All good things must come to an end.
The last week has been incredible for Penn track and field. Not only did the Quakers host the 120th running of the prestigious Penn Relays, but they exceeded all reasonable expectations in competition at the meet.
But now that the Penn Relays are in the past and with the Heptagonal championships only two weeks away, it’s time for the program to move forward.
Still, that seems to be easier said than done. After all, how can a program in the midst of its most successful competitive run in recent memory prepare to move further into uncharted territory?
To be able to answer that question properly, it is important to understand what the Quakers accomplished at this year’s Penn Relays.
For the first time since 1922, the Red and Blue won three individual titles at the Relays, with freshman Noel Jancewicz winning in the heptathlon, senior Maalik Reynolds in the high jump and sophomore Thomas Awad in the mile.
For middle-distance coach Robin Martin , the victories were especially satisfying given the backgrounds of Penn’s three star athletes.
“They’re all great stories,” he said. “It was Noel’s first multi in college. Maalik has been the face of the program for some time now ... and for [Awad] to really burst through on that stage is a great story.”
At the Relays, the stars unquestionably carried the day for the Quakers, but the achievement also signals another step in the right direction for Penn’s program as a whole.
“We’ve always known what we’re capable of, but I think this was a time that the world can point to like, ‘Oh wow, Penn’s coming,’” Martin said.
With the postseason fast approaching, the Quakers now have an opportunity to improve on the accomplishments they’ve made throughout the 2013-14 season.
Their first big opportunity will come two weekends from now, when the Red and Blue travel to New Haven, Conn., for the outdoor Heptagonal championships, a meet that serves as the Ivy League’s championship meet.
“The league has come so far that even someone like Tommy Awad or Maalik still have really stiff competition of their own league,” Martin said.
This year, both Penn’s men’s and women’s teams finished second-to-last at the indoor Heptagonals. But given their progress throughout the outdoor season, the Quakers will definitely be looking to make more noise at the outdoor events.
“I think outdoors we can definitely make a big jump,” Awad said. “Also getting a bunch of guys to go to Nationals ... is a big thing for us.”
But with the meet over a week away, specific goals for athletes like Awad are still a bit unclear.
“I don’t really know what I’m running yet,” Awad said. “Whatever [coach Steve Dolan] decides, I’ll be ready for.”
In the meantime, the Quakers will have to settle for competing in this weekend’s “Elite Meet” at Princeton, Penn’s final tune-up before Heptagonals.
This weekend’s meet in Princeton will give several Penn athletes one last chance to make the final lineup for Heptagonals.
As usual, the program is looking forward to the postseason with the future heavily in mind.
“We’ve accomplished some amazing things, but our training has been geared towards what we’re about to accomplish,” Martin said.
After all, the Penn Relays have come and gone, but a new era for the program may be on the horizon.
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