It’s a common saying in the world of track and field: “One moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”
The athletes competing this weekend may not be able to achieve a lifetime of glory just yet, but they can get close — by qualifying for the NCAA preliminaries.
Prelims for NCAAs are a while away, but track head coach Steve Dolan is targeting his athletes’ meets this weekend for posting qualification-worthy marks.
That’s right: meets. Plural.
Members of the Penn track and field team will be in California, Texas and Florida this weekend, simultaneously competing in three different meets: the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, the Texas Relays in Austin and the Florida Relays in Gainesville.
Their goals are all similar — compete with the best and take a shot at posting a NCAA-qualifying time or mark.
“The way the process works, you need to put a marker down during the season in order to qualify for NCAA prelims,” Dolan said. “And I think sometimes that’s a matter of getting good competition and good weather. Our hope is that this weekend, we are ready to take that challenge. We do already have some people who have hit their mark, but there’s others that we anticipate will hit it this weekend.”
The goal makes sense, but the thing about this weekend that stands out is that different parts of the team will simultaneously be competing in three states, just about as far apart as they could possibly be. While that might make it seem like the team is being spread thin with a crazy logistics issue, Dolan explained the logic behind his decision.
“So we ended up with three meets instead of one. [And] because the highest-percentage chance of warm weather for the sprinters and jumpers is in Florida, we’re trying to play the percentages and send our best jumpers and sprinters to the Florida Relays.
“And it’s the same thing for Stanford. They have the tendency to have the best long distance races, where it’s a little bit cooler weather for distance racing and competition, so we wanted to send our distance runners there for that opportunity. And then there’s the reputation of the Texas Relays that the best throwers in the country go to the Texas Relays, so we just figured, ‘You know what? We have enough coaches that are event-specific, that if we go event-specific this weekend, we can try to find what we think is the best competition in the country.’ So that’s what we’ve done.”
Indeed, the Texas Relays will have the best throwers in the country, including Ivy League record-holder javelin thrower and Penn senior Kelsey Hay, as well as the current No. 1 discus thrower in the world — Penn’s very own Sam Mattis. The defending national champion tossed for a mark of 67.45 meters, almost five meters farther than the throw that won the now-senior the NCAA championship last year.
“I’m not expecting to hit that every throw — that would be ludicrous, and I would probably just move out to the Olympic training center immediately,” Mattis joked. “Hopefully I can hit around there. Each meet that’s the goal, to kind of stick around that ‘A’ standard and not let my standards fall that far. When it counts, maybe I can get something out there that’s as far, if not further.”
In action at Stanford will be Tommy Awad, who recently finished third in the mile at the NCAA Indoor National Championships.
Meanwhile, the largest contingent of Quakers will be headed to Florida. About a dozen of Penn’s finest will seek to put up a performance good enough to send them to NCAA prelims later this season.
After a lack of competition so far this outdoor season, all three traveling units of the track team will meet their toughest opponents yet in what Dolan hopes will be a successful weekend in which the Quakers will take one big step towards the glory of NCAAs.
“We’ve gotten off to a nice start at our home meets — I like what we’ve already done,” Dolan said. “You just hope that in these bigger fields with these more competitive situations that you get that extra adrenaline or that extra push you might need to get to the next level.
“It’ll be fun to see what happens this weekend after the dust has settled at all three locations.”
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