Penn men's track coach Charlie Powell's strategy this weekend can be summed up in a single phrase -- divide and conquer.
The Quakers coach is sending about half the team to compete at the Penn State National Open that will bring together some of the nation's top collegiate athletes.
Meanwhile, the other members will head to Boston for the Terrior Classic that features a fast track and even faster competition than Penn's regular Ivy League rivals.
Though the team usually travels together, the decision to split up for the weekend makes sense because each meet plays to the team's varied strengths.
"We have a huge team," Penn senior O'Neil Bryan said. "We can't send everyone to each meet."
The Penn State National Open will feature the team's best overall athletes -- including senior captain and star jumper Tuan Wreh -- since the meet rules place a limit on the number of competitors.
Penn's long-distance runners and sprinters will mainly participate in the Terrior Classic, where the first "banked track" of the indoor season looks promising for fast times.
However, the Quakers' top-rated 4x400 meter relay team -- comprised of Brian Abram, Sam Burley, Chris Edmonds and Luqman Kolade -- will not compete although they each will run in their individual events.
A quirk in the meet's schedule listed the relay as the first event and the Penn coaches want to make sure their runners are well-rested for their own races.
"For a meet like this, either you run well or you get smoked," said Kolade, noting the high level of competition he anticipates this weekend.
With expectations of fast times and elite athletes, this weekend's meets will provide the Red and Blue the chance to record national qualifying times and another opportunity to tune-up for this February's Heptagonal championships held this year in Ithaca, N.Y.
Although many members have been banged up all week with shin splints and other minor injuries, the team is still hot-to-trot.
Burley and Wreh hope solid performances this weekend could qualify them nationals.
Freshman sprinter Oyebode Fajobi is just one of many first-year athletes who have made great strides since the first indoor race this season, where the Quakers came from behind to win at the Navy Invitational.
And despite a second-place finish at last weekend's Cornell Invitational, many of the team's veterans feel robbed by what they call an "unfair scoring system" and say they hope a strong performance this weekend will show they are the at the top of the Ancient Eight.
The final verdict won't come until the Heptagonals Championship, on Feb. 23-24, that will take place on the Big Red's turf.
However, the Quakers realize that this weekend's races are important steps in their quest for an Ivy title.
"Heps is the meet that you really get up for, but everyone is so competitive and wants to win," Kolbade said.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.