This past Friday was one for the books for Penn track and field.
Returning for the second time this month to the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in New York, the Red and Blue broke records and brought the heat to the highly competitive Fastrack National Invite.
“It was probably the biggest meet we’ve had this season in terms of teams and strong competition. So the team was pretty excited to compete,” coach Steve Dolan said.
The Quakers faced off against 22 other squads including three from the Ivy League — Princeton, Columbia and Cornell — and two from the Big 5 — Villanova and Saint Joseph’s. Following a first-place finish at last weekend’s Villanova Invitational, the squad was more than ready for a second round.
“The key to having a strong track team is to do well in all events,” Dolan explained. “It’s exciting because our team is continuing to grow and get stronger in a wide variety of events.”
The women’s team this year has been more impressive than those in the past, dominating more events with both strength and stamina. Although the men’s team faces a future without many of its standout seniors — like Sam Mattis and Thomas Awad — following this season, Dolan shows little concern when remarking on the promise of the team’s rookies.
“A lot of the young competitors are making a major impact. Some of the records set this weekend were by younger members of the team,” he said. “So it bodes well for the future.”
On the women’s team, freshman Imani Solan finished the 200-meter sprint with a time of 24.08, shattering the previous record by 0.5 seconds set by Shaunee Morgan in 2007. Sophomore Taylor McCorkle finished the same event in 24.49 seconds, securing the third-best time in Penn’s record books following Solan and Morgan.
Junior Ashley Montgomery kept the individual record-breaking streak alive, shattering a 31-year-old women’s 5K record by over five seconds with a time of 4:41.26.
The women’s 4x400m relay team of Solan, sophomore Candace Taylor, junior Cleo Whiting and senior Taylor Hennig posted a time of 3:46.26, earning the third fastest time in that event at the invitational and in Quaker history.
Not to be outdone by their counterparts, the men’s distance medley relay team of freshman Elias Graca, sophomore Jeff Wiseman, junior Chris Hatler and Awad raced to the fastest time at Penn, breaking a record set in 2005.
Sophomore Ross Wilson ran the 5K with a time of 14:26.67, clocking fifth in the event and in Penn history.
Upperclassmen followed suite with records of their own. In the 3K, junior Nick Tuck and sophomore Patrick Hally logged times that earned them second and seventh place, respectively, in both the school’s record list and the invitational. Junior Brendan Shearn and senior Brendan Smith dominated the 5K, with the pair securing Penn’s top times en route to second-place and third-place finishes.
Senior Ben Bowers raced to third in the 60m hurdles with a time of 8.03. His mark, a lifetime personal best, secured a rank of third in Quaker books as well.
And the timing is perfect; with the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships coming up in two weeks, Dolan believes the team can only go up from here.
“At this point, it’s just trying to make sure everyone almost peaks at the [Ivy League] competition,” Dolan said. “Everyone is trying to stay healthy, but we’ve definitely positioned ourselves well in the last two weeks in a number of events to the point we’d have strong competitors at the Ivy League meet.”
Returning to practice on Monday, the team will prepare for next Sunday’s Princeton Invitational in New Jersey. The Red and Blue have made great headway in its season thus far and it doesn’t appear as though the team is losing momentum.
“This is the strongest we’ve been.”
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