Tony Bong picked the perfect day to watch his daughter, Heather, race for Penn track and field.
The sophomore sprinter, a Wisconsin native, doesn’t get to race in front of her family very often, but her father was in the stands Saturday to see Bong’s record-setting performance.
This past weekend at the George Mason Invitational, Bong posted the fastest 100-meter dash time in school history.
But she laughs amusingly at the notion of being called the fastest woman in Penn history, instead preferring to talk about how enjoyable the race was.
“It feels really good. I didn’t realize that was the title until after I’d won it, so I guess it’s exciting to be called that, but it was just a fun race and just great,” Bong said.
Although Bong posted an incredible time, she admits that the race wasn’t completely perfect.
“Actually, it started off not very good,” Bong said. “I popped up out of the blocks right away but I corrected myself. Because we were at such a competitive meet … the other girls just pushed me to run really well.”
Once she crossed the finish line, assistant coach Porscha Dobson, who works with the sprinters, and Bong’s teammates figured out she had broken the school record. And they let her know with a roar from their section of the stands.
“Well obviously I was excited. Knowing the school record in my head already, I knew she hit it as soon as she crossed the line,” Dobson said. “It was something that we were hoping she would hit — she’s been running really well all season, very consistent.”
The high level of competition at Saturday’s meet was also a key contributor to Bong’s record-setting time.
“You could tell the girls there were very good so I was just trying to hold my own,” Bong said.
“She had some top-notch competition,” Dobson said. “It’s funny because she broke the school record and still took fourth.”
And Bong’s fantastic day wasn’t done just yet. She anchored Penn’s 4×100-meter relay team to a first place finish in 46.66 seconds, the fastest time this season in the Ivy League.
“For us to pull that out and take the win, it was great,” Dobson said. “It was a boost and it was good for the team and good for the girls. So it will definitely give them the confidence to run faster.”
Bong was also honored for her performances Saturday by being named the Ivy League Female Athlete of the Week.
“I thought that was a great honor,” Bong said. “I’m just really happy that this meet has turned out so good and it’s a bunch of positive momentum, not only for myself but for our team overall. It’s good to have a bunch of good performances coming in to Heps to get us pumped up for the end of the season.”
With the tail end of the season approaching, Bong’s training will allow her to hit her peak around the Heptagonal Championships. And that means that her times could drop even further.
“Championship season is coming up, we’re gonna have a little fun at Penn Relays but then we really want to dig down and get deep at Heps and that’s where [Heather] and my entire group is training to run fast,” Dobson said.
Dobson wants to remain cautious about putting too much pressure on Bong, but she still believes the sophomore can run even faster this season.
“She’s on the verge to hit another level,” Dobson said. “You never want to hype it up too much. You just want to keep on doing the same things that we’re doing and just tweak a little here and there.”
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