While Penn track and field’s runners and jumpers practice on the track at famous Franklin Field, the Quakers' throwing team is almost always hidden, tucked out of view behind the Hollenback Center down River Fields Drive.
As a result of their isolation, the throwers take a different approach to practice and have become a close-knit unit.
The throwing team recognizes that it does a few other things differently from its peers, such as not beginning practice with a long run. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t working just as hard as their teammates.
Penn’s hurlers are anything but overshadowed by their teammates. The burly bunch has been on a tear of late, and as a result, the conference and the nation is taking notice.
“It’s really easy to get complacent and sit back,” junior Sam Mattis said. “But as a group, I think one of the reasons that everyone is achieving so much individual success is that — as a team — we are all pushing each other.”
“I think we have one of the best throwing teams in the east,” Penn assistant coach Tony Tenisci, who leads the throwers, said.
With Mattis — junior discus specialist — leading the way, the Quakers were sure to attract a ton of spotlight heading into the season. Yet while Mattis leads the charge, a cast of notable characters have helped propel Penn firmly into the collegiate spotlight.
Last weekend, both the men’s and the women’s throwing squads took enormous leaps forward.
Senior Marcus LaRoche’s 16.90-meter toss in the shot put at the Florida Relays was the fifth-best mark in school history. Sophomore Noah Kennedy-White made a similar jump into the record books by posting a personal best 52.88-meter discus toss, while fellow sophomore shot putter Billy Bishop also notched a personal record at the Princeton meet.
After success in recent weeks, the entire team’s sights are set on Penn Relays, which begin April 23. And LaRoche is excited by his teammates' progress as they enter the season’s final stretch.
“For Penn Relays, I think we’re going to do something big,” he said.
LaRoche is not alone in this bold assessment. Tenisci is confident that the squad as a whole will continue to post personal records as it gains even more steam.
One event in particular that Tenisci predicts will see the greatest improvements leading up to the Quakers’ signature home event is the women’s javelin throw.
Due to the cold weather, he had encouraged his athletes to take it a little easy in this event. But with the weather steadily improving, Tenisci now has high hopes for his team.
As spring warms up, so too does Kelsey Hay, the junior javelin thrower who already seems to be firing on all cylinders. Her 44.31-meter toss at the Maryland Invitational a few weeks ago was good enough to take home first place.
Hay — who is coming off of a 2014 campaign in which she was named All-American honorable mention — will likely be the main catalyst for the team moving forward.
With the year’s final events just on the horizon, practices for the team as a whole have become more focused. Tenisci noted that time is being devoted to throwing, but due to the academic demands brought on by this time of year, he has tried not to overstress the team.
“You battle school here too,” Tenisci said. “We are coming to the end and so I’m trying to pace with them to try to get as best quality training with them.
“Even though it’s a very repetitive motion we break the motion of throwing down as many ways as we can,” he said.
A helpful asset for the Quakers as they prepare for the end of the season has been the addition of volunteer assistant Jake Brenza.
The Penn alum is a veteran of the track and field program and has thus been able to provide valuable insight for the team.
“It’s awesome because he knows the system,” LaRouche noted. “He’s fresh off of doing track, so he knows how to give [both] the coach and player viewpoint. He gives us insight that a coach alone can’t give us.”
The steady leadership Brenza adds to the squad has been multiplied to an even greater degree by Mattis, who not only has been successful as an athlete with the Red and Blue, but has three Penn Relays championships to name from high school as well.
The 2014 All-American is starting to hit his stride as he prepares for Relays and the national and world championships. Mattis’ goals are to win nationals this year and eventually post one of the top three throws at world qualifiers in order to make it to Beijing this summer.
But the East Brunswick, N.J., native is not the only member of Penn’s throwing team with high aspirations. The squad itself has tunnel vision as it prepares to cross the season’s finish line.
And though they may be tucked far away when they train, the Quakers emerge with nothing but the confidence and talent they need to take on the best when the time comes.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.