In Track & Field, a successful team must rely on all units within the squad — throwers, jumpers, sprinters and distance runners must all perform in order to achieve full success.
For Penn, there’s at least one group they can count on: this year’s distance squad is up to the challenge.
Focused around a strong core of seniors, both the men and women come into 2017’s outdoor season with momentum from cross country in the fall and indoor track in the winter.
It started in November, when women’s cross country qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time in program history. Led by three seniors in Ashley Montgomery and the Whiting twins, Cleo and Clarissa, the Quakers performed at a consistently high level all fall, ultimately recording what was probably their best season in the team’s history by finishing it off with a 24th place at the NCAA Championships.
The men might have taken a while to recover from the loss of an all-time great, Tommy Awad. The 2016 graduate and sub-four minute miler broke multiple records for Penn, and his loss left huge shoes to fill.
Instead, the squad won the Ivy League Heptagonal championships for cross country — the first title since 1973. Seniors Chris Hatler and Brendan Shearn led the way by finishing fourth and fifth overall, and three other Quakers finished in the top-12 to ensure that the team took the title over Princeton. It didn’t seem like there was a whole lot that could get better.
And then the indoor season came.
Senior Chris Hatler broke the fabled four-minute barrier in the mile at The Armory in New York on a cold day in February. It was the race of his life, but he wasn’t done yet. Hatler continued on to be the first ever Quaker to win the mile at the Ivy League indoor championships later that month.
Additionally, Cleo Whiting broke the Penn all-time record for the indoor 5K at the indoor conference championship meet, clocking a blistering 16:28. Montgomery also ran a 4:47 mile to finish third in the league, retaining her top-tier status among the competition.
All of the women’s performances were good enough to earn them second at Ivy indoor Heps. The men, meanwhile, finished fifth. But according to head coach Steve Dolan, this team is better suited to outdoors, anyway.
“One of the fun things about [the outdoor season] is that we add some new events. So we get the chance to extend a few of our guys to 10,000-meters. Some of the men and women we have are really good at the longer distance, so that’ll be a fun new challenge, to run 10,000.... We also have some steeplechasers,” Dolan continued, citing two-time steeplechase champion Nick Tuck along with a number of other up-and-comers in the event.
The addition of the new distance events opens things up for where the Red and Blue is strongest — the ultra-long distance races. With Brendan Shearn in the 10K, back-to-back champion Nick Tuck in the steeplechase, and other distance events, it’s plain to see why Hatler expects them to rack up more points in the outdoor season.
“We had a lot of little things go wrong and things go right in indoors, so hopefully we can get it all to come together in the same day, especially with the addition of those [long distance] events. We think that we can be top-three, and maybe even push a little towards second [in the Ivy League].”
If the team is to finish third, or even second, they’ll need nothing but the best from its distance squad. And on the backs of the strong senior core of Hatler, Montgomery, the Whitings, Shearn and more, they might just be able to power the Quakers to the top of the Ivies.
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