After taking separate road trips across America last weekend, Penn track and field will reunite this weekend.
Most of them, that is.
One week after putting up strong individual results at the Florida Relays, Sam Howell Invitational and Stanford Invitational, the Red and Blue will compete as a singular unit at this weekend’s George Mason Invitational in Fairfax, Va., albeit without a number of key contributors.
Several of Penn’s top runners, including standout junior distance runner Thomas Awad, will take the meet off for either training or rest purposes.
Awad broke his own school record in the 5000-meter run at Stanford, finishing in 13:33.29. He won’t have a chance to better that mark this weekend.
“He’s actually gonna skip George Mason and train, because that was a huge effort for him to run that 5000 meters,” coach Steve Dolan said. “So he’ll just be gearing up towards the Penn Relays.”
Top discus thrower Sam Mattis will compete this weekend for the Quakers — though it may not be at George Mason.
The team’s original plan was to send Mattis and the rest of the throwers down to Fairfax with the Quakers’ runners, but concerns about an overly slick surface in George Mason’s throwing circle may force them to travel to West Chester, Pa., instead to compete in the Bill Butler Invitational.
Regardless of venue, Mattis has a chance to build on an already stellar season. At the Florida Relays last weekend, he won the discus with a toss of 60.31m, not far off his personal best of 62.31m.
An All-American in the event last year, Mattis has hopes of competing in the discus on a stage bigger than the NCAA championships, where he has competed twice.
“This year, if all goes well and I get a little lucky, hopefully [I’ll be in the] World championships,” he said. “But at the very least, I want to improve upon my place last year at NCAAs — see if I can be number one, or if not, as close as possible.”
Mattis finished fifth at the NCAA championships last year. An improved finish would mean a ticket to the USATF nationals — and possibly beyond to international competition.
The nature of this weekend’s meet also means that an emerging powerhouse relay team on the women’s side will be split up.
Taylor McCorkle, Taylor Hennig, Candace Taylor and Carey Celata combined to set a new school record in the sprint medley relay last weekend in Florida. However, the runners will compete in open events at George Mason instead, giving them all a chance to show their individual progress as they head towards the most substantial part of the season.
Celata, who anchored the sprint medley last weekend, will run in the 800, her primary event. She started to come into her own all the way back in indoor season but has noticed the entire team making progress in recent weeks.
“I guess what we saw in Florida was people taking the next step, competing on a larger scale, competing in bigger meets, not just local,” she said. “I think that’s definitely a big learning experience, and it’s hard to make a change from a smaller-scale meet to a big meet like Florida Relays.
“And I think definitely the [sprint medley relay’s success] shows we’re ready to compete with those teams.”
The women’s sprint medley relay team’s recent success is indicative of the larger emergence of Penn’s middle-distance team. Freshmen Jeff Wiseman — along with Candace Taylor — have headlined a squad that features both youth and undeniable talent.
With Ivy foes Columbia and Dartmouth ready to compete at George Mason this weekend, the Quakers won’t have to wait long to prove themselves once again.
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