Disappointment and uncertainty often spring opportunity and a chance for new purpose.
Like so many other NCAA student-athletes across the country, graduated senior Evan Lee was forced to leave behind an incomplete legacy at Penn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, after the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to several graduating seniors, hope and excitement were renewed for athletes like him that were still eager to participate.
Originally from Indianapolis, IN, Evan began his track and field journey as a two-sport athlete in high school but soon capitalized on his potential after being recruited to Penn to participate in the heptathlon and decathlon. While spending four seasons with the Quakers before the abrupt cancellations, Evan steadily improved.
His time in the Stripes culminated in Penn’s indoor heptathlon all-time record of 5,507 points, in addition to the eighth-highest point total in Penn’s outdoor decathlon history, with 7,060 points. Both the heptathlon and decathlon heavily favor veterans’ experience, so Evan had high expectations for his senior campaign.
“It was pretty tough to work all three years and to have that fourth year—which is really the peak of my collegiate career—taken away was tough,” Evan said. “But again, I’m blessed to have the opportunity to continue.”
Though initially he never planned on taking a 5th year, Evan remained firmly optimistic and quickly adapted to the state of affairs.
His opportunity arrived shortly after Evan entered the nationwide transfer portal, where he received offers from all sorts of schools from across the country. He noted that he rarely sat still while speaking on the phone, reportedly walking 17 miles that day.
Evan knew he wanted a foundation in medicine before enrolling in medical school down the road, which was also a strong factor in selecting Penn years ago. He wanted the same blend of strong athletics and strong academics, wishing for a bit more leniency and freedom for student-athletes too.
Evan eventually decided on Duke University, where he will finish off his collegiate career as a Blue Devil while obtaining a master’s degree in Bioethics and Science Policy. Aside from the academic appeal, Evan also considered his level of competition, seeking out a chance to compete in a Power Five Conference such as the ACC.
In addition, Duke’s campus in Durham, NC will provide a welcome change of environment from either Indianapolis or Philadelphia. There, he will be able to train outdoors with beautiful weather throughout the year, in addition to being afforded much more open space and facilities.
“I would’ve loved to have finished my competing career in the Stripes, but not being able to have that opportunity has opened some other doors,” Evan said. “I’m very thankful for what my coaches have instilled in me and my fellow teammates. I’ll be cheering for them even though I won’t be competing alongside them.”
Awaiting this season’s plans during these days of quarantine, Evan stays in shape by training six days a week alongside his brother and father. The Ivy League recently cancelled all play for the remainder of 2020, so Evan’s decision to play at Duke may pay off greatly, as he looks forward to a potential season and with it, a satisfying completion to his collegiate journey.
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