The sprinters on the Penn women’s track and field team have tasted a lot of success lately.
School records? High finishes? An Ivy title? They’ve got it.
And the best part of all? That success seems like it’s here to stay.
The Red and Blue team won the Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championship for the first time in 22 years in large part due to the success of its sprinters.
The sprinters contributed eight of the 22 scored results at Heps, highlighted by a win by freshman Uche Nwogwugwu in the 500-meter.
The sprinters on this year’s squad are quite the decorated group. They’ve been shattering school records left and right, completely rewriting the record books.
Earlier this season, Nwogwugwu set a new program record in the 400m (54.69 seconds) and the 4x400m relay team of Candace Taylor, Caroline O’Neil, Cecil Ene, and Nwogwugwu added a new program record of their own (3:43.83).
In all, there were 11 different instances of sprinters setting top-10 school records in their respective events during the indoor season.
“A goal is always to PR [set personal records] every year, [as well as] to get your indoor time to match your outdoor time,” Nwogwugwu said.
“We want to hit times that allow us to go past our conference championship and qualify for regionals,” senior Taylor McCorkle added. “That’s kind of in the back of our minds, being able hit the times we need to hit to go that far.”
The sprinters are led by seniors McCorkle and Taylor, but the freshman and sophomore classes have been a large factor behind the Quakers’ resurgence.
In addition to Nwogwugwu and O’Neil, fellow freshman Camille Dickson turned in a second place in the 400m at Heps. All three can run well in the 200m and 400m, and O’Neil figures to be a factor in the 100m as she was the 2017 Connecticut state champion in the event.
"I feel like the freshmen, just their mentality and their drive to want to succeed has really helped us,” McCorkle said. “I feel like that’s what is taking us further and further each year.”
The sophomores excel in multiple events. Ene has personal records in the 100m, 200m, and the 400m. Breanne Bygrave holds the school record in the 100m hurdles. And Elena Brown-Soler can do it all, from the 60m to the heptathlon.
“Last year, the class who is now sophomores, they were a big freshman class for us,” assistant coach Porscha Dobson said. “They really got the ball rolling and really stirred up a lot of momentum for our women’s team.”
Although the results are finally shining through, the change didn’t happen overnight.
The team’s pair of second-place finishes at the indoor and outdoor Heps last season might have been considered an outlier following a pair of seventh-place finishes two years ago. But after this season, it is starting to look more like the new normal.
“I feel like the culture of Penn track and field has been developing so much, we’ve come such a long way,” McCorkle said. “We’ve just been getting more and more people who are so dedicated to what they do and who just want to do the best individually and also for the team.”
“What you’re seeing over the past three to four years, is really just work from building … towards one unit and moving forward with the same dream and goal of a championship team,” Dobson added. “Once you get a little taste [of success], you want more.”
If the smashed record book from the indoor season is any indication, the Penn sprinters will be tasting plenty of success in the outdoor season.