MTrack_Preview_Rogers

Fresh off tying the school record in the 200-meter dash last weekend, junior Calvary Rogers has all kinds of momentum as the Penn Relays approach. (File Photo)

All eyes will be on the Penn Relays once the legendary track and field meet hits Franklin Field on April 26, but the Quakers have some business to handle before that. In their final tuneup before next weekend’s three-day extravaganza, both the men and women are heading to the Larry Ellis Invitational, a meet hosted by none other than rival Princeton.

With the Penn women ranked No. 1 in the USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region and the men up at No. 4, it’s no secret that this entire season has been historic for the Red and Blue. But ahead of this weekend’s meet, here are a few specific athletes and teams to watch out for.

Uche Nwogwugwu

School records have been falling left and right for Penn track and field this season, but even on such a high-achieving team, what this freshman sprinter has done is off the charts.

Nwogwuwu stepped in immediately in the longer sprints and has excelled all season long, winning the 500-meter race at the Indoor Heps Championships to boost Penn to its first team title since 1996 there.

But last weekend took it to another level. Against some very strong competition at the Tennessee Relays, the rookie took third place with a remarkable time of 53.17 seconds in the 400-meter — a full 0.45 seconds ahead of Penn’s second-place all-time runner in the event.

If Nwogwugwu can raise her game even further this weekend, there’s no telling what the Princeton track might see coming.

Calvary Rogers

Unlike Nwogwuwu, Rogers has long been a presence in the Penn record books, now in his third season tearing up the short sprints with the Red and Blue. But like Nwogwuwu, last weekend saw Rogers do something even he had never done before.

At the same Tennessee Relays meet, Rogers sped to stellar time of 20.90 seconds in the 200-meter, his personal best in either outdoor or indoor competition. Rogers tied a school record set by Grafton Ifill III way back in 2005, meaning his literal next hundredth-of-a-second of improvement will give him the mark solo.

Even in a career that’s already included two indoor Heps titles in the 200m, one outdoor Heps title in the same event, and two outdoor NCAA Championships appearances, last weekend was a major highlight. But if the past three years have shown anything, it’s that Rogers chases improvement just as hard as he chases any of his opponents.

Women’s Field Events

This group is so historically strong that it’s not fair to spotlight one star athlete, or even one entire event group.

In the eight field events offered in the Ivy League (pole vault, three jump events, and four throwing events), Penn has already seen school records go down in four of them this season: sophomore Maura Kimmel in the shot put and discus, junior Rachel Wilson in the hammer throw, and junior Anna Peyton-Malizia in the high jump.

At this point for the women’s team, the question in any given weekend isn’t whether a school record will go down, but which event and which athlete will produce it — and more likely than not, it’ll come from one of these elite field athletes. 

Pole vault might be particularly due for a record-break, as five of the top 10 in school history in that event are currently on the team. But with this deep and talented group of standouts, it could come from anywhere.

The Competition

Though Penn Relays is when the Red and Blue will face off with the best of the best, the Larry Ellis Invitational isn’t exactly a cakewalk.

While the Penn women are ranked No. 1 in the Mid-Atlantic Region, three of the other top-five teams will also be in attendance: No. 3 Maryland, No. 4 Princeton, and No. 5 Villanova. Similarly, the No. 4 men will deal with No. 2 Princeton, No. 3 Navy, and No. 5 Rutgers, among other talented squads.

Just after the women won their first Indoor Heps title in 22 years, they’ll be seeking their first outdoor one in 30. And Princeton just might be the biggest thorn in their side to do so.

As such, both the men and women will be getting tested in a major way even before the Penn Relays come around. Win, or even place highly, against this stacked field, and it’ll only add further optimism to a season that’s already been full of it the entire way.

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