Recent graduate Chris Hatler was one of two Penn grads to compete in the senior competitions at the USA Track and Field championships.

Credit: Peter Ribeiro , Peter Ribeiro

For most students, summer vacation begins as soon as they walk out that dreaded last final exam. However, a select few Penn track and field athletes have yet to experience the luxury of “time off.”

Instead, seven Quakers have ventured out to the USA Track & Field’s two championships, the junior and senior outdoor, held in Sacramento, CA spanning June 22 to 25. These are not taken lightly by the athletes, as the top two juniors in each event will see themselves through to Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, while seniors have a shot at London’s IAAF World Championships this summer.

On the junior side, freshmen Maddie Villalba, Mikayla Schneider, Nia Akins, Tia Livingston, and Sean Clarke got their taste of the spotlight while senior Chris Hatler and 2016 graduate Sam Mattis shone in the senior competition.

The events kicked off Friday, with Quakers hoping to work their way through the qualifying rounds to earn a spot in Saturday’s finals. In the women’s 800m, Villalba and Schneider did not post times fast enough to see them through, but Akins made the cut and continued on to place seventh overall on Saturday.

In pole vault, Clarke cleared 5.15m on his third try, good enough for fourth place among a host of strong competitors in the field.

Livingston out-hurdled the competition in qualifiers to come in fourth and then put in another strong performance a day later resulting in an impressive sixth overall finish.

In the senior competition, Hatler ran the 1500m qualifiers well but would not go on to secure a spot in the final heat. Mattis, who now competes for Garage Strength Performance Training, took his best shot in discus, but failed to register any scores.

While not all competitors came out on top, the experience alone was certainly worth the trip. Reflecting on the magnitude of the competition, Livingston was simply in awe of the spectacle around her.

“It’s exhilarating. You’re going into an environment where there’s professional athletes, top in the world, and you’re surrounded by them,” she said. “It just makes you want to succeed, and it forces me to push myself even further. It puts the other meets in perspective.”

The Penn contingency was by no means small, a huge plus for the athletes in terms of support and socializing when on the other side of the continent.

“This is the first time that I’ve been able to travel to a championship meet with a lot of my teammates and I had a lot of fun. It was a new experience and I really enjoyed myself, and am hoping for something great again next year,” Livingston said.

With all the competition wrapped up and pre-season still far away, it is finally time for those elite members of Penn track and field to enjoy some well-earned relaxation. Lamenting her exhaustion during exams and training, Livingston certainly plans on unwinding a bit now.

“Having to put in as much training and work as usual during finals season is just incredibly difficult,” she said. “Right now, I’m taking time off and finishing some classes over the summer as well. I just want to be normal — do nothing, watch movies, be a teenager.”

Now able to breathe a sigh of relief and relish in their accomplishments, these Quakers can now finally focus on catching up on their favorite shows and lounging by the pool, like the rest of us having been doing since May.

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