Personal bests, school records for Penn at Relays
April 27, 2006, 5:00 am·
After Penn freshman long jumper Whitney Tagliavini completed her final jump in the Eastern section of the long jump competition, she had no idea what place she was in. She did know, however, that her top jump of 5.86 meters (3 feet, 3.37 inches) was a personal best, and that was enough for her, especially because it was her first time competing in the Penn Relays.
Then came word that she had finished in third place.
"Are you serious?" she screamed, at which point she was mobbed by her teammates and coach Gwen Harris. Quite a few Penn Relays administrators came to congratulate her as well, clearly rooting for the home team.
"That is so cool," Harris said. "I'm so excited."
Harris then informed Tagliavini that she had won a medal, which the Suffield, Conn., native might not have expected. Then again, Tagliavini seemed to be almost as far off the ground psychologically as she was during her jumps.
"I'm almost hoping she stays like that for four years, being happy," Harris said. Because then she'll jump like it."
Harris admitted that it took some work to get Tagliavini ready for the big atmosphere at Franklin Field.
"I try to make them understand that this is a lot of fun -- have fun and you'll be fine," Harris said.
She definitely accomplished that with Tagliavini. She also seemed to do a pretty good job of it with the Quakers 4x400-meter relay team, which had two freshmen and two sophomores on it. Competing against senior-laden Princeton and Cornell teams, Penn came in fourth out of the five teams in the Heptagonal race. The Big Red finished first in 3:39.45, breaking the Heps record Penn set last year of 3:42.62.
"Running against Cornell and all the other teams with their fastest girls, we were really excited that coach let us have that opportunity," said one of the freshmen, Lauren Blake, who ran the second leg.
While Villanova got the headlines for winning the DMR, all four Penn runners in the event set personal bests as the Quakers finished fifth in 11:17.99. That time set a new school record, breaking the previous mark by almost 11 seconds.
Even though Penn was in third heading into the anchor leg, Harris wasn't disappointed in anchor runner Stacy Kim.
"She's only a sophomore ƒ_"- those guys are seniors," Harris said of Kim and her competition.
The result was even more impressive considering that this was the first time that Penn's team had raced together. On top of that, first-leg runner Tina Morrison had never run 1,200 meters and third-leg runner Jesse Carlin had never run 800 meters in a relay race.
"I knew our team could do it if we wanted to," Kim said. "I just didn't expect it because it was our first time."
Morrison, who as a junior is one of the team's elder stateswomen, said this result makes her very optimistic for the future -- including next weekend's Heptagonal Championships.
"I'd like to think our team has a lot of potential, and we're still really young compared to most teams," she said.
Earlier in the day, senior Dana McCurdy set another school record. She brok the mark in the 400m hurdles with a time of 1:00.27, which was the 22nd-fastest time overall on the day.