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Sophomore Cleo Whiting figures to be a key part of Penn's distance running squad this outdoor season.

The first week since spring break has seen the sun break through its winter haze, lighting up Penn’s campus with a newfound radiance.

Similarly, Penn track and field will look to jumpstart its run toward a breakthrough season this Saturday when it opens up its outdoor season at home for Franklin Field’s Philadelphia College Classic.

The Red and Blue will take on local competition in a low-key home atmosphere, a preamble to the larger meet action that will be in store in only a few short weeks.

The majority of the Quakers’ top athletes last competed in indoor Heptagonals, where the men’s squad earned a fourth-place finish in the Ivies and the women’s team finished seventh.

There is no doubt that the outdoor season is the more marquee of the program’s two seasons, but the teams’ respective results at indoor Heps are significant in that they are indicative of a larger trend in the program. Both teams have shown progress and individual spurts of excellence, but have not yet been able to establish themselves as complete enough to compete for an Ivy championship.

If the Red and Blue are to take this next step, the program’s top performers will obviously need to step up. This group includes many familiar names: juniors Thomas Awad and Sam Mattis and sophomore Cleo Whiting will all factor heavily in Penn’s outdoor aspirations.

For Penn to move forward, its youngsters will also need to step up in a big way; the Red and Blue saw some good signs that they can expect just that throughout the indoor season.

Both the men’s and women’s squads featured freshmen who stepped up during indoor competition. Mike Monroe came out of nowhere to take the Heps title in high jump and Taylor McCorkle set a school record in the 60-meter dash, just to name a few.

Coach Steve Dolan has always stressed the importance of patience when it comes to progressing as a program, and Saturday’s meet fits right into his overarching method. The stakes are low for the season opener — a chance for the Red and Blue to shake out the cobwebs after a few weeks away from regular competition.

Of course, a solid performance — especially against inter-city rival and Philadelphia powerhouse Villanova — could boost the confidence of the Quakers moving forward. However, this early in the season, staying healthy is the most important thing for Penn.

The Philadelphia College Classic may not hold much clout as a meet in-and-of itself, but it will serve as an appetizer for one meet that certainly does: Penn Relays.

The College Classic is a long way off from the nation’s biggest annual track meet, but the Relays are only one month away.

The spring track season is going to be a sprint for the Red and Blue and the starter’s gun is about to go off.

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