W. Track hopes to match indoor success
Young team hosts Heps Championships, Penn Invitational and Penn Relays at Franklin Field
March 24, 2006, 5:00 am·
Any track squad which sets five school records is bound to have high expectations.
And after completing a successful indoor season, the Penn women's track team is finally getting its chance to move outside and prove itself today at the Raleigh Relays in North Carolina.
It is the first of 10 outdoor meets in a campaign that coach Gwen Harris expects to be full of success, due to the proliferation of skilled youth on her roster.
The team features a whopping 23 freshmen and 26 sophomores, compared to only 12 juniors and six seniors.
"We're still pretty young, but we're doing some great things, and I think we're going to be a force to contend with," Harris said.
Harris has considerable reason for optimism since the Quakers turned in an impressive performance at the indoor ECAC Championships earlier this month.
Sophomore Jesse Carlin won the 500-meter race for the second year in a row, and the distance medley relay team narrowly missed out on a spot in the NCAA Championships.
Harris thinks that success has given her runners reason to set their goals high for the outdoor season.
"I have a group of young people trying to go through at the national level," she said. "It's like we're right at the door, we're trying to get in and we're maybe a couple of seconds off and we make a little mistake."
The Quakers will have plenty of incentive to fix their mistakes this season, as they will play host to the Heptagonal Championships, which will be held at Franklin Field on May 6.
"A huge goal for us is to defend our own territory," junior Shani Boston said.
Before that happens, though, Boston and her teammates will have to deal with the transition from indoor to outdoor events. The two disciplines are quite different from each other.
"Things are so much closer [indoors], it's a lot easier to get distracted," she said. "Outdoors, you focus more on what you're doing."
The Heps meet will be one of four taking place at Franklin Field this season, along with the Penn Invitational on April 8, a matchup with Cornell on April 22 and the Penn Relays on April 27-29.
The Quakers take the Penn Relays quite seriously, which was apparent last year after their successes.
The 4x400-meter team of Carlin, Shaunee Morgan, Dana McCurdy and Izu Emeagwali won the Heptagonals relay championship, the school's first women's relay medal since 1992. Sam Crook won the women's college, or second tier, pole vault event.
Harris said that Penn's signature spring sporting event is just as important to her team as the other big national events in which it competes.
"Penn Relays is always going to be important -- it's one of the biggest meets in the world," she said. "I think it's up there with the NCAAs. It's got to be."
Boston, however, took a different view on the significance of the Penn Relays.
"In terms of our program, Heps and NCAAs are more important" than Penn Relays, she said. "Those are opportunities for us to win championships, for us to really do well individually as a team and to get our name out there in the track community."
Regardless of the importance of specific meets, the progress of the freshman will be an issue throughout the season.
Senior thrower Charity Payne said that, as one of the team's captains, she understands the importance of helping the freshmen along in their first season.
"It's actually a very easy job because people want to be on this team," she said. "It's a lot of fun to help them out and lead their way through college."