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The women's team 4x400 relay is the first in Penn's history to qualify for the NCAA Championship.

Credit: Joy Lee

Ten athletes from Penn track and field — a program record — have advanced from the NCAA Preliminaries to the Championships, which will take place in Austin, Texas from June 5 to 8. 

The Quakers travelled to Jacksonville, Fla. to compete in the prelims from Thursday, May 23 to Saturday, May 25.

It was a weekend of personal bests and record-breaking performances from the Quakers, cementing them as competitors in the upcoming championship rounds.

On Thursday, three Penn athletes qualified for the championships. Senior Anna Peyton Malizia opened the day for the Quakers by clearing 1.80m on the high jump. This is the second year in a row Malizia has qualified for the championships in this event.

Later that day, junior Sean Clarke also secured his spot in the championships by clearing 5.21m on the pole vault. Three members of Penn track and field had reached the prelims, but Clarke was the only to qualify for the championship, while junior Nathan Fisher and freshman Payton Morris fell just short.

Mayyi Mahama also showed her strength by achieving a personal record of 62.23m on the hammer, earning her a trip to Austin. Senior Rachel Lee Wilson was not able to improve much on her qualifying performance for the prelims, and will not move on to the championship round. 

Several Quakers also competed to qualify for quarterfinal rounds, which would take place later in the weekend. By the end of the first day, junior Nia Akins had aced the 800 with a time of 2:04.66. She would move on to the quarterfinals with the fastest time of all 48 runners who competed at the prelims. 

Sophomore Uchechi Nwogwugwu took sixth in the 400 with a time of 52.62, earning her a spot in Friday’s quarterfinals. On Sunday, Nwogwugwu would qualify for a second event as a member of Penn’s 4x400 relay group.

With a time of 51.10, which was not only a PR but the fourth-best time in program history, junior Anthony Okolo sprinted through the 400 hurdles. Okolo’s qualification brought Thursday to a close. 

On Friday, five more Quakers would advance to the championships. 

In the discus, sophomore Ashley Anumba qualified for the championships for the second year in a row with a throw of 52.49m. As expected, freshman Marc Minichello will move on to Austin with a 67.35m throw in the javelin.

After having performed well already on Thursday, Nwogwugwu made history for Penn. Clocking in at 52.51, she became the first ever sprinter for Penn women’s track to qualify for the championships in the 400. 

Credit: Joy Lee

Junior Nia Akins.

Going into the weekend, Akins’ performance on the 800 was highly anticipated. The national indoor runner-up had already taken first on Thursday in the round to qualify for the NCAA quarterfinals. She set a program record on Saturday with a time of 2:03.44, the fastest in the event, again taking first and moving on to the championship.

Junior Colin Daly rounded up the day as the last of Friday’s competitors to move to the championship. In the steeplechase, he finished with a time of 8:46.08: just enough for him to qualify as the first in program history to make nationals in the event.

The Quakers’ boasted strong performances on Thursday and Friday, but it was the women’s 4x400 on Saturday that truly stunned. 

In a program record, freshman Skyla Wilson, junior Cecil Ene, Akins and Nwogwugwu finished with a time of 3:32.12. The four women make up the first relay group in program history to make it to the national championship.

With just under two weeks before the championships, the Quakers are undoubtedly preparing for stiff competition, but expecting tremendous performances.  

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