They made the cut.
Seniors Tommy Awad and Sam Mattis are going to Eugene, Ore. to compete in the NCAA championships next week.
The pair booked their tickets this week at the NCAA East Preliminary meet — Awad qualified in the 5,000-meter run, while Mattis made his mark once again in the discus.
For Mattis, the procedure was fairly straightforward. The top 12 throwers from the East would move on to the championships in TrackTown USA. And for the man who at one point this season held the title of farthest throw in the world thus far in 2016, finishing in the first dozen places meant little more than a warmup. Mattis hurled for 61.95m, putting him in second place for the prelims.
For Awad, however, qualification was slightly less of an expected outcome. Only the top five in each of the two heats would qualify automatically, meaning that if the senior had finished outside of the top group, advancement to Oregon would be left up to the fates. Awad must not have wanted to tempt the fates, however, and he placed himself wisely in the front group that split with the rest of the pack around 3,000m into the 5K race. He cruised into qualification with a finishing time of 14:10.33.
While the two senior stars may have been the only ones from Penn to make it to the NCAA finals in Eugene on June 8-11, some other Quakers had good days in Jacksonville.
Junior Noah Kennedy-White came within just half a meter of moving on to the finals in the discus. He finished 14th, just two spots outside of the top 12 that will travel to the Pacific Northwest next week.
Fellow junior Chris Hatler also came tantalizingly close to qualification in the 1,500. Having run the 14th best time in the first round, he only needed to beat two other people in the next qualifying race to snag onto the 12th spot and subsequent qualification to the finals. He ran out of gas, however, and couldn’t surge into the top group. Hatler finished 21st in the final qualifying round.
Several Quakers will be wishing they could have booked their golden ticket into the finals, but for Mattis and Awad, perhaps the NCAA championships next week is not the only thing on their minds.
The pair of stars has also qualified for the United States’ Olympic Trials next month in advance of the Rio Olympics in August — Mattis in the discus, and Awad in the 1,500.
So while they will surely be going all-out for gold among all college students nationwide, the two clearly have bigger goals in mind — and would not want to get injured before the Trials come.
Awad will face the greatest test of his career on July 7th, while Mattis will throw for glory the following day.
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