Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced spring sports competitions to come to a halt. One such tournament was the annual Penn Relays, the oldest and largest track and field competition in the United States, always hosted by Penn at Franklin Field. This year, the Penn Relays sponsored the Philadelphia Metropolitan Collegiate Invitational (“Philly Mets”), a scaled-down version of the typical week-long extravaganza.
The meet included relays and individual events, allowing athletes to compete and establish qualifying times for future meets. Penn Relays typically attracts more than 15,000 participants from high schools, colleges, and track clubs from across the country as well as competitors from abroad. However, per Ivy League COVID-19 guidelines, all competitors this year were from schools within a 40-mile radius of Penn. Eighteen local teams participated, including all Big 5 schools. Additionally, no spectators were allowed on the field, a major shift from the 100,000 people who typically attend the last three days of the tournament.
“We just wanted to have some sort of activity and provide competitive opportunities for our local collegiate athletes,” Penn Relays Executive Director Scott Ward said in an interview with CBS Philly.
Of the competitors this weekend, Villanova has won the most events since Penn Relays’ inception in 1895, and the Wildcats brought a significant number of athletes to the competition. However, Penn broke numerous records and won several awards, placing an athlete in the top five of nearly every event.
The Quakers won the titles of both Female Field Athlete of the Day and Male Field Athlete of the Day. Senior Ashley Anumba won first place in the women's discus throw (55.99m). Her impressive performance placed her in the top 15 in the country this season. Senior Chudi Ikpeazu launched his discus 58.42m in the men's throw, almost 10 meters further than any other competitor. His performance earned him second place in the event. It is not only the second-best distance in program history, but also top ten in the nation this season.
The Quakers also took home a third recognition from the meet. In the men's 3000m steeplechase, Penn earned first, second, and third place. First place went to sophomore Michael Keehan (8:48.54) and second went to junior William Hare (8:51.45). All three athletes broke 9:00, a feat that no other competitor was able to match in this tournament. This accomplishment was named the Moment of the Meet. Keehan’s performance is the sixth-best in program history and puts his time in a top ten spot in Division 1 this season. Hare’s time is ninth in program history.
On the women's side, the Red and Blue took home first place in the discus throw, 400m hurdles, long jump, triple jump, and 4x800m relay.
Junior Haley Rizek won the 400m hurdles (59.68), and her performance was third-best in program history. Senior captain Camille Dickson secured a victory in the long jump (6.24m) and junior Tamara Grahovac in the triple jump (12.19m). Grahovac’s performance marked a new personal record. Additionally, in the 4x800m relay, the quartet finished in 9:04.47.
The Red and Blue won second in the 100m hurdles, 5000m run, 4x400m relay, and javelin throw. In the 100m hurdles, sophomore Grace O’Shea’s second place finish (13.98) was sixth best in program history. Additionally, in the 4x400m relay, the quartet’s time (3:39.57) was ninth-best in program history. In the 5000m run, Penn’s top scorer was senior Danielle Orie (16:34.86), and in the javelin throw, junior Kirsten West threw 41.18 meters.
The Quakers secured third-place spots in the 1600 sprint medley, 3000m steeplechase, and shot put. The 1600 sprint medley time (3:55.69) is the fourth-best in program history. In the 3000m steeplechase, freshman Olivia Morganti earned third place (11:24.24). In addition to sophomore Morgan Johnson’s third place (13.41m) shot put throw, Penn also took home ninth place in the event.
The Quakers earned fourth and tenth place in the 1500m as well as fifth and sixth in the hammer throw. Freshman Omonye Osezua’s 48.61m hammer throw made the cut for top ten in program history. In the high jump, the Quakers won fourth and fifth place with junior Claire Moreau and freshman Sarah Lavery both jumping 1.65m. In the pole vault, senior Michelle Rubinetti won fourth place (3.60m).
In addition to these performances, Penn’s female athletes competed well across the board. In the 400m hurdles, the Quakers won second and eighth place. They took home second, third, fourth, eighth, and tenth place in the 5000m run. The Quakers also placed fifth in triple jump as well as seventh and tenth in discus throw. The Red and Blue took fifth in the javelin throw.
Penn's athletes consistently performed well on the men’s side as well.
Freshman Justin Iler’s 5000m time (14:22.62) and junior Enoch Cheung’s 110m hurdles performance (14.68) earned them first place in both events. However, both of these were extremely tight victories. In fact, Iller edged out two Villanova athletes in the home stretch to take the 5000m title.
Penn swept the 3000m steeplechase and pole vault, earning first, second, and third place in both events. In pole vault, freshman Scott Toney took home the title (4.85m).
The Quakers also earned first place in the 4x400m relay, shot put, javelin throw, and discus throw. In the 4x400m relay, the quartet finished at 3:12.16, making a gripping comeback victory. Sophomore Olatide Abinusawa threw 15.79m, and freshman Ben Kioko threw his javelin 60.28m.
Penn took home second, fourth, and sixth in the 10000m run. Senior Anthony Russo holds Penn’s best time of the meet (28:57.20), nearly a minute better than his personal record. The performance also moved him up to second in program history. Sophomore Zubeir Dagane, who placed fourth (29:53.75), earned ninth-best in program history.
Jumping 7.11m, senior Demetri Whitsett earned second place in the long jump for the Quakers. Penn also earned third place in the 4x800m relay (7:32.73) and distance medley (9:51.62). In the 400m hurdles, freshman Liam O'Hara (53.68) earned third place. The Red and Blue also took home sixth in this event.
The Quakers earned third, fifth, ninth, and tenth in the high jump, with sophomore Mark Anselmi securing Penn's best distance of the meet (2.03m). Senior Campbell Parker got fourth place in the hammer throw at 53.79m.
Although Franklin Field was more empty than usual this year, the Philly Mets is poised to be just one of many meets in what athletes are hoping is a path to a more normal season.