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Junior Nia Akins now holds the program record in the 800-meters, a time also good enough to be in the top five nationally. 

Credit: Pranay Vemulamada

It's going to be a busy weekend for Penn Athletics with the track, squash, swimming, and gymnastics teams all in action. Here are three key questions worth thinking about ahead of the teams’ respective competitions.

Can Penn track maintain its early season form?

Penn track has gone from strength to strength since the beginning of the season. Various athletes have been able to set new personal records, including junior Sean Clarke, who has twice broken his own school record in the men’s pole vault this season. On the women’s team, junior Nia Akins can now lay claim to Penn’s all-time record in the 800-meters, with a time that is also good enough for fifth-fastest nationwide this year.

The team as a whole is coming off a successful weekend at the Penn 8-Team Select, during which eight athletes, from both the men’s and women’s teams, recorded top 10 all-time Penn performances. Three of them — freshmen Payton Morris and Cameron Landis, as well as senior Sam Webb — were newcomers to the list.

The Quakers’ next challenge will start on Jan. 25 at the two-day Penn State National Open. The Red and Blue will be hoping to carry their momentum to University Park, Pa., where they will face stiff competition from athletes from over 30 schools.  

How will Penn men's squash handle the pressure?

Credit: Son Nguyen

Freshman Michael Mehl

This is not a drill: Penn men’s squash is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. The Quakers are also one of only two remaining teams that are undefeated this season.

To start the year, the Red and Blue (8-0, 2-0 Ivy) have defeated No. 4 St. Lawrence and No. 5 Rochester while also breaking their 10-year drought without a win at Yale. The Quakers have achieved this by relying on a trio of freshmen: Aly Abou Eleinen, James Flynn, and Michael Mehl. These three have certainly found the transition to college squash less demanding than others have, combining to go 24-0 in their individual matches.

This weekend, however, Penn will face off against arguably its toughest opposition thus far, when it takes on Trinity, the defending national champion. Penn’s last win against the Bantams (9-1) came more than 20 years ago in the 1995-96 season. On the same day, the Quakers will also face Colby. All eyes will now be on Penn as it hopes to seize a statement win against the reigning champions. But to do so, the Red and Blue will need to play well under the pressure of keeping their winning streak intact.  

Can Penn swimming bring its academic success to the pool?

On Saturday, Penn swimming will make a short trip to take on West Chester in a dual meet. This comes after both the Penn’s men’s and women’s programs were named to the Scholar All-America list by the Collegiate Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America in recognition of their academic success during the fall 2018 semester. However, with most of the season in the books, the teams have had mixed fortunes in the pool.

The men (7-2, 4-2 Ivy) are currently sitting third in the Ivy League behind heavyweights Princeton and Harvard. In the Quakers’ final Ivy League tri-meet on Jan. 12, the men’s team defeated Brown but fell to Harvard. Nevertheless, sophomore Sean Lee continued his strong season by earning first place in both the 100 and 200 butterfly.

Credit: Son Nguyen

Sophomore Sean Lee was among the quartet of Penn swimmers who won the 200 medley relay this weekend at West Chester.

On the other hand, the women have fallen to the bottom of the Ivy League standings (2-7, 1-6), with Dartmouth being their solitary League win. However, the team has been making significant progress — clear evidence of which is the 10 career-best times achieved during the Tennessee Invitational back in December.

The Red and Blue will be looking to gain some momentum against the Rams (6-4) in what will be their final dual meet before the Ivy League Championships, which will be held in late February. With competition intensifying, the Quakers will be hoping that their success in the classroom can translate to the pool.