Nobody said that it would be easy.
Over the weekend, both Penn men’s and women’s track and field finished seventh out of eight Ivy teams in the indoor Heptagonal Championships - the Ivy League championship meet - hosted this year by Dartmouth.
Second to last is hardly anything to get excited over. However, Penn track and field is a young program looking to rebuild, and coach Steve Dolan did not enter the meet with delusions of grandeur.
“The conference is very strong right now,” he said. “We knew we’d see great competition from all the teams.”
Instead of focusing on the team scores, Dolan has stressed the importance of individual progress.
And the Quakers did turn in several notable individual performances despite unimpressive team results.
Individual standouts for the men included sophomore Drew Magaha, who finished runner-up in the 500-meter dash, and senior Nathan Harriger , who ended his indoor career on a high note, placing in the top five in the high jump.
Another strong performer on the men’s side was sophomore Thomas Awad , who turned in an impressive 4:02 mile-split in the distance medley relay and finished third in the 3000-meter.
“His heat ran very tactical,” Dolan said of Awad’s performance in the 3000 . “So even though he was third overall, he beat a number of guys who were nationally ranked.”
The women’s team received the standout rookie performance of the meet from versatile freshman Noel Jancewicz , who capped an outstanding indoor season with a third-place finish in the pentathlon.
The Quakers also received an excellent performance from senior Gabrielle Piper, who fin runner-up finish in the 60 hurdles.
“Last year was a rough indoor season for me,” Piper said. “I’m really excited. It’s good to end your career on a positive note.”
Both the men and the women also did very well in the relay events, especially the men’s distance medley relay and the women’s 4x400 .
Overall, Dolan was pleased with the effort his team gave throughout the weekend.
“I was certainly proud of how hard we competed to the end ... after a long two days of competition,” he said.
However, Dolan acknowledges that his squad fell flat in certain areas, and he is also fully aware that a seventh-place finish in the Ivies is not a long term goal.
“We can’t be happy with the team result,” he said. “We expect it to improve as the seasons go.
“We had some really high moments, and we had some moments that didn’t go as well as we’d hoped.”
The most disappointing moment of all probably came from senior Maalik Reynolds , who only managed a fifth-place finish in the high jump. He will need to recover quickly, as he will be Penn’s lone representative at indoor nationals in two weeks.
Looking forward, the rest of the Quakers will transition into the outdoor season. But as usual, the program has its sights set on the long run.
“If you keep watching over the next couple years,” Piper said, “there are a lot of people that are on their way to doing really big things in the Ivy League.
“You could see it in their eyes today.”