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Big 5 Cross Country Meet. Penn dominated Credit: Michele Ozer , Michele Ozer

And then there was one.

While almost all of Penn’s cross country runners ended their seasons last weekend, junior captain Thomas Awad is the lone Quaker that still has one more race left in his season. And no race this season may be as important to Awad as the one he will compete in this Saturday.

For the second year in a row, Awad will be traveling to compete in the NCAA Championship meet, where he will face off against a field of 255 of the top distance runners in the county. This time, he will make the trip out to Terre Haute, Ind .

Last year, Awad became the first Quaker since 2005 to receive an automatic bid to the championship, and this season, he stamped his ticket to Indiana with a third place overall finish at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship.

“Last year was great because I had a real chance to get used to the atmosphere and the days leading into the championship race,” Awad said. “Obviously getting used to running against guys of that level was big for me last year, and I think that’s given me a big boost in terms of confidence.”

Awad placed 176th out of the 253-man field in last year’s championship. However, the defending Heptagonal champion feels that he is in a position to far exceed his performance from last year.

“While last year physically I think I had the ability to run with the lead pack, I didn’t really have the confidence I do now to put myself up with that group,” Awad said. “This year, though, there’s an expectation that I can be maybe top 30 and even All-American, so I think I will be much more comfortable going into this race and have a lot more confidence.”

“I think it’s a great goal for Tom to aim for All-American recognition,” coach Steve Dolan said of Awad’s race objectives. “This is an extremely competitive event that really features some of the world’s best distance runners, but Tom has performed very well all season, and he should feel very confident about competing in this field.”

In addition to having a better mentality entering the race, Awad also believes he is physically ready for the demands of one final race, despite how long his season has run.

“Racing 10k back to back is pretty tough, but I think I definitely have one more solid race left in me,” Awad said of his physical state. “This week has been all about recovery for me, and hopefully I’ll have the type of race I want to have on Saturday.”

And if Awad does have the race he wants to have, Penn cross country could very well have an All-American on its roster by the end of the week, and Awad will have added yet another accolade to what has already been an incredible career.

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