Track and field’s indoor season may be one of the shortest in college sports, but it’s nearing a dramatic finish as Penn prepares for the Ivy League Heptagonal Indoor Championships this weekend.
The league’s championship meet will take place at the Armory Track in New York City, one of the nation’s most famous indoor venues. For some athletes on the team, the thought of competing at the Armory is something to look forward to.
Senior Chris Hatler, for example, has been competing at the Armory for years. And just a couple weeks ago, the distance runner shattered a career milestone — the sub-four minute mile.
“I’ve been running at the Armory since I was 16 years old, so to be able to go back and accomplish one of my lifetime goals was something that was pretty incredible,” Hatler said. “It’s something that every miler works for, the magical sub-four mile.”
But Columbia’s indoor arena isn’t just a home for Hatler. Sophomore thrower Rachel Wilson is also looking forward to Heps because of the competition and its location.
“It’s a really exciting time,” she said. “Especially since it’s gonna be at the Armory, it’ll be really loud and noisy, so exciting with so many things going on at once.”
Wilson is seeded No. 2 in the weight throw, an event she broke Penn’s all-time record for earlier this year. Similarly, Penn rookie Maura Kimmel also holds the No. 2 seed in the women’s shot put. The freshman also broke the school record for her event earlier in the season — and has since broken her own record multiple times.
On the men’s side of the throwers, senior Noah Kennedy-White has had a resurgence at the tail end of the season after a slow start. No longer in the shadow of graduated NCAA champion Sam Mattis, Kennedy-White has worked his way up to a fourth seed in the shot put, currently just under two meters outside of second place.
If the throwers can carry their weight on Saturday and Sunday, things could look optimistic as the runners take the track.
With Hatler and senior Ashley Montgomery leading the distance squads that did well in the cross country season this fall, Penn will be sure to pick up points at the longer-distance events. In particular, the men ought to rack up points in the 5000-meter run, where Brendan Shearn and Christopher Luciano pack a two-three punch in the seedings.
“The main goal for us is at Heps to see how high we can score,” Hatler said. “It’s gonna be kind of hard to try and beat well-established teams such as Princeton and Cornell who have a lot more depth than we do across the board....We’re thinking that we’re gonna be scrappy, and we’re going to try to get third.”
Princeton and Cornell have been the top dogs for a number of years now, as Penn has had to settle for third. But with new freshmen to add to the team’s depth, the Quakers could try to close the gap on the top two this weekend.
In the shorter-distance events on the track, two names lead the headlines for the Red and Blue. For the women, junior Taylor McCorkle has been racking up the plaudits, earning top-three seeds in the 60m and 200m dashes. McCorkle, paired with 60m hurdle rookie Breanne Bygrave, who already broke the Ivy League record just a month into her career, ensure that Penn’s women will pick up valuable points on the track.
“This appears to be one of the strongest [women’s] teams in recent history,” coach Steve Dolan said.
The other star sprinter for the Red and Blue is sophomore Calvary Rogers. Last year as a freshman, Rogers took second in a tightly-contested 200m dash. This year, he enters Heps at the No. 3 seed, but almost every other top-10 seeded runner earned his spot at a particularly fast race in Boston two weekends ago. Rogers will have a chip on his shoulder as he dukes it out for the 200m title on Sunday.
All the stars will have to align if Penn wants to usurp Princeton and Cornell at the Ivy League championships this weekend, but at the very least, the championship meet should bring a dramatic conclusion to the indoor season and give the Quakers a springboard into the spring season in a few weeks’ time.