It is no secret that Penn’s Director of Track and Field Steve Dolan is a distance runner at heart. It should come as no surprise, then, that he has instilled a distance runner’s strategy in his program’s approach to the indoor season: to stay the course and finish strong.
On Saturday, Penn track and field will take another step toward its final kick at the end of the season, this time at Penn State in the Sykes and Sabock Challenge Cup.
After beginning the season with a series of meets that had little in the way of competition, the program got its first taste of the big stage last weekend at the expansive Columbia Invitational. This weekend’s meet at Penn State promises to provide an even larger scope.
“There are good teams at both of them. Penn State, I think, will have more of the high-caliber people,” senior middle-distance runner Chelsea Delaney said.
While the Columbia Invitational only provided a slew of individual results that were virtually indecipherable, the Penn State meet will feature team scores.
“It will be nice to see, with team scoring, how we fare against … the higher competition,” Delaney said.
However, both coaches and players have maintained that scoring for track and field differs greatly from that of most other sports.
“It’s different than other sports. You don’t worry too much about the scoring of the meets,” Dolan said.
“We didn’t exactly put together a lineup to try to score points. We just put people in the events that made sense.”
As distance runners have become increasingly integrated into the fold and upperclassmen have begun to hit their stride, the team has seen a significant amount of individual improvement in recent weeks.
“A lot of people didn’t know what to expect going into track, so it’s nice to see people getting PRs right off the bat,” Delaney said.
With Heps approaching, Dolan will look to determine his athletes’ best events in the coming weeks.
“There are definitely still some things to be figured out in terms of who will compete in which events,” Dolan said.
The prospects of Penn’s relay teams are of particular interest to Delaney as a middle-distance runner, but she understands that the time to worry about relays is still a ways down the road.
“There will be relays come Heps, and then we’ll focus on it,” Delaney said. “For the time being we’re just focusing more on … individual races.”
“It’s a matter of getting the individuals as fast as they can before we come together as relay,” Dolan added.
Of course, the Quakers are running for something much greater than just personal bests and relay team positions. In honor of their teammate Madison Holleran, Penn’s track and field athletes will wear ribbons on their jerseys at Penn State and for the remainder of the season.
“We wanted to wear them in honor of her,” Delaney said. “We want to make it known that we’re thinking of Madison and that we’re running, jumping and throwing for her.”
Ultimately, the Red and Blue hope to ride this wave of inspiration to another weekend of individual improvement and another small step toward the team’s final objectives.
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