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Big 5 Track Invitational Credit: Alexandra Fleischman

Maalik Reynolds isn’t the only freshman star from Georgia turning heads in track circles around the nation.

The very first time Gabrielle Piper donned a Penn track jersey, she placed her name in Penn’s record books. Twice.

First, she finished the 60-meter hurdles in 9.03. That time stands as seventh best in Penn history. Later in the 60-meter dash, she sprinted to a time of 7.83 — the sixth-best time in school history.

She has since continued her dominance of the 60-meter races, using the Indoor Heptagonal Championships in New York to break the previous hurdle record of 8.78 seconds with a time of 8.75. The next day, she bested her own time, setting a new school record at 8.64. In the same meet, she raced to a career-best time of 7.69 in the 60-meter dash — third-best in school history.

Piper will take to the outdoor track for the second time this season at the Penn Invite at Franklin Field this Saturday.

However, to Piper, running and breaking records isn’t anything new. This will be her ninth season running competitively, as she has competed with various Amateur Athletic Union clubs over the years and is a member of United States Track and Field.

“My parents have always been very supportive of me doing track and were at every meet growing up,” she said. “I’d hate to let them down. That drives me.”

She was also a four-year letter winner at Lassiter High School in Marietta, Ga., leading the team to a state championship her senior year and breaking three school and two county records in the process.

So as with any high-profile athlete, the question must be asked: “Why Penn?”

“I chose Penn mostly because of its academic reputation, but I also liked the team dynamic.” Piper said. “I also knew that from a track standpoint, Penn was the best place for me to be as successful as possible.”

As for the other schools in the bidding, Piper kept it short.

“I was looking mostly at Duke, Alabama and Georgia as my top choices, but Penn was always my number one.”

Although academic reputation scored Penn another prized athlete, Piper’s goals remain both athletic and academic.

“Before the end of my track career, I hope to qualify for nationals and if possible, to be an All-American,” she said. “In the long-term, although I am an undecided major, I know I want be a lawyer; most likely in family [or] divorce law.”

For now, she’s focused on the day to day of making the most out of her freshman season.

“My work ethic drives me because after the daily practices and all the time I spend preparing, it’d be a waste of time to not do well.”

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