Another year of Penn Relays is now history. And while Penn track and field may not have repeated the same success of 2016, which saw the team win its first Relay since 1974, the Quakers still made a number of finals appearances, and broke some records, too.
It was always going to be a memorable weekend for Penn, who got to play the hosts of the biggest track and field meet in the nation. And with NCAA powerhouses like Oregon and Stanford in attendance, as well as some of the best from around the world, it wasn't hard to foresee the best being brought out of the Red and Blue.
The men's and women's squads have been improving in recent weeks, but there was still something lacking to take their performances to the next level. The Penn Relays, as coach Steve Dolan pointed out, was the perfect remedy to that.
"That final piece was atmosphere and competition. And that's what Penn Relays brought out," Dolan said. ""Certainly good weather [also] made a difference."
The best performances over the weekend came from the team's distance squad. The women, in particular, rose to a new level against the nation's best.
The Quakers' 4x1500-meter relay, run by the Whiting twins, seniors Cleo and Clarissa, classmate Ashley Montgomery and junior Kylene Cochrane, started things off right by smashing a school record to finish sixth in the Championship of America Invitational.
Seeing the three seniors lead the way for Penn was pleasing to Dolan.
"This is my fifth year at Penn, and it's been really fun to watch this class mature," he said. "The women's team wasn't as strong when they were freshmen, and it's been great to see this group lead the charge."
Not to be outdone, the women's 4x800m — made up of a senior and three rookies — followed things up with a school record time a full seven seconds better than the previous best. Their 8:33.39 relay mark was the third best in Ivy League history.
On the men's side of the distance squad, the distance medley relay (DMR) was the highlight of the weekend. In a race featuring top distance powerhouse Oregon, the Quakers hung tight through the 1200m, 800m and 400m legs before handing the baton off to senior Chris Hatler for the mile. With less than a lap to go, Hatler was still in the lead pack, too.
While he couldn't finish stride for stride with the Ducks, he still came across the finish line with a remarkable 3:58.96 mile split, securing the DMR school record by over four seconds in the process.
The other bright spots for the men came mostly from the field. Freshman Sean Clarke came second in the pole vault, and senior Billy Bishop launched Penn's fifth-best ever shot put throw, tossing it 17.15m. Rachel Wilson also set the school record in the women's hammer throw to round out the Quakers' highlights on the field.
With the Relays in the bag, Penn must now look forward to its next competition, one that matters even more — the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships next weekend. The men and women will head up to Yale to challenge the league's best after a season of improvement.
"We're really excited heading into next weekend, because we feel like our teams are in good form," Dolan said.
Anchored by their best distance squad in decades, the women could take a real stab at an Ivy League title. And while the men will have trouble knocking off perennial heavyweights Cornell, they can at least seek out a high finish and a number of NCAA qualifications.
One thing is for sure — the Quakers' season is anything but over after next weekend.
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