This weekend will be an eventful one for Penn men's and women's cross country, as both squads will take the course on Friday for the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships.
Ivy Heps are an annual tradition marking the culmination of the Ivy season, and this year the Red and Blue will travel to the Bronx, N.Y. for the race. Last year, the men finished in fourth place while the women brought home the pack in eighth, so both teams have high expectations to improve on their results.
With an influx of new talent on both sides, the runners are hopeful that their youth can step up to the challenge. Rookies Sean Banko and Jared Cooper join the team for the men, while Olivia Babski, Lizzy Bader, Samantha Green, Lauren Henderson, Jessica Riedman, and Delia Russo have been contributing for the women. For the women’s team in particular, coach Steve Dolan is excited to see what this weekend holds.
“One of the freshman that has been very consistent for us is Lizzy Bader, she’s been in the top scoring group all season long," Dolan said.
At the Penn State National Open two weeks ago, Bader was the fourth-fastest finisher on the team and 33rd overall with an time of 21:33.10. Ivy Heps will be yet another test to see if the newcomers can hang with their more experienced teammates and opponents.
The success of the cross country teams takes much effort and practice. Dolan reflected on how much the team has improved and the determination his athletes have accrued since starting practice in the summer.
“I credit the captains and the seniors and the team for keeping the others accountable during the summertime,” he said.
Meanwhile, the men have been consistent in placing in the top group at their races, including a couple of second-place finishes and a team win at the Main Line Invitational in September.
The women have also had their fair share of success, posting a pair of third-place showings among talented opposition and breaking into the national rankings for the first time since 2016.
One of the most unique aspects of the Heps is the history behind the competition. It's much more than another race — school pride is on the line.
The adrenaline and spirit of competing against one's biggest academic and athletic rivals is reflected in the team's spirit heading into Friday. The rich history shared by all eight Ivy League institutions comes together for one day and amplifies the competition.
“The amount of family and alumni that attend the event is really something special," Dolan said. “Each team will have a tent while the alums gather and cheer, so it’s a pretty cool atmosphere."
With both teams performing at such a high level, Ivy Heps is coming at the right time for the Quakers to make some waves.