Sometimes, sports can serve as a distraction in the face of heartbreak.
But on Saturday, the men’s and women’s track and field meets became an afterthought as the teams and Penn community at large grieved in the aftermath of Madison Holleran’s death.
Holleran, a freshman cross-country and distance runner from Allendale, N.J., died on Friday night in Center City. News of her death reached coaches in the middle of the night on Friday, and Holleran’s teammates were informed early Saturday morning.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our teammate and friend, Madison Holleran,” Steve Dolan, Penn’s director of track and field and cross country, said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.
“This is a challenging time for everyone involved with the program, but we will support each other in the weeks to come and help her teammates and friends find their own ways to honor her memory.”
Heading into the weekend, both of Penn’s track teams prepared to participate in Lehigh’s Angry Birds Invitational.
However, once news of Holleran’s death broke, Dolan and his assistants were confronted with a decision regarding whether or not the team should compete at Lehigh. Eventually, the coaches decided to let the choice rest with each individual player.
“Different people are going to grieve in different ways,” Dolan said. “For some, that means being in a bus with their teammates and coaches, then supporting each other on the track. For others, that means staying here on campus with their teammates and friends.
“We wanted to let the men and women of our program know that we support them whichever way they choose to deal with this sad occasion and honor their teammate.”
While Dolan himself stayed behind to comfort those who elected not to compete, various assistant coaches led the rest of the teams to Bethlehem, Pa., for the meet.
Once at Lehigh, the Quakers still had a solid performance.
On the women’s side, Holleran’s fellow freshman Noel Jancewicz won the high jump while Lydia Ali captured the 200 meters. The junior posted a winning time of 26.25, narrowly edging out Danielle Albergo of Lehigh by 0.21 seconds.
The men’s team was also victorious on Saturday, as senior Maalik Reynolds took the high jump for the Red and Blue. Reynolds is a three-time All-American in the high jump.
Penn’s 4×400-meter relay team notched first place on the men’s side as well. Freshman Ian Parnell, sophomore Timothy Hamlett and juniors James Killian and Tom Timmins posted a time of 3:24.01 to take the top spot.
Despite the individual success of players on both teams, Penn’s women’s team accumulated only 77 points and finished fourth out of four teams. The men came in third with 113 total points.
In the wake of Holleran’s death, a funeral will be held in her honor on Wednesday. The following Saturday, both squads will attend the Haverford College Invitational for their third meet of the indoor track season.
And for the rest of the season, Dolan noted on Saturday, “[The team and coaching staff] will always carry her in [their] hearts.”