Penn track and field is going places this weekend.
You’ll be able to find Quakers across the country: distance runners will be at the Stanford Invitational out west, sprinters, jumpers and throwers will be at the Florida Relays down south, and developing athletes will be back east here, at the Danny Curran Invitational at Chester, Pennsylvania.
“We’re just trying to put our best athletes in the best competitive situations,” coach Steve Dolan said. “Usually we like to stay together in general, but [Stanford and Florida] this weekend are the two best meets for these events.”
At Stanford, all the focus is all on the long races. Penn’s elite distance core leaves for California tomorrow, and with a team consisting of names like Nick Tuck, Ashley Montgomery, Chris Hatler and Cleo and Clarissa Whiting, it feels almost as if we’re back in cross country season.
“Stanford’s the best. It’s a really high quality meet; it’s pretty much one of the best meets in the country,” senior Brendan Shearn raved. “And to have a meet where that’s super distance-focused like this is ideal.”
First held in 1975, the Stanford Invite is perfect for distance runners: it’s always smoothly run and very well attended. Not to mention how much Penn’s runners, who’ve endured practice in the Philadelphia sleet these past few weeks, appreciate the change in climate. Palo Alto will be warm, but not too warm this time of year. It’s the kind of weather that caters especially well to personal bests in endurance races.
One major focus all the runners have this weekend is striving for NCAA regional qualifying times, and this is certainly the meet at which to do it. Look for especially fast times out of the 10,000-meter race, in which some of Penn’s most talented distance runners, such as Chris Luciano, Kevin Monogue and Shearn are gunning for the elusive sub-29 minute run.
What’s more, the level of competition will likely allow runners to forget about the clock altogether and simply focus on racing hard to produce the times they’re after.
“We’re always going out there to race. You don’t enter a race unless you want to win,” insisted Shearn. “But Stanford’s a really big meet for trying to qualify for regionals; especially in the 10k, it’s one of the fastest in the country.”
The weather this weekend in Gainesville, Florida, on the other hand, is going to be hot — just the way the sprinters like it. The meet’s propensity to produce blazing fast times not only attracts the best collegiate competition but also is known to bring out a respectable showing of post-collegiate talent as well.
“I’m excited to go up against some really good competition. Some of the people there are professional athletes,” junior Taylor McCorkle said. “So I’m hoping they can bring the best out of me and get me to a PR.”
It’s not uncommon to see professional athletes and former Olympians show up at the Stanford Invite or the Florida Relays. Last year, the great conditions found Justin Gatlin competing alongside Penn’s athletes.
“You’ve got a collegiate national-level group that goes there, and then you’ve got a lot of post-collegiate people that go there as well, like Olympic Trials-type people, so there’s always just a really good competitive atmosphere there,” Dolan said. “That mix of top college and pro runners is pretty unique at both these meets.”
Many will be watching to see if McCorkle and the women’s 4x100 meter team will be able to break its own school record that it set last week during the Penn challenge, and perhaps even put down a regional-qualifying time in the process.
We’ll get to see sophomore Calvary Rogers competing among a very talented pool of the best 200-meter runners from around the country, and we’ll get to see freshmen like Mikayla Schneider, who finished first in the 400-meter dash at the Penn Challenge, benefit from heightened competition as well. Doubling with individual and relay events amidst such a field, however, could pose a new challenge to the new class of sprinters.
Additionally, we’ll see Penn’s best throwers and jumpers down in Florida this week.
Field athletes like Bianca Donadio, Rachel Wilson and Isis Trotman, all of whom are climbing Penn’s all-time hammer throw rankings, Anna Payton Malizia in the high jump, and Maura Kimmel, who already tops the list for discus, will be looking to capitalize on the excellent conditions.
On the men’s side, Noah Kennedy-White’s throws will likely be even more explosive in the hot weather as he sets his sights on an hitting an NCAA qualifying mark before the end of his senior year. Freshman pole vault phenom Sean Clarke is likely thinking the same thing.
With Penn’s best athletes positioned in environments that should be highly conducive to success in their respective events, there’s nothing stopping the team from laying down some impressive performances across the board this weekend.