Over the past few years, senior thrower Rachel Lee Wilson has become one of the most dominant athletes in Penn track. The numbers don’t lie: Wilson currently holds the program record in the outdoor hammer throw (63.89 meters) and the indoor weight throw (20.53m). These numbers secured her a second consecutive title in the Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships earlier this season.
But unlike most student-athletes, Wilson did not compete in these sports during high school, since the hammer throw is not offered as a high school sport in any state except Rhode Island. Instead, her main events were the discus and the shot put, while she would only practice the hammer throw during the summer with her father, who was also a thrower in high school.
“I applied to Penn, and I contacted the coach at the time and I asked if he had any spots on the team, because my numbers were decent, but they weren’t good enough to get recruited,” Wilson said. “He didn’t have any girls recruited that year, so it ended up working out. Once I got here, I started to get more serious with the hammer and now that’s my main event.”
After joining the team in 2015, Wilson quickly started to impress. During her first season as a Quaker, Wilson recorded 21 top-10 performances between the two events and set the school record in the weight throw at Indoor Heps, placing third. She was also named the team's most valuable player of the freshman class. From then on, the now-senior has held the weight throw program record and keeps extending it each year.
In her junior year, Wilson really stood out, winning six meets in the weight throw, including an individual indoor Ivy Heps title. She successfully defended her title this year when she became the first Penn athlete ever to crack the 20m mark in the weight throw.
In the hammer throw, Wilson has been just as unstoppable. After being named to the second team All-Ivy list in 2017, the thrower came back even stronger and collected an outdoor Ivy Heps title. Furthermore, she also received an honorable mention after a 23rd-place finish in the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
But the secret for Wilson’s success during her time at Penn does not come from any pre-meet rituals or superstitions. In fact, Wilson credits her accomplishments to her time management skills and hard-work.
“She had already achieved so many things, but after having a phenomenal junior year, she further dedicated herself, trying to get to the next level,” throwing coach Jeff Pflaumbaum said. “It’s amazing to see how she can excel in both academics and athletics, especially in an Ivy League school. This dedication makes her a leader; she’s always trying to push the group forward.”
Despite being ranked No. 111 in the world, Wilson does not plan to continue her career in track. After graduation, she has plans to move to Michigan and work as an engineer, but for now, the senior still has high hopes for the end of the season.
"After NCAAs last year, I wasn't really happy with my performance, and I really didn't want it to happen again," Wilson said. "My main goals are to make it to the NCAAs again, to set the new Ivy League record for hammer, and to win the Ivy Heps again."
Penn Relays isn't famous for its throwing events — they don't take place at Franklin Field and are in some ways overshadowed by the track events. Fans don't always know where to go to watch the throwers. If fans were to go to the Mondschein Throwing Complex on Thursday, they'd get a chance to watch a three-time Ivy champion.