The Red and Blue just can’t stop setting records. On Friday, it was the second-best 800-meter time in NCAA history.
This weekend, one group from Penn women’s and men’s track and field competed at the BU David Hemery Valentine Invitational, while the other traveled to South Carolina to compete at the Clemson Tiger Paw Invitational.
The Quakers had a strong performance at Penn State’s Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup the previous week, setting 11 top-10 records. Penn was able to continue its success this weekend with a squad split along the Eastern Seaboard.
In Boston, the women had a great deal of success across the board, with multiple top-five finishes. In the field, junior Camille Dickson came third in the long jump with a mark of 5.81 meters. Freshman Jacinta Arnold also impressed, placing third in the triple jump with a leap of 11.49m.
Penn found just as much success on the track. Both senior Katie DeVore and sophomore Ariana Gardizy took the third-best times in program history in the 1000m and 5000m events, respectively; DeVore had a time of 2:48.50, and Gardizy set a time of 16:29.53.
Sophomore Mia Knight took second place in the 60m dash invitational with a time of 7.66 seconds. In the 800m, junior Melissa Tanaka achieved the second-best record in program history, with a time of 2:05.91.
But the most notable performance was that of senior Nia Akins in the same event, where she placed first with a time of 2:00.71. Her time was not only enough to demolish her own program record by three seconds but also enough to be the second-best 800m time in all of NCAA indoor track history. Currently, her performance stands as both the nation’s best time this season and the all-time fastest in the Ivy League.
“It was truly a surprise," Akins said. “Going into it, I could see that I needed to stay calm and find my rhythm early, especially in a heat like that where everyone is so talented."
Akins’ remarkable record-breaking time comes just one week after the Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup, where she recorded the 12th-best 600m time in NCAA history. Still, Akins isn’t satisfied, looking to even bigger accomplishments in the future.
“It wasn’t about the win or the times or anything, it was more so about going out there and feeling as though I’m moving in a good direction for my long term goals,” Akins said. “I really want to have a good run at Nationals and hopefully, beyond that too, at outdoors and Olympic Trials.”
On the men’s side, sophomore Jared Elters placed fourth in the 60m hurdles with a time of 8.18, moving up to seventh best in program history. Senior Colin Daly ran a mile in 3:59.74, becoming just the third athlete in program history to post a mile under four minutes.
The Quakers faced tough competition at Clemson, though they still came out of competition with several new program records. In the field, senior Sean Clarke placed third in the pole vault with a clearance of 5.10m. Sophomore Victoria Agyin set a new program record for the triple jump, with a mark of 12.67m.
On the track, sophomore Skyla Wilson, senior Cecil Ene, senior Elena Brown-Soler, and junior Uchechi Nwogwugwu placed fifth in the women’s 4x400-meter relay with a time of 3:35.19, setting a new program record. Nwogwugwu also smashed the program record in the individual 400m dash by over a full second, with a time of 53.21. Her time was good for fourth best in Ivy League history.
Overall, Penn track and field keeps impressing each weekend, and Akins attributes the team’s overall success to support provided from within.
“Just the people — the individual people, how much we care about each other, not just about our performance on the track but also holistically as student athletes,” Akins said. “It’s contagious, honestly, when one person is feeling great and performing great. It trickles down.”
Penn will hope to carry its success through to next Sunday, when it competes at the Princeton Invitational.