Jake Brenza is no stranger to the Penn Relays. But he’ll be seeing the meet from a different perspective this year.
Brenza, who graduated from Penn last spring after throwing for the Quakers for four seasons, has remained at his alma mater this year as a volunteer assistant coach.
“It’s something I love to do. I love throwing," Brenza said. "My love of throwing made me want to stay here. I still have friends here and people that I care about, so I try to help them do as well as I can.”
Brenza’s involvement with the team has been born purely out of his passion for the sport. Volunteer coaches are not paid for their services, and Brenza also works a full-time job at a bioengineering firm.
While he acknowledges that it’s tough to balance the two, he states that his hours work out in such a way that he is able to do both.
Tony Tenisci, who has coached Penn’s throwers for the past 29 years, has found Brenza’s contributions to be invaluable this year.
“He’s done a great job of bridging the connection of coaching and understanding the idea of what it was like to be an athlete,” Tenisci said. “He has another set of eyes and another set of words for the athletes."
“Tony has always been my guide,” Brenza said of the pair’s unique bond. “He’s always been the guy that’s been there.”
In fact, during Brenza’s first season in the Red and Blue, Tenisci was the only guy that was there, as Brenza was one of only two Penn throwers that season. However, the program steadily grew throughout Brenza’s years to 13 throwers by the time he graduated.
Brenza’s love for throwing was reinforced through his schoolwork. As a freshman, he wasn’t exactly sure which particular field of engineering he wished to study. After taking some bioengineering classes and independently researching shoulder injuries, however, he knew he had found his passion.
“All the biomechanics that [engineers] study is present in throwing and lifting, and that’s what I love,” Brenza said. “Bioengineering pointed me in that direction, and I’ve flown from there.”
This weekend will be a culmination of a year of hard work for Brenza and Penn’s throwers.
“Starting in the offseason and last semester, you start prepping, building certain things to get ready for this time of year,” Brenza said, “And then you taper everything down. You just focus on some more big throws.”
While competing for the Quakers, Brenza had his fair share of big throws. A two-time NCAA Championships qualifier in the shot put, he finished third all-time on both Penn’s outdoor and indoor shot put leaderboards. Having thrown in the Relays during all four years of his college career, Brenza remembers his last throw in the annual classic as his favorite.
“My senior year, I got to throw in the championship section of the shot put,” Brenza recalled. “I didn’t do very well, but ... it was great being a part of all that competition and knowing that you’re with the best, even if you don’t do your best.”
Tenisci thinks that Brenza’s technical knowledge of throwing will help carry the team to success this weekend.
“He did a lot of events for us at Penn — he did shot put, he did discus, he did hammer — so he’s a very well-rounded athlete,” the coach said.
Past that, however, Brenza’s easygoing demeanor and unique connection to the team truly make him an asset.
“He has a great sense of humor, he knows [the athletes] really well, and he’s been through the wars with everybody,” Tenisci said.
“He just knows how to calm them down.”
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