Friday’s Fastrack National Invite is crucial for Penn track and field. The meet, which will take place at the new Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island, N.Y., will be the Quakers’ most competitive test before Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, which is just over two weeks away.
Coach Steve Dolan tried to keep the meet in perspective.
“I think the big thing right now is to get the meets going and compete,” he said, noting that the team lost a good testing ground when they opted not to travel to Princeton in January due to snow.
Track and field, more so than many other sports, is decided by centimeters and milliseconds. After setting the school women’s indoor record for the 60-meter last year, sophomore sprinter Taylor McCorkle has fallen short, by less than a tenth of a second each time, of replicating or beating her 2015 record.
In Dolan’s opinion, Fastrack is the perfect competition for McCorkle to surpass her previous marks.
“I think she’s ready for a breakthrough in the 60,” Dolan said. “This week we should see the next level of competition so it will be fun to see her against that next level of competition and see how she competes, because she finds a way to win and compete well.”
McCorkle is equally optimistic as she is determined to raise the bar for all future Quaker 60m sprinters. She expects that Ocean Breeze’s “fast track” will help her lower her times and could be an important factor in Friday’s meet.
On top of that, McCorkle recognizes the importance of a good week of training. She always stays motivated throughout training in an attempt to break her previous best of 7.54 seconds. This week, however, McCorkle and the sprinters had a relatively light Monday, including a plyometric based workout in place of short sprints. This could prove to be a difference-maker.
“We’ve been continuing to build on things so that we are good for Heps,” McCorkle said in reference to the sprinters’ preparation this week. “But at the same time we’re also taking it a little easier some of the days this week, only because we want our legs to be fresh for Friday.”
Friday could be a day of records not only for McCorkle, but also for many of the team’s other marquee athletes. Success at Fastrack is not only imperative to team performance, but it could help some athletes closing in on program bests.
Also in the sprint department, freshman Imani Solam is off to an amazing start to her collegiate track and field career, placing in both the 4x400m women’s relay and in the 200m dash at last week’s Villanova Invitational. She currently sits at second in school history in the 200m and is one-fourth of the 4x400m relay team that has the program’s fourth-best showing.
In the middle- and long-distance disciplines, the Red and Blue have plenty of highly skilled runners. Junior Carey Celata, another member of the esteemed 4x400 squad, boasts a 2:07 mark in the 800 which ranks second in Quaker history and that Dolan called a “nationally competitive time.” Moreover, junior distance runner Ashley Montgomery looks to beat her career best 9:30.57 at 3,000m and is just nine seconds shy of the school record.
In the high jump, sophomore Mike Monroe looks to build off his Ivy League-winning 2.14m clearance in last year’s indoor Heptagonals when he participates in his second indoor meet of the season.
Finally, the throwers are ready to make their impact on Friday after having a terrific start to the season. Senior and reigning NCAA discus champion Sam Mattis hit a personal best of 18.41 meters in the weight throw, which is good for fifth all-time in that discipline.
However, no thrower’s accomplishments this winter can eclipse those of freshman Rachel Wilson, whose 16.81 meter weight throw broke a Penn record. In Dolan’s opinion, her performance has been the most “outstanding throwing performance thus far” for the Red and Blue.
The meet could feature some new entries in the Penn record books, but above all else, Dolan believes that it will be a good battleground for the Quakers to see where they stand.
“Outside of the Ivy League championships, this will be the most competitive meet we see this season.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.