Penn track and field has fought through a lot already this season, but there will be no rest for the weary anytime soon.
The Quakers will be pulling double duty this weekend, participating in the Lafayette/Rider invitational at the New York Armory on Friday and sticking around to participate in the historic Millrose Games on Saturday.
For Penn, Friday’s meet will be another important stepping stone to end of the season, as many Quakers will not compete again until the Ivy Championships.
But the main event will come on Saturday, when the men will compete in the 4x800 meter relay and the high jump at the Millrose Games.
It has been an especially busy week for men's and middle-distance coach Robin Martin, who has worked to assemble and prepare Penn’s first competitive 4x800m team all season.
“Every week, as we work on speed, they get faster and faster…and we’ve only been working on speed for maybe three weeks now,” Martin said of his middle-distance squad.
As it turns out, his work to assemble the squad isn’t even finished yet.
“There are two who are [competing] for sure – Mato Bekelja and Drew Magaha,” Martin said. “We have a nice big pool of athletes at the next level.
“The two best competitors [in the meet on Friday] are going to be part of the 4x8 at Millrose.”
The men’s 4x800m squad will need to adjust to the mindset of a relay fast, but Martin still has high expectations for his athletes going into the weekend.
“We might be a little rusty getting the stick around,” he said. “But we have pretty ambitious goals. We want to be the best middle-distance group in the country.”
Penn will also be represented in the Millrose Games by senior high-jumper Maalik Reynolds.
The All-American has impressed all season, recording a personal best and school record jump of 2.24 meters last week, the third best jump in the nation this season. As one might expect, he has high expectations going into the meet.
“Maalik’s got a long history of big meet jumping,” Martin said. “He is someone who has had legitimate National Champion expectations…for a while now.”
Featuring international competition and the famous “Wanamaker Mile,” the Millrose Games will mark the high point for men’s competition all season.
“That meet will have a number of Olympians competing…so the fact that we have student athletes representing Penn there will be great,” head coach Steve Dolan said.
“It’s one of the premiere track and field events in the country,” Martin added.
Penn’s women will not be represented in the Millrose Games, but they have plenty to be excited about themselves.
Young talent has been the theme all year for the women. Led by freshmen Ashley Montgomery and Cleo Whiting and sophomore Elyssa Gensib, the distance runners have shown particular promise all season.
Despite a lack of upperclassmen distance runners, the young Quakers have fed off of each other and their coaches to progress as individual athletes.
“It doesn’t really feel like we are the babies,” Gensib said of her team’s youth.
“The most important thing is that we don’t limit ourselves mentally.”
Ultimately, the weekend may not be as exciting for the women, but it will give them another opportunity to show off their young talent and grow as a team.