While all of Penn spent its weekend trying to end the semester with a bang by studying for hours on end, one group of students spent its time seeking to go out with a bang by throwing things, jumping around, and running in circles.
The track and field team competed in the Outdoor Heptagonal Championships in Princeton, N.J. this Saturday and Sunday. An impressive all-around performance from the men and a respectable showing from the women gave the Red and Blue four individual Ivy League titles to cheer about, in addition to eight marks that made the top-10 of Penn's record books.
On the men’s side, which was dominated by perennial track powerhouses Cornell and Princeton, the Quakers proved to be the best of the rest by finishing third with 79 total points on the weekend. One massive reason — literally — the Red and Blue stood apart from the pack was the strong individual performance of senior superstar Sam Mattis.
The thrower won the Ivy title in the discus as predicted, but he also took bronze in the shot put by unleashing a personal best of 17.29 meters. That mark was not only enough for third place in the meet, but also third place all-time in the Penn record books. Thanks to the six points earned in the shot put, and the ten for his discus title, Mattis picked up 16 of the 79 points earned by his team — over 20 percent of the total. Without Mattis, the Red and Blue would have fallen down to fourth place on the weekend, just a point above fifth.
But Mattis wasn’t the only standout over the two day meet. Junior Nick Tuck managed to defend his Ivy title from last year in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 8:46.28, while teammate Brendan Smith managed to snag silver, finishing just three seconds behind him. The one-two finish secured another 18 points for the Quakers on the day. Back on the field, a third athlete from Philly earned himself an Ivy championship, senior Thomas Pitt. The high jumper leaped onto the top of the podium with a jump of 7.29m.
Perhaps the most intriguing event of the day, however, was one that didn’t result in any points for the Red and Blue. In the 5000m run, senior Tommy Awad was well-poised to finish the race first approaching the final lap, but an alleged push on the star with just over a lap to go saw him go down in a bloody heap. Awad got back up despite his shoulder injury but couldn’t finish the race, dropping out with 300m left.
“My shoulder hurts a lot and I feel kind of disrespected by some individuals, but nothing you can do,” Awad said over Twitter following the race.
My shoulder hurts a lot and I feel kind of disrespected by some individuals but nothing you can do. No injuries so I'll be back #oHeps— Thomas Awad (@AWAD_of_TOM) May 8, 2016
Such disrespect was felt throughout the team. The contentious push upset many of Penn’s distance runners, as Awad’s teammate Tuck also fired out a message over Twitter this weekend.
“It’s really sad that the only way to beat Awad is to push him down,” the message read.
It's really sad that the only way to beat Awad is to push him down— Nick Tuck (@yo_nick_is_here) May 8, 2016
The women may not have finished as high as the men did, as they came in seventh, but they only narrowly lost out on the sixth spot to Brown, finishing with 47 points to the Bears’ 51.
Only one individual champion came from the women’s side, but it was an impressive one by all standards. Senior Kelsey Hay completed a three-peat in the javelin throw at Heps, hurling for 46.52m. Two other Quakers, senior Serena Graf and junior Lisa Sesink-Clee, scored in what was their highest point-earning event.
Another standout at the meet was sophomore Taylor McCorkle. The sprinter scored for her side in three events, all three of which ended with a third placed finish for Penn. Individually, McCorkle took bronze in the 100 and 200 meter dashes, but her time of 23.96 seconds in the latter tied the school’s all-time record in the event. In the 4x100m relay, aided by fellow sophomore Barbara Biney and freshmen Allysha Davis and Imani Solan, the Quakers finished third with a time that placed the quartet also in third for Penn’s all-time finish in the event.
So despite a disappointing finish for the women’s side as a whole, there were lots of highlights to take from the weekend. For the men, on the other hand, coach Steve Dolan will likely be happy about both the highlights and the team’s overall performance.
The team will find itself back in Princeton next weekend at the ECAC championships, which is the last meet for athletes to make the cuts for nationals this June. If they can follow the leads of Penn’s four individual Ivy champs, potentially more Quakers can find themselves on the nation’s biggest stage in just over a month.
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