The majority of Penn’s undergraduate population is off campus for the summer, resting up after a long and arduous school year. However, for the top performers of Penn track and field, there is no rest for the weary.
This past weekend, Penn’s qualifying athletes competed in the NCAA East Preliminary meet with hopes of earning a bid for NCAA Finals in Eugene, Ore., later this month — and five of them did just that.
The marathon-like event was held in Jacksonville, Fla., and ran from Thursday to Saturday. But thanks to junior javelin thrower Kelsey Hay, it didn’t take long for the Quakers to make noise.
In the meet’s very first event, Hay broke the Ivy record for the women’s javelin with an outstanding toss of over 51-meters. Her fourth-place finish was comfortably within the 12 qualifying positions, securing her second-straight appearance in NCAA Finals.
The throwers and jumpers of Penn’s field program have stood out throughout each of the past two outdoor seasons, and that trend would continue on the meet’s second day of action.
Star junior men’s discus thrower Sam Mattis, much like Hay, was a heavy favorite to advance to Finals competition. So, it did not come as much of a surprise that, again much like Hay, he launched an impressive toss that would land him comfortably in fourth place, getting him the easy qualification.
The real surprise of the day came from his event-teammate: sophomore Noah Kennedy-White.
Kennedy-White came into the meet ranked No. 41 in the field, but with a toss of almost 58 meters, he beat the odds to take the top position in his heat and, ultimately, the ninth position overall, earning a spot in the Finals.
The youth movement continued on Friday when freshman high-jumper Mike Monroe cleared just under seven-feet to punch the fourth Penn ticket to Oregon. Fellow jumper Thomas Pitt — alongside whom Monroe has competed all year — barely missed out on a qualifying result.
Not to be outdone by their teammates in the field, two distance runners stole the show on Saturday with similarly redemptive performances.
Star junior Thomas Awad has a resume impressive enough that he has little left to prove in collegiate running. Among myriad other accomplishments, he has won Heptagonal Championships titles in indoor track, outdoor track and cross country — all this season.
However, due to an inopportune sickness at the end of last season, he still does not have a qualification for the outdoor track NCAA Finals to his name. He changed that on Saturday.
With a sub-14:00 run in the 5,000m, Awad won the event and will make his first appearance in the Finals later this month.
Meanwhile, sophomore Cleo Whiting posted a strong performance in the women’s 5,000m, capping off a remarkable season that got off to a slow start as she was forced to deal with injury throughout much of her cross country campaign.
Ultimately, Whiting did not qualify for Finals, along with 10 more of Penn’s 16 athletes who competed over the weekend. However, along with the rest of those athletes, things are looking up for her.
Remarkably, none of those 16 athletes were seniors, a fact that bodes well for the Quakers as they enter next year’s campaign, especially considering that both the men’s and women’s squads saw improvements at outdoor Heps compared to last year.
For the vast majority of the Quakers, the season is over and it is finally time for a break. But for the five advancing, there is still work left to be done.
The Finals will take place from June 10 to 13 and will cap off a busy past two months for the Red and Blue.
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