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Matt Pagliasotti -- track -- hammer throw

For an NCAA track and field athlete, nothing could have been finer than to have been in Carolina. More precisely, collegiate track and field's best gathered on the campus of Duke University from May 31 until June 3 to compete in the NCAA Championships. The Penn men's track team laid claim to three of those elite competitors. Seniors Sean MacMillan and Matt Pagliasotti and freshman Sam Burley all competed in the championships. "It's a completely different level of track and field," Penn coach Charlie Powell said of the tough competition his Quakers faced. "This is an Olympic year, so the competition is especially fierce. Some of us did well, and some did not so well." Pagliasotti did plenty well. Although he finished out of the scoring in the hammer throw -- a toss of 199'7" earned him 13th overall -- his sixth place finish among U.S. throwers means he was named an All-American. "He moved up [from his previous rank], and that was something he really wanted to do," Powell said. "He came in and realized, OI can finish ahead of these guys,' and he did." Pagliasotti, an Architecture major, also won Penn's Class of 1915 Scholar-Athlete Award, given each year to the school's best all-around male student-athlete. While Pagliasotti ended his Penn career with a bang, Burley finished his freshman campaign with a strong 800-meter race that turned more than a few heads. "[Burley]'s quite the talk of the town, so to speak," Powell said. "Everybody was like, OHoly cow, he's only a freshman?'" Burley ran 1:48.29, just six-hundredths of a second short of his personal best. Powell was proud of Burley's poise in his first championship, which came in a keenly competitive Olympic year. "He finished right at what he came in at, 13th overall, which is kind of funny," Powell said. "For a freshman, that's pretty phenomenal." MacMillan's race was less than phenomenal. Although he had an immensely successful senior campaign, MacMillan could not get on track in Durham and came in behind every other finisher in the steeplechase. "Sean went in with some major expectations," Powell said. "He tried to control the race. He went in with a game plan and [the race] just buried him. Sometimes you can react and salvage something decent, but he wasn't able to." MacMillan normally likes to go all out the entire 3,000 meters of the race and not save any energy. In this race, it backfired on him. "His normal tactic is to go bang away at it, run the whole thing hard," Powell said. "About halfway through [the race], he realized that it wasn't going his way, and he didn't know what to do." The finish was nothing to write home about, but MacMillan thought that he'd be able to learn from the race and improve at the Olympic Trials. He had qualified with a strong run at Penn Relays in April. MacMillan never did make it to Sacramento for the Trials, though. A stress fracture in his shin, a case of plantar fasciatis, and his grandmother's untimely passing forced the runner to re-focus his energy on trying to make the Olympic team in 2004. "It could turn out to be a blessing," Powell said. Still, finishing the season on such a down note cannot be very pleasant. "It'll hurt his confidence somewhat," Powell said. "But it'll steel his resolve not to go out and run someone else's race, too. It will make him realize that you have to go out there and do what's good for you.

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