and field, as did Madison, and they’re going to go for it in her honor.”