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Graduated senior Maura Kimmel holds both the indoor and outdoor records for Penn in the shotput. 

Credit: Chase Sutton

Along with many other Penn seniors who had their seasons cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, former Penn track and field athlete Maura Kimmel is making use of her extra year of NCAA eligibility by transferring outside of the Ivy League. In Kimmel’s case, she’s completing her fifth year at Notre Dame.

During her time at Penn, Kimmel thrice received first team All-Ivy recognition for her performance in the shot put, including twice for her indoor season and once for her outdoor season. She holds the all-time Penn record for both indoor and outdoor shot put, with a mark of 16.77 meters and 16.05m respectively, and is second all-time at the discus, with a mark of 53.83m.

If she had the opportunity to finish out her outdoor season, she would have been in good position to bring home another first team All-Ivy designation, as well as qualify for the NCAA national championships in shot put, having done so twice previously. However, as spring break approached, Kimmel grew less and less optimistic about the possibility of a spring season.

“I was on top of things a little early because I, in a way, felt like I foresaw this a bit,” Kimmel said. “I had a conversation with my coach that week of spring break before everything had shut down, and it was becoming painfully obvious that things were trending in that direction.”

The process of transferring was messy and complicated. Kimmel had difficulty finding a school at first because no university knew what the fall would look like at that point or how finances would be affected without March Madness. Kimmel specifically looked at schools in the ACC, for both the athletic and academic reputation of the conference. Fortunately for Kimmel, she was able to connect with the Notre Dame coach and come to an agreement.

Last spring, Kimmel graduated from Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. At Notre Dame, she is looking to complete a master's program in science and management by the end of this school year.

“It was a good opportunity for me to get further education at a premium price, off of an athletic scholarship,” Kimmel said. “I started this summer, so it felt like it just ran right into the end of undergrad. I’ll complete it this May.”

In the wake of many college conferences postponing their seasons this fall, including the Ivy League, Patriot League, and Big 10, the ACC has remained firm in its stance to continue with fall sports. Kimmel is optimistic about the ACC’s ability, and specifically Notre Dame’s initiative, to make the outdoor season happen when spring comes.

“[The pandemic] was definitely one of the factors that made me pick Notre Dame because they had come out very early saying, ‘We are having a fall semester in person, and this is what we’re going to do, we will make a plan.’” Kimmel said. “That action that they were taking made me confident that they would do whatever they could to make athletics happen this year.”

Despite her short stay, Kimmel hopes to leave her mark at Notre Dame by replicating her record-setting career at Penn. Looking at the numbers, it is very likely that Kimmel will be able to set a top-10 record, and it is possible she can surpass the best. Notre Dame’s all-time outdoor shot put record stands at 15.96m, just short of Kimmel’s record of 16.05. Notre Dame’s discus record is 52.55m meters, over a meter short of Kimmel’s best mark of 53.83m.

Additionally, Kimmel is looking to use her final opportunity to achieve goals that she didn't achieve at Penn, particularly on the national championship front.

“Ultimately, I would also really like to make it to the second round of Nationals, which is something that I haven’t done yet,” Kimmel added. “I think I have the ability to do that in both the shotput and the discus.”

And after her college career is all said and done, Kimmel isn’t ready to stop at just the university level. After the postponement of the Olympics to 2021, the Olympic trials would theoretically fall just after Kimmel finishes up her extra year of eligibility. Her ultimate goal is to compete in try-outs.

“It’s a lofty goal,” Kimmel said, “but it’s not unattainable.”