For Penn track and field, 2016 was a year brimming with accolades and fraught with never-before-seen accomplishments. It was a year of historic first-evers, school records and personal bests, as if the team altogether hurdled years’ worth of rungs on the ladder to improvement and landed themselves ahead of the curve — but at the same time, it feels like even more was left on the table.
The program has been on the uprise and has proven itself among the best in the Ivy League season after season in recent, and its impressive new heights reached a year ago were not just a big dream for its athletes, but an expectation.
However, the Red and Blue were unable to finish every meet with this emblematic success; certain showings fell short of expectations and left the Quakers demanding more of themselves for the coming fall and brief indoor winter season.
While the women’s team enjoyed well-deserved wins throughout the 2016 indoor season, their performance at the Ivy League Heptagonal Outdoor Championships was a disappointing dénouement to a streak of successes so far that spring. With only 47 points garnered overall for a seventh-place finish, the women’s squad completed the season determined to prove to competitors that their year of hard work was not to remain unnoticed.
Strong executions throughout all events during the 2017 indoor season served as a bounce-back from a discouraging close to the previous spring. The Red and Blue leapt five places to finish second place at the Indoor Heps, rewarding the Quakers fthe achievement that they had prepared for and deserved.
While the Penn men weren’t able to match the consistency with which the lady Quakers secured victories throughout the 2016 season, their showing at last spring’s Outdoor Heps was nothing short of impressive. With a third-place finish overall, Penn only allowed Princeton and Cornell to surpass it for gold and silver, ousting the bottom five Ivy League competitors by at least twenty points each. The victories were well-deserved and much-needed after a spring season riddled with unexpected performances across the athletic spectrum.
Beyond the team success, both the men and women saw a slew of individual standouts in the past year. Then-seniors Sam Mattis (discus), Thomas Awad (1500-meter) and Kelsey Hay (javelin) all made history by qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials. Unfortunately, none of the three ended up making it to Rio — and this result was particularly disappointing for Mattis, who had been the 2015 NCAA national champion in the discus throw and entered the U.S Olympic Trials as the top seed. Still, Mattis did conclude his season holding the top discus mark in Penn history, a gargantuan toss of 67.45 meters that represented the top throw by any American in nearly six years.
This year, though, Quakers have concluded a wild ride of an indoor season and now look to the spring of 2017 to showcase what they’ve been training to execute all winter. While fans and spectators wait in apprehension to see what the Red and Blue can extract from this opportunity, we can certainly use the outstanding performances at Indoor Heps as a paradigm for what Penn track and field is capable of.