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After leading Penn women's track and field to its first Ivy Heps title since 1996 during indoor season, senior distance runner Abby Hong hopes to keep the team afloat this spring.

Credit: Ilana Wurman

The stage has been set, and the team is ready to go.

After a historic winter indoor season, Penn men’s and women’s track will look to carry the success over to the outdoor season this spring. With the women coming in first for the first time since 1996 at the Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships, and the men’s second place finish marking their best since 2002 at the Heps, the team’s goals this season are set higher than ever.

“We expected to do very well, but coming in second was really something I personally didn’t see coming and I’m very proud of,” junior Calvary Rogers said. “[Ivy Heps] was definitely a big confidence booster, and after that a lot of people were proud of themselves and willing to step up to the plate.”

The women’s team won six individual championships at Ivy Heps, the most from the team since 1988, and even though the men’s team could only add one title to that number, strong performances from both rookies and veterans on both squads indicated a promising season to come.

On the women’s side, senior veteran Abby Hong cruised to a pair of distance titles at indoor Heps in the 3,000m and 5,000m races, adding two more titles to her already prolific career. Hong is coming into this spring with as much momentum as possible, and she is not slowing down.

But this year’s pool of new talent includes freshman Uchechi Nwogwugwu, who took first place in the 500m event, a flying start to what will be a great career.

Penn’s only event win on the men’s side came in the 200m from Rogers. But again, underclassmen also performed well, as freshman Marvin Morgan took second place in the 60m and sophomore Sean Clarke continued to star in the pole vault, also finishing in second after a jump-off.

Athletes from both teams noted how easier it was to perform well when their teammates did likewise.

“One thing led to another and everyone was feeding off of each other’s energy,” senior Patrick Hally said. “It’s super motivating when we can do so well in every event; all day constantly, something great is happening.”

“I felt like the whole meet we were building off each other’s success, and that’s a huge part of it being a team meet,” Hong added. “It’s definitely been a big boost, confidence-wise, just knowing our whole team can perform at such a high level.”

All of this momentum seemed to continue when the Quakers kicked off the outdoor season last weekend at home for the Penn Challenge. Again, the women won by a large margin and the men finished second, with both teams’ talent across the board propelling them to victory.

Sophomore Maura Kimmel set two new school records, and along with freshman thrower Ashley Anumba, the two will look to reach distances never before achieved by the women’s program.

The men also have hope for a record-breaking season, as sophomore Evan Lee set Penn’s third-highest score all-time in the heptathlon at Ivy Heps, and Hally took first place in the 1,500m last weekend.

Rogers is optimistic about the team’s chances for the rest of the season.

“As soon as all our freshmen came in, I was telling them right from the beginning, ‘We’re all gonna be in the final. We’re all gonna be scoring,'”  he said.

With help from all areas of the roster, men’s and women’s track is ready for a historic season.

Our take: Both the Penn men and women proved they could compete with anyone in the Ivy League during February's Ivy indoor Heps, but the outdoor season is a different animal. With the increased variety of events and quality of competition around the league, there's a reason Penn's men haven't won the outdoor title since 2002 and the women haven't since 1988, but there's also a reason Penn's indoor results were better than they've been in a long, long time. With depth seemingly everywhere — Taylor McCorkle and Nwogwugwu in the sprints, Kimmel and Rachel Wilson in the throws, Abby Hong in distance, Molly Minnig and Nicole Macco in pole vault, etc. — we think the women can pull off the repeat, while a top-three finish at least is within reach for the men.