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With several impressive showings early on in the season, senior Abby Hong has raised expectations for the next few meets.

Courtesy of Penn Athletics

If you had asked Penn women’s cross country senior captain Abby Hong what her goals for the season were just a few weeks ago, she probably would have told you that she was just hoping to be a leader for the team and compete towards the top of the Ivy League.

Oh, what a difference a few meets can make.

After recording impressive results in the Quakers’ first three meets of 2017, including a second-place individual finish at the Main Line Invitation, Hong’s expectations for the season are higher than they have ever been before.

“Definitely I did not expect as much as success as I’ve had so far. But you know, with that success, I’ve set more and more aggressive goals,” the Californian said.

And Hong is far from the only one who has taken notice of her improvement.

“She’s definitely having a breakout season,” coach Steve Dolan said.

Marin Warner, a junior who has been teammates with Hong for three years, agreed.

“She’s definitely a leader by showing how great she is,” Warner said. “Everyone wants to be as good as her, and she makes the team better by leading by example.”

While Hong has made huge strides this season, her success is far from an overnight success story. Hong has been a valuable member of the team ever since she started at Penn as a freshman. In 2016, Hong scored in all seven meets she competed in, and in 2015, she scored in all but one out of six. 

What, then, does Hong attribute as the biggest reason for all her achievements? Unlike many others runners, it has nothing to do with superstition or pre-race rituals.

“I actually try to not get too held up on trying to do one particular thing before a race,” Hong said. “That way I have more flexibility.”

Instead, it’s simply been hard work that has helped Hong pave her path.

“She’s always been a consistent contributor, but clearly she worked super hard over the summer and has come back at the next level,” Dolan said.

Once again, Warner concurred.

“She is definitely one of the most dedicated athletes I know,” Warner said.

This weekend, Hong will have another opportunity to enjoy the fruits of her labor as the Red and Blue head Midwest for the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational. After this meet, Hong will only have three more opportunities to run cross country for the Red and Blue, and it could be just two if Hong does not qualify for NCAA Nationals.

But if there’s anything Hong has shown during her four years as a Quaker, it’s this: don’t bet against her.