What a difference 42 years makes.
In Friday’s Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in the Bronx, N.Y., Penn cross country secured a second-place finish on the men’s side and a fifth-place finish on the women’s side, the best the men have performed at Heps since 1973.
The men started off strong and secured five spots among the top-25 runners. Despite his inconsistencies throughout the season, senior Thomas Awad won his second consecutive title and made first team All-Ivy with a time of 24:26.4.
“I was pretty happy,” Awad said about his victory. “My season hadn’t really been going as I had hoped. I’ve been feeling really good about my workouts, but the races haven’t been going super great.
“This was the first race where I felt like myself again.”
Junior Brendan Shearn followed Awad in 12th with a time of 25:04.1, with junior Nick Tuck crossing three seconds later in 13th place. Both made second team All-Ivy.
Moments later, sophomore Ross Wilson and senior Brendan Smith finished successively at 21st and 22nd. Wilson clocked in at 25:21.5, while Smith recorded a mark of 25:22.2.
Four points shy of champion Columbia, Penn finished with a total of 69 points, 42 less than last year when they finished third.
“Heps was bittersweet. The expectation was that we were going to win,” Awad said. “We’re not happy with second. We wanted to win it, [but] the race just really didn’t go our way.”
Building off the men’s momentum, the women’s team beat out Cornell, Harvard and Dartmouth with 114 points in the 6K race that evening — a solid turnaround from 2014’s last-place finish.
The women secured three spots in the top 25. Junior Ashley Montgomery finished fifth overall with a time of 21:19.9 and notched a spot on the All-Ivy first team.
“All the women in the top 10 are actually quite competitive, even on a national scope,” coach Steve Dolan said. “For Ashley to finish fifth overall and run at that level was pretty amazing thing. The progression she’s had the last two years is amazing too.”
Following in 13th, junior Cleo Whiting finished half a minute after Montgomery and was second team All-Ivy, while her twin sister, Clarissa, trailed at 23rd.
“Our goal was to finish in the middle of the upper half of the league, and it’s a strong league,” Dolan said. “So to have two women earn all-conference honors and help our team move to fifth place on the women’s made it a very strong day for us.”
“In my four years at Penn, I haven’t seen any individual girls make first or second team All-Ivy, so that was really cool for Ashley and Cleo,” Awad said of his junior teammates.
Dolan also commended the efforts and talents of the team on Friday.
“It’s not very easy, you know,” Dolan explained. “There’s that natural feeling of expectations, and to be able to handle the pressure of those expectations and perform that well is quite a skill.
“I have truly felt their hard work, and I am very proud of them. There is so much work and literally, thousands of miles that go into doing what they do at this level of running.”
But the Quakers aren’t finished yet. In two weeks, the team will be competing at the NCAA Regional Championships for the Mid-Atlantic region.
With the bittersweet taste of a close victory in their mouth, the Red and Blue are out for blood. More determined than ever, the team is pushing to secure a slot in the NCAA Championships.
“We wanted the Heps title, we didn’t get it. But we still know we’re a good team — the best team we’ve had at Penn for a long time,” Awad said. “And we’re good enough to make it to the NCAAs.”
Despite their performance at Heps, the team will have its work cut out for them for regionals on Nov. 13.
“The top teams right now are Villanova, Georgetown and Navy. We have to beat two of those teams,” Awad said. “So we’re just doing everything in the next two weeks that we can to get ourselves ready for that.”
“We just have to go out there and do it.”Comments powered by Disqus
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