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Credit: Zach Sheldon

Ryan Renken’s athletic career started with dabbling in different sports. Most notably, he played competitive soccer growing up, which he believed would be his high school and college sport. This was all changed, however, when he found his love for running.

Now, the junior is a decorated runner for Penn’s cross country, and he's hoping to exercise his passion for the sport throughout the rest of his life. 

Renken describes his eclectic early athletic life. 

“I played, like, every sport growing up, from soccer to basketball to baseball to swimming. I was a very active kid, so when I got to high school and started running it was just kind of natural to me," Renken said.

Following his sister and cousin, Renken joined his high school’s cross country team, a group that ended up performing very well not only in Claremont, Calif., where Ryan grew up, but also throughout the state. In 2016, his high school’s team ranked first in the California Interstate Federation and became Division 2 cross country state champions. 

“So far, most of my favorite memories [in cross country] come from team accomplishments,” Renken said. “In high school, when our team won the state championship, that was a lot of fun, and probably the most notable [memory from my career] so far.”

When it was time to start looking at colleges during the fall of his senior year, Renken knew he wanted to run for a cross country team in college. After several visits to schools to get to know their programs and teams, Renken decided to become a Quaker and never looked back.

“I ended up liking Penn, the campus, and the team a lot, and that’s what encouraged me to come here,” Renken said. “When you spend three to four hours a day with the same people, it’s important to be in a group that you connect with and jive well with … and when I was visiting here, I got the feeling that this team is a family, and that’s why I chose Penn.” 

In his freshman year, Renken made a name for himself as a substantial contributor to the team. He placed in the top five for Penn runners in multiple races, and in the 2017 Ivy League Heptagonal Championships he finished 57th. Then, during his 2018 indoor track season, he placed sixth in the mile in the Penn 8-Team Select and competed in the Indoor Heps in the 1000-meters. 

After his freshman season, Renken had four placements in the top 10 in competition. Going into his sophomore year, he didn’t compete in indoor track competitions, but he ran in two events for cross country, placing in both. One of those, the Haverford Main Line Invitational, saw Renken finish 15th, running four miles in 20:21.00.

As this season gets into full swing, Renken is mostly focused on staying healthy.

“For me in this season, it’s important to stay injury-free," Renken said. “I’ve had a couple of injuries that have sidetracked the past couple of years. And I think for the team at large, this is the best we’ve been health-wise, so it’s fun to see everyone at practice and running."

As far as life outside of cross country, Renken is involved in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Through this organization, he serves as an ambassador for his team for different resources in an effort to improve student-athlete welfare on campus. 

Renken studies finance and real estate at the Wharton School and hopes to work in the real estate sector, possibly in equity investing or debts. And of course, he plans on staying active by running for leisure or even potentially training for marathons or half marathons.