Over July 1 to July 10, three recently-graduated members of Penn’s track and field team competed in the United States Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. for a spot on the team bound for Rio in August. All of them fell just short of their goal of ultimately making the Olympic team, but none failed to impress at one of the most prestigious domestic competitions in the nation.
Thomas Awad, Sam Mattis and Kelsey Hay, all class of 2016 graduates, made the trip out to the west coast to compete for U.S. Olympic roster spots on the men’s 1500-meter run, men’s discus and women’s javelin teams, respectively. All three came in with high expectations — Mattis and Hay hold Penn records in discus and javelin with throws of 67.45 meters and 51.17 meters, respectively, while Awad is second in the Penn all-time record books for the 1500-meter event with a time of 3:37.75 and also holds the Penn record for the 5000-meter run at 13:33.29.
Given their established success, all three had reasonable expectations to make the team, but unfortunately they could not quite achieve the same level of performance that they had seen at Penn.
Mattis got the weekend started off hot for the Quakers on Thursday, July 7, when he placed second in the qualifying round with a throw of 60.93 meters. Friday would not be as favorable to the discus throwers, as Mattis was only able to muster a throw of 57.86 meters in the final round, good for ninth place.
His performance was subpar by his standards, considering his past marks this year alone. At the beginning of the season, Mattis hurled a discus for 67.45m at the Philadelphia College Classic — the longest throw in the world in 2016 at the time. Even a throw of 61.25m would have secured him third place and a spot on the U.S. Olympic roster, but it was not meant to be on a day of disappointment for the track star.
Hay was also featured in competition on Thursday, as her top javelin throw of 42.25 meters placed her in 24th place for the qualifying round.
Finally, Awad rounded out the competition for the Quakers on Thursday, qualifying for the semi-final round of the 1500 meter run by finishing eighth overall in the qualifying round with a time of 3:42.49. However, he would not perform as well in the semi-finals on Friday, finishing the second round with a time of 3:55.36 for Penn’s second 24th place finish of the day.
National Olympic Committees are only allowed to send three athletes for each event, and as such, Mattis, Awad, and Hay found themselves facing all odds competing against professional athletes for a chance to travel to Rio. While they unfortunately fell short, to reach the pinnacle of United States Track and Field competitions at such a young age means that there is much more to come from these newly graduated Quakers.
The end of the U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials brought disappointment to Penn, ensuring now that no Quakers would find themselves in Rio de Janeiro in August, after all 14 of the swimmers at the swimming trials also failed to qualify the previous week.
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